A desire to digitally transform and provide more value to customers led Koch Fertilizer (KF) on a journey to transform logistics.
In 2017, KF and Koch Ag and Energy Solutions (KAES) IT presented customers with the idea of an e-commerce capability to enhance their experience. However, customer feedback identified logistics as a bigger opportunity, according to Jacob Ashley, KAES information technology leader.
“Instead, they said logistics were more difficult,” Ashley said. “They prioritized visibility into where their fertilizer was located over e-commerce. Then we had to figure out how to give customers that visibility.”
Developing the solution
Typically, tracking a shipment was an extensive game of phone tag. Customers called KF, who called the fertilizer carrier, who called the truck driver to get a location and ETA. Then, the carrier called KF, who relayed the information back to the retailer.
Providing visibility was a challenge, and the team tried multiple avenues before finally deciding on a mobile app.
“We tried two major approaches,” Ashley said. “First, we looked at subscribing to a service that provides location data from electronic logging devices (ELD), however, very few trucks in the agricultural industry use ELDs.
“Then we looked at using a service to triangulate a location based on cell service, but it didn’t provide everything we needed, and it didn’t add value for the drivers. That’s when we decided an app could provide everything we wanted.”
To develop the app — named LoadView™ — KF logistics and KAES IT collaborated with i360, Bushel and Sapient — companies with expertise in technology, app and software design and development.
The LoadView app works much like your standard shipment tracking service. A driver checks in at a KF facility and loads their product. Once they leave the plant, GPS data and estimated time of arrival are published to the carrier and customer web platform until the shipment arrives at its destination and is marked delivered.
“Using the Track My Shipment feature on the website, customers can view the status of their shipment with real-time GPS readings and estimated time of arrival,” said Brooke Laverentz, KF manager of logistics and planning. “With just a release number, any member of a customer’s organization can use feature. Now, each retail location can track their shipments and prepare accordingly.”
The team knew driver adoption would be the biggest hurdle to success. With that in mind, they added features that would improve the driver experience and incentivize use.
“We wanted to prevent issues and speed up their ability to load and get through the plant,” Laverentz said. “With LoadView, drivers have their release numbers and can pre-check into KF facilities up to eight hours before they load instead of checking in on-site. They also know their training and inspection status before they get to the plant. This helps them get through the yard more efficiently.”
Following beta and soft launches in 2018, the team fully launched LoadView in spring 2019, though adoption began slowly.
When the app launched, load numbers had to be pushed from the customer to the carrier and then to the driver. While this was valuable for the driver, it created duplicative work for customers and carriers.
The team quickly updated the app, allowing drivers to self-assign loads instead of waiting for the pushed loads.
Once the self-assign feature was in place, adoption improved and KF decided to make LoadView mandatory at all KF facilities. The mandatory rollout began in fall 2019 and was completed in spring 2020.
“The interesting thing with the rollout was that about 20% of drivers said they loved LoadView, and the rest said they wouldn’t use it unless it was mandatory,” said Ashley. “And now, they all say they love it and couldn’t imagine not using it.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, LoadView™ had been implemented at nearly all KF locations. The app provided the added benefit of contactless check in. It also decreased the amount of time drivers needed to be out of their vehicles to load, further reducing the risk of exposure to other drivers and on-site personnel.
The LoadView app has transformed the driver, carrier and customer experience by decreasing the amount of time it takes to load and improving visibility. The team continues to update and enhance the app’s features based on driver and customer feedback.
Currently, they are experimenting with new features such as proactive email and text notifications to let customers know where their shipment is located instead of only relying on the Track My Shipment feature. The notifications will be beneficial to customers who are working outside and away from internet access.
Additionally, the team is analyzing opportunities to use LoadView data to optimize KF processes to further improve the customer and driver experience, especially in the peek seasons.