Q&A: Leveraging Technology to Increase Visibility in the Field
Where Food Comes From coordinates independent inspectors who verify food quality and handling practices all over the nation. They visit producers, farms, and ranches to inspect plants, animals, methods, and records. Inspectors then compare all the information they collect against specific standards and claims by producers and distributors.They quickly realized that they couldn’t manage the growing complexity of their field organization without technological answers. They implemented Salesforce CRM and Skedulo to manage their growing workforce.
We contacted Where Food Comes From and talked with IT director Chris Sanchez about how they leveraged technology to help them gain visibility into the field and how it impacted their back office and bottom line.
Skedulo: Chris, can you tell us a little more about what Where Food Comes From and what you do?
CS: We’re in the agriculture verification business. Our auditors go out to ranches and farms to certify their products and make sure that they are good to go for the consumers in the stores. Our team is constantly out in the field auditing our customers with 30 to 50 visits per week. We have auditors all over the United States and soon we’ll be worldwide as well.
Skedulo: Is this a relatively new category due to government compliance and food safety regulations? Is demand growing?
CS: It is. It’s growing more in demand and we’re seeing that almost on a daily basis. Trade is opening up with overseas partners and the China beef trade was the recent big area that has opened up. If you pay close enough attention in stores you may see our sticker on products. More and more companies are demanding this and our bigger customers like Whole Foods require the brands that they sell to go through these programs.
Skedulo: Before you chose Skedulo, what were some of the strains and pressure points that contributed to your need for new technology?
CS: Well, compared to how we are today with Skedulo, we were very rudimentary. Everything was handled in spreadsheets. Organizing for the audit was done over the phone. It was really hit or miss, not knowing where the auditor schedules were. It was a very loose process and we just did whatever it took to work. We knew that we had to do something to really get our hands around this growing problem.
Skedulo: How did you go about finding a solution?
CS: We shopped around and we talked to other companies. One thing that we really liked and made it all possible was the fact that Skedulo was able to offer customization to our Salesforce implementation. You completely tailored it to our needs. We’ve got these 60 auditors in the field and they’re not employees. They’re contracted out so we don’t want them to have access into our systems account information, at least not at the depth that Salesforce gives them. Skedulo was perfect in the sense that we were able to basically give them just the view of the important information that they need to do their daily audits efficiently. Another important factor was that, most of these ranches that the auditors go to are on remote lands that don’t have cellular service. We only were able to talk to them when they were within the range of a cell tower. Skedulo allowed ua to pull down the information they needed so they could go out and go off the grid and still get what they needed.
Skedulo: How has managing your mobile workforce change since implementing Skedulo?
CS: Well, for starters it isn’t manual anymore! Skedulo has enabled our auditors to log in to the mobile app and have control over everything they do. The schedulers are able to push all the important information to the auditors while the auditors are able to accept or deny a job all through their mobile device. Now the auditors can do their job more efficiently, and the schedulers have visibility into the activities happening in the field. That was a nice feature we never had and never thought it was possible. What was really a game changer for us was setting up a rule that says auditors must submit their findings from an audit to the office within 7 days and now that process is all tracked and automatic.
Skedulo: So what’s next on the table for Where Food Comes From?
CS: Currently we have four sub-companies underneath us, e.g. in the wine business and in dairy, and they have their own systems. Our goal is to get them all up to speed on Skedulo. I would say that compared to the industry — we are finding ourselves on the forefront of the technical end with how our systems work.
In an industry where trust in data integrity is built into the business model, it’s mission critical to establish minimal touch channels for handling that data. Where Food Comes From verifies and certifies best practices in food handling and production, and so they couldn’t afford to have any doubts about what’s happening in the field. They also found that waiting for self-reports on client audits by contractors was slowing down billing and growth. Today, Where Food Comes From schedules and communicates with contractors through a secure and efficient software channel, made from a customized deployment of the Skedulo platform.