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January 17, 2018

The Evolution of Produce LTL From Inconvenient to Enabling

By Steve Gabrick
C.H. Robinson Regional Sales Manager


Today’s supply chains are changing—they are becoming increasingly complex—especially when fresh produce and other perishable commodities are involved. There are many reasons behind this, but consumer buying influences, multi-channel sales, and speed of the order seem to be driving the most change.

Millennials’ buying behavior is highly based on health, convenience and brand. As a result, healthier, more convenient perishable products are being sold through new channels, which is driving the average order size down, frequency of delivery up, and putting greater scrutiny on supply chains. Additionally, retailer, wholesaler and foodservice supply chains are more just-in-time than ever before, holding less inventory in warehouses and distribution centers to increase the speed from field to shelf.

In traditional produce supply chains, the average order size was larger and offered greater flexibility from a delivery perspective. In that model, rolling consolidation and multi-stop load methods proved to be a successful way to execute produce LTL deliveries. Produce LTL transportation was typically viewed as an independent variable in the supply chain, only enabling one component of the supply chain (as shown in the image below).


Fast-forward to present day. Traditional LTL transportation methods tend to require delivery date flexibility, but with increasingly smaller order sizes, and increased delivery frequency, this can result in erratic ordering behavior. Order quantities will vary a great deal from one order to the next and volume and frequency can be unpredictable, which can have a direct impact on freight spend.


Four ways to ease the burden of perishable LTL shipments

Luckily, produce LTL transportation does not need to operate this way. How can shippers make moving fresh LTL freight as easy as possible on their supply chains? Let’s look at four strategies:

1.  Analyze LTL volume: Analyze and leverage all of your LTL volumes, not just what is viewed as “painful.” This will give you a full picture of what needs to be shipped, when, and to where, helping you to create optimized route plans.

2.  Create a planned environment: Utilize forward distribution and traditional rolling consolidation where applicable—with aligned sailing schedules and capacity strategies.

3.  Aggregate volume: Aggregate volume from origin region(s) into destination regions. This will help your shipments move more efficiently and eliminate waste.

4.  Utilize consolidation points: Use forward distribution on a regular cadence. These allow for disparate shipments to be combined together for greater transportation efficiency.


As you can see below, with the right model to support your LTL orders, you can achieve greater efficiency across your entire supply chain. The net result is an enabled supply chain offering a way to manage freight spend, change, and risk, all while improving supply chain efficiency.


Ultimately, results can vary by situation. But I’ve seen many companies make this transformation, creating a more efficient supply chain, and allowing them to do what they do best—selling and marketing their great products.

Learn more about optimizing your perishable LTL supply chain by speaking with an experienced C.H. Robinson expert today.