Third Party Logistics (3PL) keeps America’s economy rolling. Food warehousing may well be the most important 3PL service.
Operating a successful warehouse in the food logistics industry takes significant experience, expertise and effort. Along with numerous legal and regulatory requirements, day-to-day operations require immense preparation and focus.
Keeping food warehousing capabilities operating at maximum efficiency is essential to consumer satisfaction. To do so, successful 3PL providers focus on the important certifications, operating procedures and organizational culture.
Food Logistics Certifications
First and foremost, food warehousing companies require several certifications to operate. These certifications help ensure satisfactory food safety standards throughout the industry. State and local certifications vary, while federal certifications offer a universal standard.
Some important certifications include the following:
Before any food warehousing company can begin its operations, they need to register with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The responsibility to register rests solely on the owner or managing members of the logistics company.
Upon registration, the FDA will provide a registration number. Many business and tax forms require this registration number. Informed and diligent customers may also ask for this registration number prior to forming a business relationship.
AIB International provides numerous certifications for food manufacturers and distributors. Their business goal aims to improve the quality and safety of food production and distribution. Membership with AIB International helps gain consumer trust by sharing its extensive knowledge and expertise.
With certifications ranging from food allergies to environmental impact, AIB gives credit to the hard work of their 3PL members. In addition to providing these certifications, AIB performs audits to ensure the practice of proper procedures.
Their audit score rates third party logistics companies on all aspects of their operations to ensure safety and efficiency. These audits help highlight current good practices and areas for improvement. Scores range from 1-1000, with 1000 being the highest score possible. Organizations should strive for the superior level with a score of at least 900.
For more than 20 years, Prism Logistics has earned an AIB audit rating between 930 and 985. These consistently superior ratings help us earn the trust of our clients and business associates.
Many states offer individual organic food certifications. For instance, the State of California requires that food handlers register through the California Department of Food and Agriculture to obtain organic certification.
Many consumers take the guarantee of organic food very seriously and any third party logistics organization planning to handle organic food should register for state level certification. This helps build consumer trust and attracts more clients.
In addition to state level certification, Quality Assurance International (QAI) plays a role in ensuring organic food remains purely clean and organic. QAI performs several audits which focus on the varying procedures of each 3PL provider. They focus primarily on making sure that the provider does not impact the organic nature of products.
For instance, QAI investigates the use of pesticides within a food logistics warehouse. Using the wrong kinds of pesticides on organic products negates their status as organic. Prism Logistics actively protects the organic products by using only organic-based pesticides permitted by Quality Assurance International. With a growing organic food market, logistics providers must take the necessary steps to gain the trust of retailers. Organic certifications help build this trust into a mutually beneficial relationship.
On top of basic certifications, each food logistics provider must take the proper steps in their day-to-day operations. These procedures help ensure both safety and efficiency. When your logistics company operates at peak performance, avoiding pitfalls, you will attract more clients.
Some of the most important operational procedures include:
Storing the wrong products together may violate their integrity. It is critically important for a 3PL to store the only mutually-compatible foods together and that products be stored correctly.
A successful 3PL also pays close attention to the storage of non-allergen and organic foods, ensuring they do not store non-allergen foods on the same shelf as those containing allergens such as wheat or tree nuts. Storing these foods together endangers consumers. Should an allergen come into contact with supposedly allergy-friendly foods, that product will become contaminated.
Some organic foods require special storage. Produce for instance must be separated between organic and non-organic. Storing these too close together may result in the unintentional spread of pesticide residues. Failing to keep these separate not only endangers the organic nature of the foods, but will jeopardize any organic certification from organizations like QAI, who will certainly flag this during an audit.
Similar to proper storage, successful 3PL providers take proper steps to avoid and eliminate the potential for cross contamination. Cross contamination occurs when bacteria or other contaminants spread from one product or surface to another, and usually applies to food products.
For example, raw meat will cross contaminate other foods if it comes into direct contact with them. Staff should thoroughly clean all food preparation areas when switching products or animal species as this kind of cross-contamination may result in serious illness to consumers, resulting in product recalls and heavy fines.
Glass and Light Bulbs
Glass can cause huge problems when it breaks. The pieces can spread out and cover an entire room, contaminating all the products within that space.
Many warehouses often overlook the status of their glass and lighting. When dealing with foods, good 3PLs use only non-breakable light bulbs. This keeps glass from breaking and falling into food products and containers. It also helps protect staff in the event of unintentional impact with a bulb.
All warehouses must take the proper steps to avoid any and all pests. Insects especially have a tendency to find their way in and ruin products. High quality 3PLs take the proper precautions to avoid an insect intrusion.
Pest control organizations can perform inspections and grant certifications should 3PLs require them. Additionally, their insight can help prevent an infestation and keep products safe, using food-safe sprays.
In addition to all the usual pests, moths and weevils tend to particularly harass dry goods in storage. A number of steps can be taken to ward off moths, such as employing certain herbs and oils. Other organic remedies help keep weevils away, such as bay leaves and garlic.
One of the best practices a 3PL can undertake is keeping a thorough and clear record of all the products moving through its warehouse. This helps keep shrink down to a minimum and helps keep an organized space.
Tracking everything that goes on within the warehouse goes a long way, including keeping a record of cleaning schedules and equipment fixes to stay on top of basic maintenance.
Training for Warehouse Staff
The best warehouse starts with a well-trained staff of employees. Investing in the training of the staff goes a long way to creating a successful 3PL in the long-term.
Here are some of the most important training tips Prism Logistics utilizes:
Food safety comes first. We focus on food safety training of all staff members to protect our clients and their customers. Any slip up with food safety costs 3PL providers big. We believe you can never overtrain your staff when it comes to operating a clean and safe food logistics company.
Updated Training and Morale
Sometimes even the most experienced employees need a refresher course. By continuously repeating and reinforcing key points over and over, the importance gets instilled in the minds of everyone on the team.
We like to mix in training events with morale boosting events to keep employees interested and engaged. By providing a solid onboarding experience and constant training, employees always know what we expect from them.
This training and morale focus helps Prism retain employees for longer periods of time. A long-term staff builds a trusting community. Our employees stay for much longer than is typical in our industry, most well over five years. Continuously developing and focus on retaining our team members is a key corporate focus.
Many large 3PL firms, and large businesses in general for that matter, forget to take time to get to know their employees. At Prism, our owners, managers and employees know each other, and work closely together. We treat all employees like family, resulting in our good employee retention rates.
We believe that all employees are important to the business and should be treated as such. Especially for a food logistics 3PL, the janitorial staff is every bit as important as the ownership and management team.
Crisis Management in Food Logistics
No matter how careful, sometimes problems still occur. The appropriate response to these challenges defines a business.
One way to stay on top of any potential problems is to keep an inspection log for all incoming and outgoing product loads. This helps keep issues from going unnoticed for too long.
Sometimes these inspections will find an issue that needs solving. Most of these crises focus on pest control or recall notices. Fumigation and customer service management can solve these problems quickly.
At Prism Logistics, we call all our customers directly as soon as an issue arises regarding their product. Many larger 3PL companies fail to do this, leaving their customers in the dark. When we call our customers, we give them notice so that they can respond to the problem quickly and minimize its impact.
A good operations manager helps ensure that everything runs smoothly and any problems get taken care of as soon as possible. Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to crisis management. That way, issues do not get out of hand.
Crisis management comes down to focusing on customer relationships and maintaining high
team morale. This way, no problem becomes too overwhelming.
One of the best investment any organization can make is in its staff. We always focus on our employees so that they perform to the best of their ability each and every day. Especially in uncertain times with the COVID-19 pandemic, taking care of our staff helps us take care of our business.
In addition to staff, we continually work on enhancing our technological capabilities. Many innovations assist both our own operations and help with customer service management. We offer a customer portal to assist with managing product orders and delivery status. Real-time inventory management through the portal increases transparency and sets customer’s minds at ease.
As soon as a product enters one of our Prism warehouses, we scan it for entry into the customer portal. From there, customers can view the status of their products. The more customers know about their orders the better they can plan for their own inventory purposes.
Technological innovations coupled with a strong focus on employees gives Prism Logistics a competitive edge larger 3PL providers just cannot beat.
Running a successful food logistics business is not simple in any way. However, with more than 25 years of service, Prism Logistics has proven itself to be a reliable, trusted logistics partner with Fortune 100 food brands and smaller food suppliers alike.
With a strong focus on employee satisfaction, top safety techniques and customer relationships, and a passion for innovation, we have built a business that truly improves the lives of those who rely on it.
Servicing Northern California, Prism Logistics has seven warehousing centers. Located in Sacramento, Stockton, Hayward and Livermore, we have close access to major transportation hubs for quick delivery into major metropolitan markets.
All facilities come with a lively, enthusiastic and well-trained staff, and state-of-the-art systems. No matter your food logistics needs, Prism Logistics can handle it and leave you way more than just satisfied.
Connect with us and request a quote today. The sooner you let us handle your food logistics needs, the sooner you can focus on keeping your own customers happy and well-fed.