GroceryWorks Offers Vast Inventory from Safeway Online grocers essentially sell service, and they must please demanding customers. GroceryWorks.com, a recent start-up in the Internet grocery business, draws on a huge inventory supplied by Safeway and combines speedy and accurate service with technology to keep its customers happy, says Dennis Andruskiewicz, chief operating officer of GroceryWorks.
"If you or I forget something at the grocery store, our wife yells at us and we go back to the store later," Andruskiewicz says. "But our customers expect perfect execution from us."
Perfect execution means delivering the right items on time and in good condition. To make its online order system as convenient as possible, GroceryWorks offers other options besides regularly scheduled delivery.
"We provide dynamic service," Andruskiewicz explains. "Customers don't have to order for the same day every week. They can log onto our web site at any time to shop. They can get groceries on Tuesday one week and Thursday the next. We run Nissan UD trucks for scheduled delivery and Ford Windstar vans for emergency orders."
GroceryWorks offers next-day service for orders received before midnight. GroceryWorks does not charge monthly fees. It strives to keep product prices low. "Our products are generally priced at the same price as they are in the store," Andruskiewicz says. "We'll always be very comparable to the store price.
"We have an advantage over some other e-grocers in that we can align ourselves with a brick-and-mortar grocer. With 1,700 stores nationwide, Safeway is one of the largest chains in the country. It is a strategic investor in GroceryWorks. Safeway offers us nationally recognized brands and a huge customer base. We also get the benefit of Safeway's grocery expertise and purchasing power."
Inventory provided by GroceryWorks represents the top-selling items available in supermarkets in a given city or region, he adds. GroceryWorks carries dry, refrigerated, and frozen groceries, including deli items, produce, and meat.
Distribution Centers GroceryWorks opened its first distribution center in Carrollton, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, in January 2000. It opened another warehouse in Grapevine, between Dallas and Ft Worth, on May 15. A distribution center in Houston opened on May 11. GroceryWorks began servicing Austin, Texas, on September 15 and Phoenix, Arizona, in mid-October. "Next year we plan to open six to nine additional sites," Andruskiewicz says.
The original 90,000-sq-ft Carrollton warehouse stores all types of groceries. A cooler and freezer store dairy products, juices, frozen meat, poultry, prepared food, and ice cream.
GroceryWorks runs 100 trucks in the Dallas-Ft Worth Metroplex, 50 from each distribution center. Each facility also has several hotshot vans. In addition, the company runs a 28-ft refrigerated straight truck to pick up fresh produce each day from its vendor at the downtown produce market in Dallas. "Our objective is to have a high inventory turn rate, not to maintain items in storage," Andruskiewicz says.
GroceryWorks specifies driver-friendly trucks that can be operated without a commercial driver's license. "We want our trucks to be as easy to operate as a car," says Chuck Gans, GroceryWorks director of transportation. "The Class 3 trucks work well in the neighborhoods we serve."
The UD 1200C trucks have a gross vehicle weight rating of 12,000 pounds and are powered by Nissan FD46TA diesel engines producing 145 hp at 2800 rpm and a torque rating of 275 lb ft at 1800 rpm. GroceryWorks opted for the Aisin A5043L automatic four-speed overdrive transmission instead of the standard five-speed manual transmission. Using an automatic transmission is easier for drivers and eliminates clutch repair costs, Gans says.
The trucks have a 20.7-ft turning radius, power steering, and a tilt and telescopic steering column, providing easy operation and maneuverability, even on narrow streets, he adds. The cab windshield is 1,900 square inches, providing good visibility. For driver safety, GroceryWorks specifies convex mirrors for wide angle views, in addition to the standard side mirrors on streetside and curbside.
"UD trucks are durable, requiring minimal maintenance," Gans says. "We use local service shops that change the engine oil and thoroughly check the vehicles every 7,500 miles. We track truck mileage using software developed in-house, and we are in the process of developing an integrated national fleet management system."
The trucks mount 14-ft insulated bodies manufactured by Mickey Truck Bodies in High Point, North Carolina. They are equipped with Carrier Transicold Integra 30S refrigeration units and have custom-designed stainless steel shelves inside to hold the plastic totes GroceryWorks uses for each customer order.
The truck bodies have Whiting insulated roll-up rear doors and a beverage-body style roll-up door on the curbside. It extends about two and a half feet back from the nose of the box. The space inside the curbside door has two aluminum diamondplate steps leading into the main box for convenient access.
Training for Drivers GroceryWorks chooses and trains its drivers carefully, Gans says. The company employs about 150 drivers in the Dallas-Ft Worth area. "Many of our drivers formerly worked for couriers or package delivery services," he says. "We draw them by offering a competitive hourly wage and incentive pay for safe driving and on-time delivery."
New drivers receive classroom and on-the-road training before they start running routes. "We take training very seriously," Gans says. "We have a certified trainer on staff who takes them through a defensive driving class. They also ride with some of our most experienced drivers before starting out on their own."
GroceryWorks uses the MobileCast delivery system from UPS Logistics Technologies providing wireless text communication between drivers and dispatch. The software combines global-positioning and delivery management functions. Dispatch can determine which stops have been completed at any time throughout the day while trucks are in service.
"It's the same type of technology used by UPS delivery people," Gans says. "Drivers can send and receive text messages to and from dispatch. They can scan product as it is delivered for order accuracy and capture customers' signatures electronically for proof-of-delivery."
Company Service Pledge MobileCast is a tool used to provide convenient, flawless service, Andruskiewicz says. "That's GroceryWorks's pledge to customers - to execute flawlessly what they want and when they want it, and to deliver high quality products," he says.
The Carrier Transicold Integra 30S truck refrigeration unit is another important tool for GroceryWorks, he says. It protects products from harsh ambient temperature. The refrigeration unit is set at 55ø F.
"With numerous door openings during a run, the truck box temperature may go as high as 65ø F to 70ø F," Andruskiewicz says. "That's basically the same temperature you have at home for storing dry groceries. To protect chilled items and frozen food, we pack them in insulated totes. We pack dry ice on top of boxes of frozen items."
GroceryWorks uses its trucks as rolling billboards. The truck sides and rear doors have eye-catching graphics showing different types of produce as cartoon figures, including onions, bananas, tomatoes, and beans.
"Busy people in the 21st century are looking for convenience, and that's what we're selling," Andruskiewicz says. "Few people enjoy going to the grocery store. We offer options to help them get some time back to be with their families."