In the world of business, there are "bad problems" and "good problems." Bad problems are those that threaten to seriously harm a business. These include a formidable competitor adding market share, financial issues such as challenges in funding the company's operations, and bad press, to name a few. Good problems are those that businesses like to have, such as orders significantly beating forecasts or the need to quickly scale production.
Impossible Foods, the plant-based meat producer, unveiled their Impossible Burger 2.0 in early 2019. In the whirlwind year following that announcement, the company had to overcome both a slew of bad problems and some impossible good problems.
In the bad problem category, competition in this red-hot industry is intense. Beyond Meat, Impossible's public-company rival (BYND), has had success in partnering with large restaurant chains including McDonald's, KFC, Subway and Tim Horton’s. Plus, leading food conglomerates like Tyson Foods and Nestle have recently joined the fray.
Also, the company has had to overcome some controversy. An all-important ingredient of their product is heme. You may have heard of heme because you have it in your blood. It's an essential molecule that contains iron. It's also what gives meat its distinct taste.
Heme is also found in plants. The controversy is not that plant-based heme is used in Impossible Foods' products, but that it's produced using a genetically-modified version of soy and yeast. GMOs or Genetically Modified Organisms have been a source of ongoing debate for many years, and the magnitude is only growing. Impossible's CEO and other executives have continued to stand by the assertion that their heme and other ingredients are perfectly safe for human consumption. Other experts, of course, don't necessarily agree.
While the company has had to overcome some bad problems, they've also had to take on some good problems. Burger King's test of its new Impossible Whopper in 59 stores in 2019 was an overwhelming success. It was such a hit that Burger King wanted to roll it out to all 7,200 stores rapidly. Impossible had already maxed out production, but luckily had just finalized a partnership with an outsourced food processor that could handle the volume.
Another good problem the company faced was that it was primarily a scientist-based organization. That's been a huge benefit from an R&D standpoint, but has added significant operational risk to the business. Impossible Foods recognized this and began hiring "business people." This included adding a president with extensive operational experience.
So where does dock scheduling fit into this story?
Well, as Impossible added more business-savvy leaders, they began focusing more and more on efficiency. Operational experts know that adding too many processes and too much structure can slow a business down. But they also know that critical processes that increase efficiency are vital to an organization's ability to grow. That's because they lower operational costs and improve throughput.
One of the vital items Impossible focused on was streamlining their supply chain operations. With the market demand they were facing, they knew that optimizing how their product got into the hands of distributors and end-users was absolutely critical to their business.
A key change they made was implementing online dock scheduling. With dock scheduling, their carriers now book their own appointments. Every truck arriving at a facility has a specific appointment time.
In today's world, everyone is familiar with online scheduling. Carriers are no different. They've booked haircuts, massages and doctor's appointments online. So moving to online scheduling is a simple change for them. Plus, most carriers are already having to book online with other warehouses, so the learning curve is virtually non-existent. And, carriers like it. It's faster and easier for them. They also like it because it minimizes or eliminates trucks having to wait in the yard. That, of course, is also a huge benefit to warehouses in the form of reduced detention fee claims and happier drivers to deal with. Plus, warehouse staff are able to optimize load planning when they know the specific time that every truck will be arriving.
This change gave Impossible clear insight into all incoming and outgoing loads. It also allowed them to more effectively staff their dock operations. Plus, it lifted an enormous burden off of their team that handles communications with carriers. With online scheduling, the calls and emails required are drastically reduced. Indeed, warehouses who implement online dock appointment scheduling commonly report a near-immediate drop of 50% or more in call and email volume. This frees up clerical staff to work on other revenue-generating activities or to focus more on customer service. This helps many warehouses ramp up on shipper-of-choice initiatives.
There's no doubt that Impossible Foods is in a war for the leadership of this quickly-expanding market. They've onboarded a number of high-profile names in addition to Burger King, including Fatburger, Cheesecake Factory, Red Robin and White Castle. But as more and more restaurants and grocery stores consider offering plant-based meat options, the competition will only become more fierce.
But by focusing on gaining efficiency on their critical business processes - like dock operations - they'll continue their impossible trek to the top of this industry.
Bob La Loggia is founder and CEO of Opendock, the leading supplier of dock scheduling software for the supply chain industry. Thousands of warehouses and DCs utilize Opendock every day, including many in food distribution. Clients include Campbell's Soup, Dot Foods, Golden State Foods (McDonald's, Chipotle and others), Cargill, Del Real Foods, Cardenas, VanLaw Food Products, Swanson, Now Foods, U.S. Waffle, Tyson, Oneida, Prime Pork, Chobani, ADM, Unilever, La Tortilla Factory, Stern Produce, and many others. For information, visit try.opendock.com.