The food supply chain is ripe (sorry, terrible pun!) for disruption. It has been one of the slowest supply chains to adopt digital technologies.
One of the companies trying to change this is HeavyConnect. HeavyConnect are a California based startup who have created a platform for what they call the first mile, which helps alleviate a lot of the time spent on paperwork and compliance.
I invited their CEO Patrick Zelaya onto the podcast to tell me all about their solution.
We had an excellent conversation and, as is often the case, I learned loads, I hope you do too...
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At the small end, it's a 50% time savings over dealing with paper. And at the high end, it can be an 85% time savings of going digital. So somewhere between 50 and 85% time savings by making that switch and that really is the big motivator for for most of our customers.Tom Raftery:
Good morning, good afternoon or good evening wherever you are in the world. This is the digital supply chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain. And I'm your host, global vice president of SAP. Tom Raftery. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the digital supply chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery with SAP and with me on the show today I have my special guest, Patrick. Patrick, would you like to introduce yourself?Patrick Zelaya:
Yes. My name is Patrick Zelaya. I'm the founder and CEO of HeavyConnect in Salinas, California. Thanks for having me on.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And Patrick, what is HeavyConnect?Patrick Zelaya:
Yeah, HeavyConnect is a mobile platform. It's a intuitive mobile app and a powerful web dashboard. And the function of it is to digitize paper based workflows in the food supply chain, particularly in the first mile, or the field and facility setting. So we take systems of food safety of QA, QC, worker safety, that are traditionally done on paper, and created a way to make that data easier to collect, take less time be more accurate, and just overall make the life of everyone involved in that workflow a little bit easier each day.Tom Raftery:
Okay, very nice. How does it work? what's what's the kind of scenario that typical working scenario for your for your platform?Patrick Zelaya:
Yeah, so so every day in the beginning of the food supply chain, there are producers that are going into the field with a with a crew of harvesters, to harvest lettuce, broccoli, celery, strawberries, and this crew has to follow certain protocols, and the company has to adhere to regulatory compliance. And so we'll take food safety. For example, sanitation is a very big piece of the harvesting process and the beginning of getting that food to market. So what the government regulations stipulate is that every harvesting company needs to go through sanitation checklists for the harvesting tools for the working environment, like the restroom facilities, hand washing stations, today, it's it's centered around COVID, with health screening logs, and taking people's temperature when they come in. All of that has to be documented. And records have to be maintained to show that they're following these regulatory mandates. So historically, that's all been done on paper. And when I mean paper, you know, it's a clipboard, it's a list of between five to 15 pieces of paper that are being filled out throughout the day. And then at the end of the day, the the harvesting foreman or the supervisor will drive those get in his pickup truck and drive to the office to deliver these compliance forms either to the food safety manager to the Quality Manager, to the environmental safety manager. So the documentation can be kept for, you know, for the operation to be in good compliance health. What we've recognized is that this is a severe bottleneck for both large and small operations. And so for large operations, they want to they want to grow, they want to scale, they want to be more efficient, they want to optimize their production, when they recognize the distance between the field and the facility or a uncontrolled environment in a more controlled environment, like a like a facility or a packing house. For your smaller organizations, it's far more limiting to their ability to grow as a company. So operationally, if say a strawberry grower who has 10 acres of strawberry wants to grow to 100 acres within three years, the amount of operational complexity that comes with that growth can really choke the growers ability to scale to the point where they actually can't do it. And whether it's labor shortages or new regulatory compliance that that occurs, you know, when you hit 25 or 50 employees, it just explodes and into a large amount of compliance that now they have to document and it can be very discouraging for that small producer that wants to expand or you know, a single processing facility or packing house to grow so we alleviate that pressure.Tom Raftery:
Okay, very nice. And I can imagine that there are lots of benefits for you know, your customers, apart from not having to drive to the Food Safety Center or whatever it is at the end of the day. Could you go through some of those I mean, I imagine the ability to have geotagged photos is probably in there amongst them, for example.Patrick Zelaya:
Yeah, so So one of the first things that we wanted to, you know, when we started heavy Connect, we went to these, these, these growers and producers. And there are many of them in California, specifically in the Salinas Valley, like dole and California giant, and we said, you know, we want to provide you with a mobile platform, we want to build this mobile platform, that's going to give you trend analysis, so that you can do operational efficiency optimization, and the growers collectively said, Go away. And we said, we said, okay, but then we went back the next week, and described the exact same product differently, we said, we want to get rid of your paper, and we want to save you time. And they they all just as collectively, as they rejected, I said, we will pay you to build that platform, because that's such a severe pain point. And so we dug in to the workflows and automating those away from paper. Now, it's an immediate time savings we see at the at the small end, it's a 50% time savings over dealing with paper. And so that's that's actually, you know, filling out in handwriting information on a clipboard. It's delivering that paper, it's collating, it's doing data entry and the payroll system for for doing time and attendance for field workers. And at the high end, it can be an 85% time savings of going digital. So somewhere between 50 and 85% time savings by making that switch, and that really is the big motivator for for most of our customers. They also in time, and in short order, see the additional benefits of not just digital time savings, but of accuracy improvements. And so and enriching that data. And so we use an intuitive mobile app to collect the data. If they're spending, let's say, an hour a day on paper, when they use the mobile app, we've got that workflow down to about nine minutes. And so that that process that they're doing, you're getting a date and timestamp, you're dropping a GPS pin, you're using the the device's camera, whether it's iOS for Apple or Android for your Samsung's and and all the Android devices. You're using the camera to scan barcodes of the produce boxes. So you've got your traceability information around PCI and GTIN, you're also able to take pictures and so you're enriching the data beyond what was collected before and providing an ability to remotely manage the food safety, the QA QC, the worker safety, which wasn't possible before and is very timely with remote work today. And and managing a distributed workforce.Tom Raftery:
Very nice. Very nice. Is there? I mean, I know your initial approach to these people was to talk about the whole idea of analytics, etc, which was it rejected to, to your point rejected out of hand. But have they come around to that idea now? Are they actually, I mean, there's a trove of data there that they would never have had on a paper based system? Is that being used?Patrick Zelaya:
It is they just couldn't see that until they actually had the data. And so once we had automated the processes once we had helped them go through that digital transformation in their operations, they could see, okay, you got rid of our paper, thank you. You replaced it with data. What can we do with that data? And so now they were ready for it. And so from from the beginning, we knew that this would be a two stage value proposition, the first one being, let's do time savings and get rid of paper and the heirs, then let's leverage this data that they didn't have before to help them. Do you know, those those operational efficiencies. And so, in the heavy Connect platform, you know, we have the intuitive mobile apps for the field user, but all of it is is stored securely in the cloud. And then our platform, our dashboard provides data analytics, we've embedded Looker tools throughout the heavy Connect platform, so that analytics and customization and reporting is really being leveraged more today, especially with our early adopters. And so it's a it's a learning curve and a growth curve into how they use heavy Connect.Tom Raftery:
Very good and I assume As well, that you have with the interface, lots of things like drop downs, etc. So the data quality coming through is significantly better than it would have. It's transcribing handwritten notes from the field.Patrick Zelaya:
That's right. That's right. We've got you don't it's really timely for us like we have the idea for a mobile platform. But when we started building in 2015 2016, mobile devices just really became more powerful and came into their own in terms of offline functionality. Talk to text is now ubiquitous throughout any mobile device. And so no longer do you have those, you know, 65 year olds in the field that that are experts in subject matter, but just aren't as tech savvy as your office based workers. And so requiring them to take their notes with their thumbs can be very prohibitive to good data collection, they can easily click the microphone and start collecting, talk to text information, you can collect audio files, you know, pictures really preclude the need for a lot of what used to be written on paper. So for example, if you have a tractor breakdown or a forklift in a facility, what used to be said is, hey, there's an oil leak or a fluid leak, and then there would be requisite follow up questions like, well, is it oil? Or is it fuel? Its oil? Is it hydraulic? Or is it engine oil? It's hydraulic, Where's it coming from? All of these questions are answered with a picture. And so whoever comes out to fix that already has the parts that they need for the repair. And the the communication that used to take so much time has really been removed from from the problem. So mobile devices have really facilitated this digital transformation in the in the early stages of the food supply chain where we exist.Tom Raftery:
Okay, and is it You said you're based in Salinas in California? I imagine many of the workers there are migrant workers? Is it multilingual in its in its UI?Patrick Zelaya:
It is it is and we've actually had to create additional languages beyond what Android an Apple will provide for translation libraries. And we came up with a translation library, embedded in heavy Connect called California Spanish. And so you know, when when you have a harvesting crew that's going on lunch, you don't want a button that says Almuerzo you want it to say Lunche or you know, if you're going on break, you don't want it to say Descanso, you want it to say Break. So there's there's certain regional colloquialisms that we have here in in California that are unique to our areas. And so one thing that makes us unique is that that we started in the fields and in the facilities to understand that user experience and the requirements that we would have to build in the obstacles that we would have to overcome as the most challenging user experience in the entire food supply chain. So so as you move from, from the producer, to the retailer, to the buyer to the consumer, the technology adoption curve, the this the tech savviness increases exponentially. And so by starting in that first mile, we've really set set ourselves up for, you know, solving the most difficult problem first, okay, butTom Raftery:
when it's scaled and beyond California,Patrick Zelaya:
yes, so so we are in the five years that we have grown, we, you know, Salinas, California was our beachhead. And, you know, I, my background is working at dieren company, and we would send equipment out in this area is kind of a proving ground for global adoption of equipment. And so it's this nice jet stream, where, if you, if you pilot your ag tech solution, if you build it in this environment, you're going to have a natural adoption internationally and be able to fit everywhere I joke with people where they say, you know, there's the saying, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. When it comes to agriculture and food production. If you can make it work in California, you can make it work anywhere. And so that's reallyTom Raftery:
a strong strategy that we stumbled into. Very good. And does your I assume your system, heavy Connect backs into other DRP systems are other software systems that people might be having in use?Patrick Zelaya:
Yes, we're very, we're really enjoying ourselves today now that that we have gotten into API connection of our data to other cloud databases, other cloud platforms. You know, in the early days, we're integrating into these legacy on premise version controlled software where the term in in agriculture and food production, the term integration was synonymous with Import Export files, and so integration was did not mean AP Eyes and and you know data portals and single sign on. Yeah. So shuttering so so that's, you know, we've had to build a multitude of those solutions. And now, you know, working with like SAP or QuickBooks and pay COMM The kinds of integrations that we're doing today are far more seamless. They're real time. And and just may put everybody on the same page.Tom Raftery:
Excellent, Patrick, and where to from here? What what kind of future plans do you have for heavy Connect?Patrick Zelaya:
Yeah, so so we're in a very interesting inflection point in in our journey. When we started heavy Kinect, we knew that a mobile platform was going to be a big time saver and benefit for the industry. We just didn't know what the platform was going to do. And for that, we listened to our customers. And so coming from john deere, the first thing that that we built was an inspection checklist, a pre use checklist, kind of like a pilots pre flight checklist. As I mentioned, are there any fluid leaks? Are there any error codes, but then, you know, Driscoll came to us and said, We want a food safety checklist and the harvesting companies, the farm labor contractor said, We want time and attendance. And so we started building out the functionality of our of our mobile platform of our app to collect all these different types of paper. And now we talk to people as as you know, from if you look at that, that first mile of the food supply chain, if you go into the office of a farmer of a meatpacking facility, have a have a processing facility or cooler transportation. in that office, there's a wall of binders, and those binders are for Department of Transportation, Department of Pesticide use OSHA or Cal OSHA, and all of it is compliance. And so we decided that compliance is a singular headache for these producers for the suppliers. Let's give them an all in one compliance platform. So we're tracking the mandatory training for COVID mandatory training for sexual harassment, all of the things that the government regulations require, can be achieved, achieved in the heavy Connect platform. And so really heavy Connect is is moving in, in down the path of all in one compliance is our specialization throughout the food supply chain. And we've accomplished that internationally where, where this was our beachhead, you know, the California market and working with with large brands like dole, where we've been able to scale internationally, with with the origin of the United States, now we're working with companies internationally, that have no presence, no footprint in the United States like Horta fruit, for example, out of Chile, Peru, Mexico, and and we're able to provide those global solutions. So it's really taking hold that initial vision of make it work here, and then it will have global effect applicability.Tom Raftery:
Fantastic, fantastic. Patrick, we're coming towards the end of the podcast Now, is there anything I've not asked you that you wish I had? Or is there any topic we've not touched on that you think it's important to make people aware of?Patrick Zelaya:
Well, I think that, you know, we spend probably equal parts of our time explaining not just the, the, the benefits of the heavy content platform, but where technology is today. And so, you know, like I mentioned, what does integration mean, and some people interpret that as a, as an export, you know, CSV file. And, and in really, it's, you know, it's about API integration, you know, we we really need to inform people the benefits of multiple integrations and letting the technology solutions specialize in what they do. And so having a one size fits all for every piece of data really limits the the features and functionality and quality of the solutions that exist. And so, you know, what, what we benefit from is, is when people understand that heavy Connect can be an all in one compliance solution. But you're also going to need your own payroll system, you're also going to need you know, your learning management system and and an HR system if you're, you know, if you're using whatever solution out there, but to say I need one computer system, it's really going to provide a sub optimal experience. And being able to link these different solutions together today. Is is not only the best way to go, but it's possible for for the food supply chain.Tom Raftery:
superbe. Patrick, if people want to know more about yourself, Patrick, or about heavy connect or any of the topics we discussed today, where would you have me direct them?Patrick Zelaya:
Yes, heavy connect.com. Will will show the all of our products solutions, several customer stories on there, to get an idea of what we've built and why and how it's being used today. Feel free to reach out to me at Patrick at heavy Connect comm or on LinkedIn and look forward to connecting.Tom Raftery:
And as Patrick, that's been really great, thanks a million for coming on the podcast today. Thanks, Tom. Have a great day. Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, head on over to sa p.com slash digital supply chain or, or simply drop me an email to Tom firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to show, please don't forget to subscribe to it and your podcast application of choice to get new episodes as soon as they're published. Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find the show. Thanks. Catch you all next time.