Case study: How Farmdrop raised delivery efficiency and cut costs with smartphone scanning

Farmdrop is a UK-based online grocery marketplace that connects consumers with local small-to-mid-sized farmers and producers. The company operates two delivery hubs that enable rapid fulfilment of customer orders with fresh goods.

Farmdrop customers browse a web catalogue and electronically place orders for grocery and fresh produce items. The orders are sent to local farmers situated within a 100-mile radius of a delivery hub, who then pick, pack and ship goods to the hub within a 12-to-18-hour time window.

Rapid, easy order fulfilment is a cornerstone of Farmdrop’s business model. By operating a shorter, consumer-driven supply chain, the company gets produce from the farm to the customer’s home in an average time of 19 hours and average distance of 60 miles.

This compares to an average time of 120 hours and average distance of 600 miles to get produce from farm to store. Fresher produce with faster delivery also boosts customer satisfaction, which is critical as Farmdrop attempts to expand its business. The company has been experiencing double-digit month-to-month revenue growth, which it seeks to maintain.

Farmdrop faces unique challenges

Ensuring that delivery drivers accurately pick up the correct orders and then deliver them to the intended customers is of utmost importance. On average, Farmdrop processes around 5,000 products per day, separated into eight different van deliveries with eight different drivers.

Each van is typically loaded with one to three crates per customer order. Initially, Farmdrop found that drivers could (inadvertently) forget to load items into the van, or deliver the wrong goods to the wrong customers. This led to customers not receiving the products they ordered, impacting satisfaction and retention rates.

To resolve this issue, Farmdrop decided to develop a mobile app that would allow drivers to scan the barcodes of items and crates as they were loaded into and out of vans when delivered to the intended customers. The app also automated proof of delivery workflows for drivers. After comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of dedicated scanning devices to the TCO of smartphones to run its delivery app, Farmdrop decided to develop a smartphone app.

“Using smartphones for barcode scanning offers a much lower cost than using a dedicated hardware platform from a third-party vendor,” said Sven Poppelmann, CTO of Farmdrop. “Dedicated scanning hardware has a higher capital expenditure and requires ongoing customer support.”

Farmdrop selected the Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK to provide in-app scanning capability. The company decided to implement the Scandit solution after performing side-by-side blind tests of factors such as ease-of-use, speed and accuracy in a variety of adverse environmental conditions such as low lighting and damaged labels. The comparatively low cost of smartphones led Farmdrop to issue Motorola hardware to drivers to operate the scanning app.

“The smartphone is so inexpensive that it’s effectively free to replace if the driver loses or breaks it,” said Poppelman. Since deploying its mobile delivery app, Farmdrop has improved the accuracy rate of delivered crates to 100%.

In the future

Looking ahead, Farmdrop is considering using smartphones running a Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK-enabled mobile app to scan barcoded packaged items as they enter delivery hubs.

“We don’t have a warehouse. We use a zero-waste model with a delivery hub. We scan barcoded items into the hub as they come in, which allows us to keep track of what has come into the hub and chase suppliers that haven’t delivered yet,” said Poppelman.

Image credit: Scandit