How technology is playing a role in mitigating food supply chain risk

Food & beverage   20 Feb 2019

Temperature has one of the greatest impacts on food safety, which makes cold chain safety paramount. Despite the regulatory standards, it is no longer sufficient to only track and trace food products one step up or one step down the food chain. There are new risks being identified with foods at every step of the supply chain, along with a greater capacity to link food with illness.

These days, consumers are traveling further distances and are craving new foods, ingredients, and beverages that are sourced from afar. In addition, consumers are increasingly expecting products that are made from fresh and natural ingredients, which is placing pressure on food chains to work with logistics partners that can help them to deliver the quality products their customers expect. Free from artificial preservatives, these products have shorter shelf lives and a lower tolerance for prolonged exposure to varying environmental conditions, where temperature plays a key role.

Currently, navigating these hurdles involves a largely manual, tedious document trail to ensure end-to-end traceability from farm to fork. Each handoff point is critical, and quality checks need to guarantee product integrity as food moves throughout the supply chain. Any mistake can result in brand-damaging recalls, food waste, insurance costs, downstream delays, sickness, and even civil and criminal penalties.

Achieving real-time location and condition visibility of perishable products from grower to consumer is critical to addressing these risks and satisfying customers. Technology is playing an important role in mitigating food supply chain risk from farm to fork.

Consider a truck carrying fresh lettuce from California to a distribution center in Texas. Temperatures inside the trailer must be kept between 34ºF and 40ºF degrees or produce integrity may be compromised. The truck’s own temperature monitoring system may measure temperature from a single location inside the truck, but that might not accurately reflect temperature variances that often occur throughout the truck, which can affect some of the products. If boxes shift during transit or palettes aren’t correctly placed, blocking airflow, some of the produce may be affected.

Traditionally, temperature data was only available at the end of a shipment. Today, however, cloud software, powered by Internet of Things (IoT) data loggers, can provide food quality leaders with real-time, actionable insights over product temperature and location, as well as the ability to proactively intervene and save products if environmental conditions start to deviate. Over time, aggregated data can help to automate the cold chain, ensure food supply, shorten delivery times, lengthen product shelf life, and expedite the quality review process.

Technology can enable businesses to shine a light on and mitigate weak spots in the cold chain, reduce the risk of recall and product loss, and identify single points of failure, or specific batches of affected product, rather than compromising an entire shipment. Real-time data can also be used to improve customer service and establish trust, as information can be immediately shared with stakeholders.

With the availability of real-time supply chain data, businesses will need to consider how to leverage the data. Whether it is internal or externally sourced, a new organizational role is needed to respond to information that is available sooner in the shipment process to proactively respond to environmental deviations, save product loads, and respond to any risks identified.

At a time when the food industry as a whole is under significant pressure to regain customer trust, build loyalty, and protect brand integrity, businesses need to consider how technology will contribute. With the right technology and services, organizations can ensure that consistently high-quality products reach their customers while protecting against cold chain failures and costly recalls, and minimizing the time spent on food safety issues.

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To learn more or get started with a pilot of our real-time cold chain monitoring solutions, contact us. We would be happy to walk you through our offerings.

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