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The FDA announced a new approach to food safety, one that recognizes and builds on the progress made in the past but looks towards what processes and tools will be needed for the future. The agency is currently developing a Strategic Blueprint that will outline how the agency plans to leverage technology and other tools to create a more digital, traceable, and safer food system.
Although we cannot say for certain exactly what the ‘’New Era of Smarter Food Safety’’ will look like, we can be certain that it will revolutionize the industry in ways that we have yet to imagine. The FDA’s new initiative will be transformative and will build on the successes of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
We have witnessed many changes come to our industry as a result of FSMA’s Sanitary Transportation rule. Now, with the development of cutting edge, next-generation technologies that support a comprehensive approach to food safety, we can expect that these solutions will provide an unprecedented level of insights, foster better collaboration, and facilitate proactive decision-making and risk mitigation in ways that were not previously possible.
As with many areas of innovation, often, the best developments come from the modification and implementation of technologies that have seen success in other industries. An example of this is the utilization of real-time supply chain monitoring, which enables organizations to implement devices that provide proactive insights such as time, location, temperature, humidity, and other business-critical information in transformative ways. This technology comes out of the science-based and highly-regulated pharmaceutical industry, where strict quality control and supply chain monitoring is required.
Pharmaceutical enterprises are seeing an annualized return on investment in the millions of dollars due to a reduction in product and operational waste, while gaining end-to-end supply chain protection, and ensuring patient safety. By scaling technology across the supply chain, they reduce data and information silos and they own their supply chain data. Data can be shared with supply chain stakeholders through the last-mile, including manufacturers, freight forwarders, logistics providers, and distributors so that everyone can work together to achieve improvements. By leveraging best practices gained from the life sciences industry, technology solution providers are bringing their expertise to the food industry.
As the industry implements these new food safety mandates, it is critical that we develop proven strategies within our own organizations to meet these goals. Many companies have implemented cross-functional strategic teams and have developed multi-year rollout plans to ensure that they meet these objectives and the regulatory requirements.
A great place to start is utilizing future-vision techniques where you determine the end results that you need to achieve and then define each step to get there from where you currently are. These types of steps may include an upgrade of your technology systems (Inventory, Warehouse Management, Quality Management, etc.), the implementation of a traceability system beyond the one-up, one-back model, the implementation of continuous monitoring technologies, and other enterprise improvements in order to proactively reduce waste and costs, ensure continuous food quality and safety, and drive supply chain efficiencies and improved margins.
It is easy to understand how organizations are utilizing previously unavailable data to utterly transform their supply chain business processes. What should businesses look at when considering technology adoption?
In addition to implementing technology that provides real-time supply chain insights, organizations are finding that they can improve their logistics, purchasing, and FSQA systems in ways that were previously unimaginable. By implementing these next-level technologies, the insights are giving teams the ability to illuminate the blind spots in their supply chains, and then proactively address the issues they see.
Logistics teams are finding that they are able to use the big data to optimize their freight lanes. Supply chain data is displayed in custom dashboards that can provide key performance metrics regarding lanes, suppliers, carriers, points of interest, products, airports, harbors, packaging type, and so on.
As an example, by looking at their data, logistics teams are able to optimize shipping lanes by mandating routes utilized by their fleets, enabling them to reduce shipping times, fuel usage, and freight rates. By having 24/7/365 visibility, logistics teams are able to negotiate reduced insurance rates by proving to their agents that they are able to significantly reduce lost shipments through proactive management. Utilizing previously unavailable information is proving that significant savings can be realized through technology.
Today’s food supply chain technology often focuses on tracking and tracing products in case of a food safety incident or recall, to quickly identify, isolate, and remove potentially affected products from the supply chain. With the emergence of new digital technologies, the proliferation of the Internet of Things (IoT), and the continued advancement of sensor technology, the one-step-forward and one-step-back model of food traceability is an outdated and incomplete. Companies can now get granular visibility over exactly what happened, where, and when, and know immediately if a shipment deviation or other aberration has occurred.
Businesses are now able to integrate their temperature monitoring, track-and-trace technology, quality management systems, and other business tools together to gain a comprehensive, single source of truth for their end-to-end supply chain. These types of insights are utterly transforming the way food organizations manage their business.
Purchasing teams are feeling consumer demand for fresher and clean label foods that do not use preservatives, and other shelf-life extending ingredients. These changes are requiring purchasing agents to implement tighter supply chains and truly just-in-time processing. Because of these much tighter shelf-life requirements, it is business-critical knowing that a product is on the road and within the conditional parameters required. Having that peace of mind, and knowing that company objectives are being met, is changing the game.
Food Safety and Quality Assurance teams are finding that having real-time insights into their supply chain, previously a traceability black hole, is allowing them to utilize technology as a Preventative Control within their food safety program. Instead of worrying whether a shipment will be delivered out of temperature, or whether it had experienced temperature abuse along the way, teams now have complete confidence that the shipment is being held within specification requirements, which is tangibly reducing waste, improving food safety, and consistently ensuring the quality that customers expect.
In addition, FSQA teams are utilizing light excursion data to maintain transportation security throughout shipping routes. By knowing that the doors of the refrigerated truck have remained sealed through the shipment, teams no longer need to rely solely on the trailer seal to obtain this information.
A question that is always raised regarding this type of technology is the cost of implementation. Today, companies can obtain the benefits of the combination of truly real time IoT hardware (reusable data loggers), software, and services. Organizations are finding that implementation can often be offset by reduced waste and optimized supply chain operations.
The business case for visibility technology within the pharmaceutical industry is well-established, where the benefits and cost savings are extending to logistics and procurement, quality teams, and logistics providers. As mentioned, businesses are tangibly measuring total cost savings adding up into the millions of dollars every year, and the food industry can similarly measure benefits among their logistics and procurement, quality and safety, and business teams.
To achieve greater economies of scale, businesses should look to services-based technology models, rather than vendor-based technology solution providers. That is, rather than purchasing single-use IoT data loggers and managing them internally, operations can be shifted to companies offering services in addition to the hardware and software technology. This can include 24/7 monitoring and response for proactive alert handling and IoT management services. By working with a partner that manages the manual portions of the program, teams can utilize the data without worrying about the intensive aspects of the program.
It is now easy to get started with supply chain monitoring technology. It is recommended that businesses start with a temperature monitoring pilot to answer a specific question or address a particular problem lane, see the data and insights they can glean, and then proceed incrementally with a larger deployment.
Supply chain visibility technology today provides companies the ability to grant users and access to information pertaining to their shipments directly to their desktop or mobile. Businesses can share data as needed to help others improve their part of the supply chain. As mentioned, companies are using dashboards in ways that are providing transformative change to their supply chain. Moving forward, collaboration and data sharing will be critical to meet the demands over the coming years
The FDA’s new era of Smarter Food Safety is likely to provide numerous benefits to the industry. However, technology is only one piece of the puzzle. Smarter Food Safety will be people-led, FSMA-based, and technology-enabled. When it comes to protecting consumers from foodborne illness, everyone is a stakeholder in the agency’s health mission. We are all working for the same boss—the end consumer. They are counting on us to work together to keep their food safe.
About Jeremy Schneider, Business Development Director, Food Safety and Quality Assurance
Jeremy has more than 15 years of experience in the food quality, safety, and regulatory sector. His experience spans managing food safety and quality systems within several fast-casual restaurant chains as well as food manufacturing. During his career, he has addressed some of the most challenging and critical risks faced today by major consumer food brands.
Interested in learning more about real-time temperature monitoring or getting started with a pilot? Get in touch. We would be happy to help you solve your cold chain challenges.