Frozen Grocery Delivery Company Monitors Freezer Temps to Gain Operational Efficiency

Joe Lasek, Director of Warehouse and Facility Operations at Yelloh!, presents the company's journey with the SmartSense program. He explains the need for an IoT freezer monitoring solution and outlines the ways in which SmartSense helps Yelloh! reduce food loss and save on labor and utility costs in an impactful manner.  

Good morning! And again, thanks for teaching me, Matt, about what you guys are doing over there. I appreciate SmartSense giving us the opportunity to share our story with you. Just to jump into in a quick introduction, I'm the Director of Warehouse Facility Operations for Cygnus Home Service. I'm going to confuse you guys here. I've been working for the Schwan family, which previously owned Schwan's Home Service or the Schwan Food Company. In 2019, we sold a great deal of our business over to the CJ folks, which is now operating as CJ Schwan's, completely different company now. We kept the home delivery business with the Schwan family, and we're in process right now of rebranding Schwan's Home Service into a company called Yelloh! Yelloh is an homage to our trucks and also to the fact that when we knock on the doors to our customers’ homes, which I'll talk about in a minute, always say hello.

I’ve been here for 25 years. Love the family. They're great folks to work for. We in the family, we talk about our businesses as the family right, needed to support, from SmartSense, a family environment. That's one thing in our partnership, that we have good open true and honest dialogue in between the two organizations. So, we really appreciate that environment.

So, who's Yelloh!? We're a direct-to-home, frozen food provider. We've been delivering since 1952 in various forms of trucks. We're rebranding into Yelloh!, like I said, in 2023 because of the sale in 2019. But we're still the same core business, providing the same foods. We have about 350 different SKUs, all frozen, from ice cream to steak, chicken, pizza and so on that we're, again, delivering directly to homes.

We began working with SmartSense and coming out of the archaic age of all handwritten temperature monitoring in 2020. Then, we've evolved over time in our different supply chains.

Why did we choose to monitor some of our fine delicious product over there on the screen? Everything being frozen, we had to physically inspect, for food safety quality, our freezers and our trucks 365 days a year. We were doing it twice a day. We needed to understand also, a big portion was the condition of the delivery trucks, particularly because as we're out in different environments from the Pacific Northwest to Florida, from new employees to senior veteran employees. The time that they're in and out of our doors and our trucks really makes a difference. It makes a difference not only for the quality of the food, the temperature that the food is seeing, but also the cost of maintenance. So as we continue to evolve and understand, we were bringing all four of these points together.

When we talk about what's our program, to kind of give you an idea first and foremost for us as well as everybody, and not to sound cliche, safety is the most important thing followed by the customer. When we looked at this program, we said, “Hey what's our customer complaint for freeze thaw?” That was 80 percent down after Digi. We took a baseline of our customer freeze thaw complaints, and after we fully integrated the SmartSense system, we saw an 80 reduction in freeze thaw from truck to the to the home. Inside of that, for our distribution centers, we had taken a baseline again at our freeze thaw loss environment, much like Matt was talking about. We had a hundred-thousand-dollar reduction in that environment. Then we looked at labor and kind of going down the list of our priorities. Customers first. Food safety environment. We're looking at our labor reduction, and like I said, we were checking our temperatures in 286 different locations and over 2,700 route trucks twice a day. That was a $750,000 savings in the fact that now we have 24-hour a day SmartSense system telling us when we needed to dispatch either a technician or an employee to address an issue in a particular environment. And then ultimately, utility savings. So this was a big one, and our supply chain is 100% frozen right to your door. We were keeping our freezers in our route trucks as well as in our distribution centers at a minus 22 degrees. We were able to take that minus 22 degrees all the way down to a minus 11 degrees by using trend over time for equipment understanding. That change saved us over a million dollars in utility cost.

From a technology perspective, we were able to adjust customer concerns, we were able to address food safety quality, quality of life for our employees, and work-life balance as well as the bottom line. We used all Z Sensors in all of our equipment, and truth be told, over the last couple of years, the only thing we've done is replace batteries in the equipment. And the uptime is 100%. Again, going back to the trucks, 2,700 of them, we have a very small team that manages this. We have myself and one food safety quality engineer, and we manage the entire supply chain because it's digital, at our fingertips. Truth be told, 90% of the time I'm using the app and not the dashboard. With the real-time alert warning, we force multiply our two people, food safety quality and myself, with the front line managers of each location, where they're getting the first alert of an indication of a high temperature. If they can't take care of it or they don't take care of it, then that alert escalates to food safety quality and myself for us to take action. But really, 90% of the time frontline team members / leaders are taking care of the issue before we even get involved in the scenario.

Really now, what we're doing is understanding and learning how we can capitalize on putting the units in and out of maintenance mode. This might be a little bit different from a lot. Because we're mobile in our trucks, we’ve got to go through defrost cycles. They're not manually defrosted. The green stripe on the bottom of the truck that you see is because the truck is green. We run on propane for all of our systems. The engines are propane, but our freezer box system is only electric, so we don't actually run a a refrigeration system all day while we're on a route system. The way we do that is by the construction of the box and the type of cold plate systems that we're using throughout the day. We have to go through a maintenance cycle somewhere between 45 and 90 days out. Which, what we do there is offload all the product from the truck again over 350 SKUs. We're looking at probably about 800 SKUs on board of a truck, so to offload that truck in an individual SKU environment we're taking about an hour and a half time every 45-90 days. Well, with the system now what we can do is start monitoring when we're losing temperature or when we're maintaining temperature. There are some trucks up north we don't have to offload and go through the defrost process but once every couple of months. In the south, we have to go through that process once every couple of weeks. We didn't have that Insight until we could start seeing data over time. So, kind of give you an idea how we're using that maintenance mode function.  The big thing is we cut those hours for the employees and allowed them to stay home.

I think I mentioned in here power loss. The real-time alerts and power loss, this was big. We have seven locations in the state of Florida. We have 12 locations in around the coast. So hurricane season is huge for us. What we were doing, and this is kind of a personal story I'll share with you guys, we were putting people in harm’s way. And the reason why I say that is the leaders take owning their business very seriously. What was happening was they were watching their business and checking right before the storm hit that everything was good, which is not in harm's way, right? When they left, they would get back on property as soon as they possibly could, sometimes having to walk a couple of miles to get to the building. We had some outrageous employees, right? And now with the system, they're able to stay home safe and actually view if they have power at location, if they don't have power at location, what time do they lose power, what temperature. And we can monitor that right through the cycle, so really a peace of mind at not having to have people going down the road where there's trees falling and power lines down. That was a huge huge huge impact for us. Give you a little bit of a personal story there.

What's next for us? We want to be able to really harness the energy of the insight reporting and analytics to tie it back to maintenance. Much like Matt said, we're starting to look at what kind of systems we're buying, how often we need to buy them. Again, the longevity of our systems now that we can have a more dynamic and flexible defrost cycling environment. So really, a lot wrapped around the insights of the maintenance and then installation itself. I mean, you can't get any easier, right? Magnetic system, just pop it up on the wall and walk away, and you can't get any easier. And then, additional monitoring applications. We're looking to continue to partner with SmartSense and look at over-the-road trucks. When we go through our supply chain, we're working right now from distribution center to depot, we have a gap, and we have to believe the carrier. Where we want to be able to slap one of those sensors on and monitor time over the course of the distribution center travel to our depots. So that's something that we're working on now and we'll continue to work on.

80K+ sites with continuous temperature monitoring by SmartSense

SmartSense by Digi manages more than 80K+ sites for leading brands in healthcare, retail, food service, education, and transportation and logistics.

Our investment into SmartSense is nothing compared to what’s in that cooler. If we get out of temperature and somebody is to get sick, that reflects badly on our brand. With remote temperature monitoring, that gave us a dashboard and visibility into our stores nationwide. SmartSense is an excellent partner. We’ve come to them with ideas or needs that we have. And they have grown their program and met the needs that we have asked for.

Benjamin Pitts

Honey Baked Ham

When we didn’t have SmartSense, we would just wait for the refrigeration to fail and then everything that was in that case was lost. Before SmartSense, my team was blind. Our associates were taking two temperatures a day and making paper logs of sanitizer concentration, cooking temperature, and cooling. Those tasks took about nine hours a week per store. Results were not easily visible to our corporate office. Having this enterprise visibility has really increased the collaboration between the Operations team and the Food Safety team, integrating food safety practices at the store level.

Hsing-Yi Hsieh

Festival Foods