These days, it’s all too common to turn on the evening news and see a food-associated health risk make the nightly headline. While not all of these outbreaks are, currently, preventable, at least some of these situations could have been avoided with right technology and processes. But while food safety is of vital concern to everyone in the food industry, not the only concern that should occupy your attention. A disruption of any kind in the food supply chain is threatening. Producers, suppliers, grocery chains and restaurants, not to mention consumers, all suffer.
Important Factors to Consider
In order to move confidently into a new era of supply efficiency in an increasingly complicated industry, there are three strategies you must consider:
- Implementing some form of data collection and sharing program with your vendors
- Establishing a framework and tools to analyze and mine insights from this gathered data
- Crafting strategies and improving processes based on the insights you have gathered
How you do each of these depends on the type of systems you currently have in place. If you're not currently using big data analytics and cloud-based technology to gather information and inform vendors up and down supply chain, you’ll soon find yourself left behind.
Seven serious threats to the supply chain are newly emerging, according to Food Safety Tech. They include, in addition to food safety and lack of consumer confidence:
- Food fraud and sabotage
- Population growth
- Changes in consumer habits
- An over-reliance on single suppliers
- Changing climatic conditions that affect production.
How you will deal with these concerns may be some of the greatest challenges yet faced by an industry that is being forced to evaluate and reform its practices.
Better control over supply chain data, more transparency, and a clearer understanding of the various links in the supply chain all the way down the line are important ingredients for success. Big data is the key to realizing those goals.
Data Sharing Innovation
Integrating and sharing optimization tools and analytics, cloud-based data storage and forecasting efforts, in addition to traditional tools like shipment tracking, can have a marked improvement on efficiency. It is easier to pass along information, make adjustments as necessary, implement needed transparency all along the chain and react to changing needs and conditions on a timely basis — a difficult task for legacy ERP and SCM systems. The complex webs that characterize emerging models of supply networks demand that advanced data management systems be utilized. There is no other adequate means to assure supply risk assessment. Immediate information sharing is vital.
Big data and advanced analytics represent the "next frontier of supply chain innovation," according to Boston Consulting Group. There is a need, however, to accurately decide where to focus available time and funds in order to optimize distribution, production and logistics networks. That is the overriding challenge for companies seeking answers to supply chain risk assessment questions.
Your company’s investments can only take you so far. In order to effectively unify your supply chain, you must develop internal strategies in tandem with your vendors and suppliers. Data consistency should be a priority and "cross-functional data transparency" must be a goal if the data is to be deemed reliable for all users and participants. In this way, every industry provider benefits and consumers will gain more confidence.
Responding to Demand
Consumers are the driving force behind current push toward supply chain transparency. They want to know not only how their food has been handled, but where their food comes from and how it is raised or grown. A survey recently completed by Trace One reports that 91% of consumers feel they do not have access to enough information about the food they consume. Less than seven percent trust the quality and safety of the food they buy, and 23 percent do not fully trust information supplied on labels.
That dismal picture can be changed, but companies all along the food chain must be the drivers of that change.