Did you enjoy “nerding-out” with me in last week’s post about organizing your warehouse operation? I wasn’t kidding when I said the topic of organization was a good one – and one that can bring tons of benefit to your school nutrition program when designed properly.
Last week, I covered the importance of making a warehouse map to encourage a simpler path to success for the future. I recommended splitting up the warehouse into different zones to help with organization and efficiencies in picking and put away activities/processes. However, the whole system falls apart if your labeling system isn’t built upon a solid foundation that takes into account both the logical and physical aspects of the warehouse. Labels are your lifeline to all that money resting so casually on your shelves or in your bins, so treat them as such! They are KEY!
This week, we’re going to wrap up the topic of warehouse configurations by touching on recommended practices to follow when designing your distribution route and delivery schedules. This is the final piece to the important configuration puzzle, and it’s an important one at that. Inefficient distribution routes with poorly thought-out delivery schedules can end up costing your district thousands of dollars in extra fuel and labor hours every year. That’s money that I’m sure you would much rather spend on extra inventory, salaries, marketing—you name it. Today, I’m helping make sure that money stays in your pocket!

Distribution Routes Come First

“Don’t put the cart before the horse” is something my grandfather used to always tell me, as I have a tendency to think too far ahead, jumping over many necessary steps in a process when trying to achieve a goal. That old proverb applies in this situation as well. While you may want to skip straight ahead to planning your delivery schedules, as that’s the end game here – getting the items to the sites – it’s not the best approach.
Best practice is to first set up your distribution routes in the most efficient manner possible, and then configure delivery schedules for different trucks and/or drivers based on those routes. By doing this, you save your district money by cutting down on superfluous fuel costs, minimizing overtime labor hours by delivery drivers, and diminishing the natural wear and tear that occurs to your district’s truck fleet over time.
Wondering what route configuration will be most efficient for your district? As I’m sure you already know, every school district is unique and has different issues to contend with. Maybe your district is in the heart of a major city—traffic patterns and rush hour are factors that hold strong weight when building your distribution routes. What if your district covers hundreds of square miles? You obviously have very different concerns than the inner-city district. Use these examples to think about your district’s individual situation and weigh your most important factors accordingly when planning routes.

District Warehouse Delivery Schedules

After you’ve created your distribution routes that you think would work best for your district, you need to determine the central idea to structure your delivery schedules around. Below are three of the most common ways to think about delivery schedules from the central warehouse. Keep in mind that these are not mutually exclusive, because you can certainly employ more than one of these principles at a time. They are just merely high-level ideas that will help you create a structure around your planned deliveries.

  • Deliver Goods by Item Type

    In this type of delivery set up, each driver is responsible for delivering one particular type of items to the school locations on a certain, predetermined day. For example, dry good deliveries could occur on Mondays. Produce deliveries might occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and cooler/freezer items are delivered on Wednesdays. This focus is especially useful for districts that want to schedule site deliveries around when the freshest products arrive to the warehouse facility.

  • Deliver Goods by Site Location

    This delivery configuration focuses on delivering all types of items to a school site in one day. This system is best for districts that have limited resources or those that cover a large geographic location. For example, schools in the southern and western sections of the district receive their delivery on Mondays, northern schools on Tuesdays, and Eastern Schools on Wednesdays.

  • Deliver Goods by Site Type

    Another common way to set up your deliveries are by school type. Meal items vary widely across the different levels in a K-12 district, so this allows your operation to differentiate your deliveries according to that. As an example, all high schools might receive deliveries on Mondays, middle schools receive deliveries on Tuesdays, and elementary schools receive deliveries on Wednesdays.

However your district currently approaches your distribution route and delivery set up, it’s always a good idea to look objectively at your operation once in a while to look for areas of potential improvement. Even simply acknowledging that there are areas of inefficiency within your district’s warehouse operation puts you one step ahead and on the path to success!