From Farm To Fork: Strengthening Supply Chain Transparency Across The Food Industry
Monday, April 18th, 2022
“The rampant uncertainty around pandemic-influenced supply and demand challenges will persist in 2022 — and the food industry can no longer afford to be caught off-guard by ‘unprecedented’ delays, disruptions, and shortages”.
Contributed by Cas Brentjens, Vice President of Infor Nexus Supply Chain Business Networks, APJ, Infor.
Cas Brentjens, Vice President of Infor Nexus Supply Chain Business Networks, APJ, Infor
Today’s consumers are hungrier than ever for information around the food they consume. Beyond basic nutritional facts and value, consumers now want to know where and how their food is grown — if the produce is organic and sustainably sourced, whether animals were involved and treated humanely in the farming process, and the impact of their food choices on the environment.
These questions are continually evolving, in addition to rising consumer calls for the disclosure of certifications and labels, such as ‘vegan’, ‘gluten-free’ and ‘non-GMO’ foods.
The pressure is mounting on food producers and manufacturers to address these new consumer demands, while complying with prevailing industry and food safety regulations. It is a tall order; one that can only be fulfilled by leveraging data-driven intelligence in real-time, to strengthen end-to-end visibility, transparency and traceability across the food supply chain.
Unfortunately, many producers have found themselves hindered by siloed operations and legacy software, which are unable to support the increasing need for agile processes and operations. Add to this an ongoing spate of supply chain snarls and delays across the globe, exacerbated by the pandemic, and we are faced with an industry in crisis.
The State Of Supply Chain Snarls
The past two years of the global pandemic have left supply chains in massive disarray. For starters, the interconnectedness of global trade has meant that any complexities and fragilities are closely interlinked; and a breakdown or bottleneck at any one part can halt and disrupt the entire value chain.
Current congestions and delays, for instance, are not merely an issue of shipping or traffic, but of global supply chain networks. 2021 saw a massive shortage of container ships across the globe, which were further exacerbated by historically high e-commerce demand in the pandemic, and thus, increased volumes of inbound shipping out of Asia.
These issues, compounded with a spate of ongoing labour woes, production constraints and delays, and unprecedented disruptions such as the Suez Canal port congestion, snowballed and majorly upended supply lines in the past year. The scale of these disruptions impacted even major food conglomerates, which reported a shortage of essential items across many of their outlets worldwide.
Multiply this effect across the many smaller farmers and producers whose supply lines are equally, if not more vulnerable, and its little wonder that food producers are struggling to keep up with order fulfillment — much less delivering greater traceability and transparency across the supply chain.
Driving Farm-To-Fork Transparency And Resiliency With Industry 4.0
Thankfully, many food producers are fast realising the need to leverage Industry 4.0 technologies in transforming their supply chain operations. This requires integrating the intelligence and speed of modern software into one’s supply chain ecosystem — from farmers to manufacturers, logistics and delivery partners, to retailers.
This enables food producers to track and trace their ingredients or products at any time, and across their network of suppliers, logistics providers and partners. More importantly, this precise visibility empowers producers to deliver detailed documentation of all ingredients and processes with ease, trickling down to engender stronger foundations of trust with consumers.
For starters, producers can look to leverage digital tools such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and automation — many of which are already being applied to revolutionise farm-to-fork processes across the food industry. Real-time intelligence can also be applied to monitor the movement of goods at each stage of the value chain, granting producers an overview of their operations at once.
This, coupled with predictive analytics, can provide critical end-to-end visibility across the value chain, allowing producers to forecast any potential delays or disruptions to their operations. It also equips producers with the operational agility to map out contingencies, and pivot quickly to any changes in the market, as well as fluctuations in consumer demands.
Ultimately, leveraging smart tools and technologies allow food producers to gain a single, unified view of their various operations and functions at once, increasing operational intelligence and agility, while automating time and labour-intensive processes. This frees producers to focus on what truly matters: delivering quality products for the end consumer.
Supply Chain Visibility And Resiliency Become Mission-Critical In 2022
More than ever, organisations across the food industry and beyond are recognising that supply chain visibility and resiliency will be mission-critical to strengthening operational agility, especially as disruptions show no sign of abating.
IDC research indicates that increasing supply chain visibility is now an immediate priority for 58 percent of APAC organisations, and their supply chain strategies are evolving as well. Instead of single-minded pursuits of lower costs, business leaders are now looking towards holistic and multi-dimensional forms of real-time visibility across all their supply chain functions, both upstream and downstream — and food producers are no exception.
The rampant uncertainty around pandemic-influenced supply and demand challenges will persist in 2022 — and the food industry can no longer afford to be caught off-guard by ‘unprecedented’ delays, disruptions, and shortages.
Ultimately, success in the final mile delivery of products to consumers will become increasingly dependent on investments made in the first mile — and food producers must look to scale their use of Cloud, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Big Data and predictive analytics to increase agility and control.
This will be crucial to enabling greater traceability and transparency across the food supply chain, allowing producers to deliver quality for consumers at speed and scale, even in a disruptive ‘new normal’.
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