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Why Your Food Supply Chain Technology Advances Are Missing the Mark

Posted by Chris Dixon

Mar 28, 2016 2:00:00 PM

Food supply chain technology

Technology is becoming the tie-breaker between large companies after the same demographic, and nowhere is competition more hungry — pun intended — than in the food industry. Using new supply chain technology not only helps companies deliver safe, fresh product, it allows them to glean a wealth of data in the process. However, not all forward-looking leaps are for the better, especially when they're implemented a little too hastily. Here are four common pitfalls to watch out for when considering implementing new technology in your food supply chain:
  •  Your new technology may not be ready to scale with your company.

The goal of any improvement to operations or your supply chain is to help your business grow in some fashion — be it efficiency, cost reduction or sales volume. While a piece of technology may work for your company's current state, you'll need to ask yourself if it will scale up without growing pains. As Joe Nowlan notes in an article for Global Purchasing, every industry has early adopters for certain supply chain programs and devices, but if your company blindly follows the trend without trying it on for size first, you could end up outgrowing it quickly. Even worse, you may find yourself swimming in systems that are far too large and complicated for your current setup, wasting time, capital and energy along the way. Make sure innovations like additional IoT investments are really the best move for your needs before pulling the proverbial trigger.

  • Your ERP selection may be bloated and over-budget.

What company doesn't want an all-in-one solution, concentrated in a single location? Potentially, yours. Adam Robinson of Cerasis explains that for some companies, ERP may be more like bringing a jet to a paper airplane race. Often, individual SCM and WMS systems will collectively provide the same suite of functions and cost considerably less to add to your operational workflow. These systems are also typically free of the contracts and restrictions of ERP systems, which can artificially hobble a growing company in need of updates for years. 

  • Your technologies may not align with current and future regulations.

James Andrews of Food Safety News advises food companies to stay abreast of changes in industry regulations, particularly new rules from the FDA. While it's impossible to plan for every eventuality, selecting technology that closely aligns with forthcoming regulatory trends will prevent retrofitting emergencies later on. If you shop for technology in the midst of new regulation drafts and cycles, you could find that your brand-new purchases are more liable to get your company in hot water with government oversight than provide cost-saving efficiency.

  • Your staff may not know how to use new technology properly.

No matter how well you plan out new technology on paper, people will always be uncertain variables, on some level. Not only is supply chain technology training vital, regular assessments will be needed to ensure guidelines are being followed. It's human nature to "settle in" to a system after a while, paying a little less attention to certain procedures that actually need careful vigilance. Additionally, staff that are used to the "old way" of doing things may stubbornly return to old programs and equipment when they encounter new challenges with updated technology. Forbes' Susan Galer notes that this fear is echoed in the C-Suite: a recent SAP poll found that only 17.3% of companies agreed that their current staff was ready for a digital transition

In order to minimize transition issues, be sure that old systems are shut down and inaccessible and appoint one of your employees as the go-to for questions and problems with technology. When your team has no choice but to use the new system, they'll learn faster out of necessity. To further ease potential problems, consider soliciting employee feedback on various potential tech options before deciding which to invest in.

Within a food supply chain, tech that is not implemented quickly and smoothly becomes unfinished business that can impact food safety and product quality. Don't make hasty decisions when it comes to supply chain technology, but don't be afraid of investing in future performance, either: careful research and informed decisions will keep your own tech from turning on you.

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Written by: Chris Dixon

Topics: Supply Chain