Fulfillment program relies on robust physical supply chain

WinField United initiative is all about working with owners to service the grower

Land O'Lakes, Inc. Farmer-To-Fork Graphic

The program, available in June, simplifies the way retail-owners order seed or crop protection products (CPP) online, through a single point of data entry. It will do so by offering an integrated digital supply chain experience, from the grower through the retailer and the distributor, aimed at meeting the ever-evolving needs of progressive growers.
But the process doesn’t end after retail-owners place their order. Having a robust physical supply chain in place that dependably delivers goods on time is crucial.
“At the end of the day, experience is going to win in the future. That user experience is the point of ATLAS (platform and data silo), and that’s the point of business-to-business connectivity,” says Dustin Braun, senior director—logistics for Land O’Lakes, Inc. “Experience is also the point on that physical side. If we can offer a robust and reliable end-to-end experience, then this system will win together.”
Braun uses Amazon as an example of what WinField United/Land O’Lakes wants the fulfillment system to provide. Amazon’s business-to-consumer experience relies on an “incredibly simple” online ordering interface, buta reliable supply chain is just as important, he says.
Providing that kind of service, both online and to your door, is the goal of the fulfillment program. The program aims to simplify online ordering for retail-owners and their partners while getting orders delivered when needed.
“That’s a large part of our partnership going forward—not only offering simple, easy-to-use processes to interact with companies but also having the right supply chain built on the back end to enable flawless execution,” says Braun, whose work has focused on the physical supply part of the program.
“We have to work together as a system to make it easier for everyone in the value chain so that we can ultimately service the grower,” he says.
As an example, Braun mentions Walmart stores and distribution centers working together as an overall system to increase efficiency. That is done by the stores maximizing orders from the distribution centers and the distribution centers having visibility to the retail stores.
“We want those retailers to think of themselves and us as kind of that Walmart distribution center and retail store relationship where we work together as more of a system and less as two companies that are just simply transacting,” he says.
Braun points out that Land O’Lakes and its retail-owners have not been immune to a driver shortage in the transportation industry. To increase efficiency, Braun says retailers could order more pallets at a time, which would significantly reduce shipments on the road.
“If you’re looking at trying to manage a constrained capacity, like a driver or labor capacity, having better order economics, and order behavior can help you solve that problem,” he says.
While getting the program off the ground, Braun says several retailers helped them brainstorm ways to drive a more efficient order behavior.  Similar to how Amazon is rolling out its Amazon Day, where consumer’s orders are pooled together and delivered on a specific day of the week that consumer chooses.
They understand that retail-owners’ businesses can be incredibly variable, especially when it comes to the weather. Braun says the second retail-owners need something, it will be expedited out to them, no matter the cost.
“We can work to be more efficient on the majority of the day-to-day volume,” he says. “With those savings, we can reinvest in the shipments that need to be expedited and make sure that we are still offering an incredibly responsive and agile network so that retailers can service their growers.”
The fulfillment program, he says, is about working to make the retail-owners’ lives easier and reducing cost from the system, both of which should ultimately benefit the grower.
“When we do this, we’re not hiding savings, we’re an open book,” he says. “We know how much it costs to move a truck from our location to an owner’s location, if we can take 50 percent of those trucks off the road, we know that we’re going to save money. We can show them the savings and work with the commercial team to share those savings.”
There’s always room for improvement. That’s why the feedback from retailers is so valuable, he says.
WinField United is currently working with four or five retailers to implement these practices and learning a lot in the process. Braun says more retail-owners have expressed interest, too.
“We’re not going to go in there and say this is exactly what we have to do,” he says. “We’ll have a few ideas that we’re going to bring to the table. But we also want the retailer to add to that.”