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From paper to digital: The transition of a small Dairy Delivery Business

This study is taking a look into a typical SME and their traditional paper-based way of working; focusing on the barriers they face both daily and in the long-term, as well as the process of taking on a new digital system.

A Brief Background

Let’s take a look at a small Dairy distributor based in the South West of England.

They have been running for decades, servicing both local retailers, convenience stores, and some of the local community as well. They take their orders either by telephone, text, or email, and they filter these orders in with the routine orders that they have set up with various retailers in their delivery radius. They have 4 drivers that work a 6-day-week, and they plan each day’s delivery schedules using pen & paper, before handing this over to their drivers.

Each day, their drivers make their deliveries, taking paper records of deliveries, any additional items and stock changes not as per the scheduled orders are noted, and at the end of the day these reports are brought back to the offices.

From here, their team of 4 office staff organise the reports and manually prepare invoices before finishing for the day.

Day-to-day, this business has to plan routes, control stock manually, file invoices, complete admin tasks and respond to customers manually.

This paints a picture of a roundabout that never stops.

The Challenges

When the business first started, using paper was the only option, it was easy and everything was manageable. As they have grown over time, they quickly began to pick up new orders from surrounding areas, and so they recruited 2 more drivers to handle this additional demand.

With a larger delivery radius, planning routes effectively naturally took longer, and amongst handling administrative tasks, keeping the business organised, and managing customer enquiries manually, the management of their operation became more challenging.

On top of this, their small offices had begun to experience issues with filing space, and at the end of the day, organising and reviewing all of the orders for the day began taking a lot longer than it had done previously.

They have considered looking for a digital system, but the main concerns are around a lack of current IT knowledge, costs, and the risk of choosing a system that takes time to set up and learn, which would disrupt their tight schedule.

This has meant the business is unsure how to progress, and instead sticks with the paper-based system despite it requiring a lot of manual effort to sustain.

The Evaluation

A few months down the line, the owner reached out to a company and requested a demo of a completely digital system. The System presented was easy to set up, easy to learn and easy to use. The owner was surprised that it seemed straightforward to set up and use, and they were relieved that a single system could take away all of the manual reporting his team had to do, whilst letting them manage all ordering, planning, and reporting processes under one roof.

The owner agreed to a 30-day trial, and once all of the existing company, customer, and employee data was passed across to the software provider, this Dairy distributor was able to try out the new system.

So, what were the changes they saw from day one of the trial?

Their new digital route planner found the quickest routes for each driver, and the planning team simply had to approve and assign routes to the drivers.

From there, the drivers could easily download the day’s orders using their mobile app. Drivers could forget about manually recording stock changes, delivery records or credit notes, as these were all handled by their mobile devices. Taking returns, or up-selling items became a simpler, smoother process, and drivers could even take forward orders or set up standing orders while at the customer, with all the information registering back in the office as it happened.

At the end of the day, office staff didn’t need to collect all the paperwork from drivers, as it was already stored in the system. Instead, they could easily review order details, approve any order requests, as well as check over the daily reports from each route to ensure all information was input correctly.

The Result for their Business

Introducing a digital system that manages all aspects of their Dairy Operation meant:

  • Administrative tasks were massively reduced, paperwork was eliminated and therefore duplication of reports and efforts was minimised

  • They could track drivers from the office, and so customer service was improved and they could respond to delays/disruptions far more efficiently

  • Drivers didn’t have to juggle paperwork throughout the day, and the app helped them to get from customer to customer quicker, and allowed customers to add/remove/return items or place forward orders there and then.

  • Communication was greatly improved, with both drivers and office staff no longer needing to manually update each other throughout the day.

  • For management, they were able to access the office system from anywhere, meaning they could have a clear view of each day’s activities by taking a quick check from their mobiles.

Overall, the Dairy business was able to provide a higher quality service, reduce the amount of time spent planning routes or organising reports which was then reinvested into growing the business, both while manual error was removed and daily operations were able to run smoother.

Having all of their data filed digitally meant they could check and review reports far more easily, and management now has a clearer view of the businesses’ growth, and they are able to make plans for improvements using accurate & reliable data.

Regardless of your sector, if you would like to find out more about how a digital system could help address various challenges you face, you can speak to one of our team members using the details below,

or fill out a contact form.


T: 07984 685 403

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