Case study

How Chipotle saved $205,000 worth of product within the first six months after adopting Controlant's cold chain monitoring solution

Industry:  Restaurants and Food Service

Company size:  65,000+

Location:  Headquartered in United States; locations in United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. is an American chain of fast casual restaurants specializing in tacos and Mission-style burritos, with more than 65,000 employees and 2,400 restaurants worldwide. With a team dedicated to food safety and quality assurance projects, Chipotle uses Controlant to actively monitor the temperature conditions and location of fresh produce, meats and proteins, and other perishable foods traveling from producers to distribution centers and restaurants across the United States.

In late 2015, the restaurant chain experienced a series of food safety-related incidents that impacted the brand. According to Jeremy Schneider, Quality Assurance Manager, Food Safety, Quality Assurance, the incidents led the company to re-evaluate everything it had been doing with respect to food safety and quality. This resulted in the implementation of a number of food safety improvement programs throughout their supply chain as well as in their restaurants.

Jeremy’s team manages Chipotle’s current programs while working diligently to implement industry leading food safety improvements. Here is how the team uses Controlant to gain proactive temperature and product movement monitoring and greater supply chain control for more than 40,000 shipments across the United States annually.

Becoming a thought leader in food safety

Chipotle’s ethos is “Food With Integrity.” This means that the restaurant chain sources ingredients that are good for the farmer, the animal, and the land. Chipotle is continuously pushing boundaries to ensure that the freshest sourced products are delivered to customers at every restaurant location.

According to Jeremy, after the 2015 incidents, Chipotle opted to elevate its internal programs and systems to beyond what has been considered industry-standard. The company quickly became committed to adopting industry-leading, cutting-edge technologies and solutions to ensure a fully controlled cold chain, from producers and growers to distribution centers and logistics partners through delivery at their restaurants.

Temperature monitoring is mission-critical for Jeremy’s team, but other data loggers did not sufficiently deliver value. While they could be justified for small projects or tests, they didn’t provide the real-time visibility, scalability, or customization needed to work within Chipotle’s system and to be financially viable. “We needed to look at our program differently,” said Jeremy. “With Controlant’s services, we were able to develop a program that was very specialized to what our needs were.” 

The option to pilot Controlant

Chipotle began an initial 90-day pilot to monitor shipments of lettuce and cilantro from a producer in California to several distribution centers across the United States. Controlant’s service-based model enabled Chipotle to gain immediate access to its solutions, including wireless, reusable data loggers, 24/7 on-demand access to active and past shipment data, and pre-shipment setups through its web-enabled cloud platform. Shipment templates were customizable with temperature range capabilities based on the items being shipped.

Auto-replenishment and auto-pickup of data loggers from their partner distribution centers enabled Chipotle to save on per-shipment costs and reduce waste.

Regular status updates with the Controlant Customer Success team to review shipment data together and collaborate on areas of improvement helped to ensure the pilot’s success.

A tool to foster food quality and assured supply

Jeremy evaluated their pilot with two primary focal points in mind: food safety and quality improvements and assured supply. Like many organizations, Chipotle has dealt with a number of safety and quality-related issues, including premature spoilage or a load showing up at a distribution center that was too warm.

In those situations, prior to adopting Controlant, it was often too late to save the products. Their team would focus on the consequences — lost loads, insurance, or credit — without always figuring out what had happened. After partnering with Controlant, their team gained immediate visibility over all active shipments, and with that data, can proactively intercept a load before wastage occurred. Shipment drill-down data now makes it possible to conduct root cause analyses for active and closed shipments.

The second focal point, assured supply, relates to the company’s ethos. Chipotle sources a lot of fresh ingredients, and a very tight supply chain is important to ensuring that fresh food is served to customers. If a spoiled load shows up at a distribution center, the consequences of the rejected load will likely mean there are outages at the restaurants within the market, which can impact customer loyalty.

“If we save a load of chicken that we may have otherwise lost, the downstream effect is that customers can order chicken instead of us being out of one of our proteins,” said Jeremy. “Those things are hard to quantify, but they’re really important. If you go to a restaurant and order your favorite entree and they don’t have it, you’re not happy. You don’t see those things but you know if it you have the Controlant program.” 

Moving to a large-scale rollout

Jeremy’s team is able to track key performance metrics, such as their total active and closed shipments, the number of shipments with Medium and Severe Excursions, and their return on investment.

During the initial pilot, Jeremy’s team was able to intercept and save two shipments of products before an excursion occurred. The data made it possible to roll out their solution across their distribution centers and logistics partners. During the first six months of adoption, Jeremy’s team saved six shipments of products valued at $205,000.

With onboarding and customer success support from Controlant, Jeremy’s team is rolling out Controlant’s services to enable distribution centers and suppliers to use the system. According to Jeremy, adoption has been easy because it’s built to be simple and stakeholders can quickly see its value. As Jeremy’s team has access to critical shipment data in real-time, they are now piloting Controlant’s 24/7 monitoring and response services to proactively monitor all shipments and respond to deviations before they escalate.

“Controlant is a thought leader in this space,” said Jeremy. “The managed shipping and reverse logistics, the reusability of the data loggers, the ease of use of the software platform’s dashboard data and user interface, and the agility and responsiveness of the company in fulfilling our needs — those are the things that really sold me on the solution.”

Immediate benefits and cost savings

In addition to the cost savings, Controlant’s solutions have enabled Jeremy’s team to make a number of food safety and quality improvements throughout the supply chain. According to Jeremy, this has been one of their biggest learnings. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” said Jeremy. “Sometimes you think you were better than you thought you were, or maybe you’re worse than you thought you were, but when you see it, you can focus on the areas that need to be improved.”

As the program continues and more data sets are added, Jeremy’s team will have more opportunities to extrapolate insights from the system.

Recommendations

According to Jeremy, there is more being asked from stakeholders to comply with regulatory standards than ever before, including the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Sanitary Transport Rule. With issues like driver shortages for over the road shipments, businesses cannot afford to lose a load of food. Real-time visibility is a necessary component of running an efficient and effective supply chain.

Jeremy recommends that others run a pilot and see what can be learned. “I think the results speak for themselves. If you’re already running a data logger-type program, you’re going to find a difference just because you’re going to see that information in real-time. If you haven’t run a program before, it’s going to be completely eye opening for you.”

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