Inventory System and Asset Tracking for Non-Profit Organization
“A food rescue”
Lovin’ Spoonfuls is an organization that facilitates the recovery and distribution of healthy, perishable food that would otherwise be discarded. Since 2010, the team has distributed over 1,250,000 pounds of food directly to impactful community organizations and resources in Boston, Massachusetts.
“We are a non-profit food rescue agency, and it’s important that we are able to track all incoming food donations and our distributions to our beneficiaries,” said Lauren Palumbo, Chief Operating Officer at Lovin’ Spoonfuls.
In order to efficiently bridge the gap between food abundance and scarcity, an automated Inventory System was needed to utilize data captured through mobile barcode technology that was being missed due to the limitations of their paper-based system. In addition, Lovin’ Spoonfuls wanted to increase the productivity of their long-term food distribution strategy and avoid any temporary solutions.
With pick-up locations scattered throughout Boston, a variety of food products, and a growing number of beneficiaries, Lovin’ Spoonfuls needed a system that could help them better understand and optimize their inventory operation as the organization continued to grow.
The company operates a fleet of refrigerated vehicles used to pick up salable food from local grocery stores (including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods), produce wholesalers, and local farms on a daily basis. This food is then distributed that same day to nonprofit partners including homeless shelters and soup kitchens, as well as other social assistance agencies. Once the trucks leave headquarters, they have scheduled destinations and a specified amount of food to pick up and drop off. This being the case, management needed a way to know the location of their trucks and inventory in real-time, as well as an inventory count, to keep operations running smoothly.
Prior to finding an Inventory System, the organization was faced with the intimidating task of manually logging the hundreds of food cases rescued each day. In addition, the organization dealt with the uncertainty of not knowing the inventory levels of each truck (or on aggregate) when drivers were out on the road. Because stops were made periodically throughout the day at varying locations, the team needed to make sure that all food received and dropped off was accurately accounted for and securely handled.
Dealing with perishable inventory presented particular difficulties. If there were any product recalls or problems with food throughout the day, the organization would need a system that could provide them the visibility required to know which cases of products were within each truck.
FINDING A SYSTEM TO FIT THEIR NEEDS
After researching online to find a way to automate inventory tracking, the organization’s decisionmakers discovered ASAP Systems’ Inventory System with mobile barcode-scanning capabilities. The organization needed to track about seventy different types of salable foods that were being picked up and delivered on a daily basis. It was important for management to compile data on the different types of foods and suppliers in a centralized and secure database, as they were received. The purpose for this was so that the inventory data could be organized and made easily available for administrators to generate reports.
“We needed a system that would allow us to easily track incoming pound counts and case counts of all product and ignore many of the functions of a more standard warehouse management software. We simply didn’t need all of the features of some of the systems,” says Palumbo.
For Lovin’ Spoonful to track inventory that was received and issued by case count and by weight, they needed an Inventory System that could implement barcode scanners to scan cases and configure the system to keep a running tally of how many pounds of food have been rescued and distributed.
The process of implementing ASAP Systems’ online Inventory System, began with having Lovin’ Spoonful’s participation in a system demonstration with an engineer to experience the easy-to-use system first hand. The engineer shared his screen and connected with the team over the phone so that they could ask need-based questions as the engineer navigated them through the user interface.
ASAP Systems recommended a solution that included:
-Professional subscription plan
-Mobile – 3 mobile licenses on smartphones
-Online Community Support access for live web chat, email, support material, etc.
Lovin’ Spoonfuls has saved valuable time by implementing the Inventory System to solve prevailing inventory issues. During a normal day of business, drivers could use their smartphones to easily scan rescued food cases as they made collections. In doing so, the team was able to automatically and accurately track the number of cases and associated food weight, while instantly assigning the inventory in the system to a refrigeration truck until the food was distributed. This could be done in a fraction of the time it took to log food collected with the manually entered system. Also, Palumbo could access the data in real-time, online at the organization’s headquarters, giving her the level of control and visibility she desired.
“ASAP Systems’ Inventory system has allowed us to quantify the product we are receiving and the value of that product. At any point, we can see what’s on the trucks, what we’ve received, and what we’ve distributed. We simply weren’t able to do that previously, ” says Palumbo.
Fully Configurable Data Fields
The ability to categorize the Inventory received to reflect cases or weight count, along with the name of the supplier, was valuable to the unique infrastructure of the company Palumbo and her team were able to take advantage of the ability to rename data fields and configure categories within the user interface for logical functionality and to match operational needs.
Automated Reporting for Efficient Data Sharing
“We run a couple of reports to get information on how much we’ve distributed to various partners over certain time periods. It helps us provide them with clear and consistent information on what they have received for their records,” says Palumbo.
The inventory data collected by drivers could be consolidated and organized into configurable reports for headquarters to learn from the data and make plans based on results. Headquarters could also send the reports via PDF or excel spreadsheet to any parties involved
Easy to Use Smartphone Capabilities
“It’s a very easy-to-use system. We have drivers with varying levels of smartphone comfort and they have all learned it quickly,” says Palumbo. The organization didn’t have to change any facets of their business to use our Inventory System. The system adapted to the scope of their operations and easily solved their previous inventory problems with its configurability. At the end of each workday, Lovin’ Spoonfuls distributed more food and did so with an unprecedented amount of efficiency with the help of the Inventory System. The system created a faster and more accurate way to quantify the food they collected and supplemented their mission of reducing food waste in the community.