My name is Hsing-Yi Hsieh and I'm the Director of Food Protection and Regulatory Affairs. In my role, I lead a team that is in charge of the development and execution of all our food safety programs as well as our regulatory compliance. Festival Foods is a family-owned, third generation grocery store. We’re up to about 40 stores, and we are really in the people business. We focus on our guests and our associates. We make sure that we're developing our associates, and we make sure that our guests are having an enjoyable shopping experience. Our customers trust that we are here for them and that when they come to our store, they're going to find not only the safest food, but the highest quality, and a very clean store.
Prior to Smart Sense, we were a paper-based company. Our associates were taking two temperatures a day of our refrigerated cases and making paper logs of sanitizer concentration, cooking temperature, cooling. Those tests took about nine hours a week per store, and not only that, those results were not visible easily to our corporate office. Now from an accuracy standpoint, the temperatures in our cases were taken at random places, different areas, so it did not give us either trend or a pattern that we could analyze to see where we were.
One of the things that we were looking for in the solution is that we were able to take the temperature in the warmest spot of the cooler. Current sensors and the cases which we have do not give you that information. And because of that we lost a lot of product because we didn't know in time that the cooler was not working. However, putting a sensor in the warmest part of the cooler is not easy because of the size of the sensors. And many of the solutions that we looked at had really big sensors that were really getting in the way of not only the merchandising but also the aesthetic of the cooler. Finding this small or sensor that we had with SmartSense was really a good win for us.
Once we put in Smart Sense, we found that there were a lot of small items in our refrigeration cases that we were able to fix because of alerts. A fan not working. Filters that were dirty. Just very small maintenance things that we could have done before it became an issue. So it really put us into a more proactive role rather than reactive. Looking back, what we're seeing is that when we didn't have the system, we would just wait for the refrigeration to fail, and then everything that is in that case was lost. Refrigeration losses run from two to ten thousand dollars, depending on what case was failing. With the SmartSense alerting hierarchy that we have set in the stores, we have a redundant system so it's not just one person or two people who are getting the alerts, but we have, depending on the time of the day and the role that each associate plays, we have that redundant system so more than one person is getting those alerts. When we looked at our tickets for maintenance, that went up but the cost going to the refrigeration company actually dropped.
One of the pieces that was important for us was task management and taking all our paper log away. The reason we wanted something that was electronic was to not only give us a better tool to see how the stores are doing, to take time away from the store so it takes shorter time for them to document, but also looking into the future. Food safety management system is something that's going to come down in the food safety world, and having that ability of recording and keeping that record for a long time, it's critical for our operations.
The way we have used task management not only for regulatory compliance issues, for documentation that we need to keep at the store level, but really to keep our standards and our quality standards that come from our SOPs, which are a lot more stringent than food safety regulations. Not only do we have a record of what the teams are doing, but it really provides our food safety specialists a coaching moment, an opportunity to show our associates in time what is happening at their store level, not only in completion rates, but also on trends of, “Are you taking the right corrective actions when you need to?”
Before SmartSense, my team was blind, pretty much. We had no visibility as to what the stores were doing except when they visited the stores during their food safety assessments. Having this enterprise visibility has really increased the collaboration between the operations team and the food safety team, and has really integrated food safety practices at our story level, meaning that because we have this information we can not only report company-wide to our operations team and our fresh foods team, but also we can just pick up the phone and call our associates at the store level and say, “Hey we're seeing this how can we help you?”
What I would tell a colleague in the food safety world who's looking for an electronic solution is that I would tell them to look for a system that is, in a company who is ready to innovate and grow as the food safety dynamics change in the world. SmartSense has been a great addition to our family. I really consider SmartSense as part of the company now, and they care about the success of our program, and by doing so we have this open communication that has led to great improvements to the program, great improvements to their program, and we really look for many many years of partnership going forward.