In 2015, H-E-B introduced Curbside to support the growing demand from our customers for a more convenient way to stock their shelves at home and feed their families. Since then, the need for eCommerce and digital solutions has only increased. As the world adapted to a global pandemic, H-E-B had to rapidly scope our business to meet the skyrocketing expansion of digital retail. But, some things from the beginning were pressure-tested as the business grew and we learned a lot about pivoting, working together towards solutions, and how to be nimble in a digital world.
Adapt and do it FAST
Before January of 2019, H-E-B Delivery was primarily supported by third party gig economy services. In order to open delivery service to more markets, we needed a solution in smaller cities and towns where those services didn’t exist. So, H-E-B introduced the Fleet Delivery team to provide assistance and support for our Curbside team – they work together to deliver orders to our digital customers across Texas. That meant we had to create navigation systems for our drivers and routes to ensure efficiency.
Originally, Fleet operated under a highly manual system. H-E-B’s Driver Support team would design delivery routes based on our customers’ orders, plan logical stops for our Fleet drivers, and then assign them out to be picked up and delivered by our team. Sometimes mapping these routes took Driver Support up to an hour – precious time away from their priorities of communicating with drivers and customers to help problem solve any issues with online orders. Plus, it limited our process because we could only deliver about six to seven orders per route. We knew we needed to adjust our fleet management systems – especially if we were going to scale up to meet the growing demands. So, we partnered with the Data Science team to see what we could do.
Can we fix it? YES, we can!
By working together, H-E-B’s Fleet Engineering Team and Data Science team developed a Fleet Routing tool that designs delivery routes and assigns them to our drivers in as little as two minutes and has enabled them to deliver up to 14 orders at one time. This new model takes into account details from the traffic indicated on Google Maps to the time needed for our Curbies (our Curbside Partners) to load up our Fleet vans. This provides our customers with the most accurate time estimate for delivery and allows our Driver Support team the time they need to support our drivers who are on the road. We can even use this system to deliver prescriptions from the Pharmacy!
What’s proven really neat is that, while the new Fleet Routing tool started as a way to manage static routes, it has become useful outside of its intended purpose – especially during peak times or during unexpected crises. The same features that allow the system to find efficiencies and maximize our delivery efforts are also effective at keeping our stores stocked with essential products and creating emergency delivery routes! This was incredibly useful during the February snowstorm when standard routes weren’t available. Solving one challenge offered a solution for future problems we didn’t know we would need a workaround for!
While H-E-B has always looked for ways to make the lives of Texans better, doing it digitally – and in the middle of a global pandemic – has brought new meaning to our company value of ‘relentless dissatisfaction’. As our Customers are looking for solutions, we are diligently working together to deliver them.