Over the last two decades, supply chains have witnessed incredible progress with regard to expediting freight movement and improving operational efficiency. However several issues can be seen cropping up across the spectrum. The primary one is food waste, and this continues to mount with each passing year.
The waste of food is a giant problem. Though a major chunk of this comes from end consumers who discard excess and throw out stale products, a significant portion leaks out of supply chain operations, usually due to a lack of coordination between different stakeholders in the value chain.
“Market data shows that we have around $35 billion in food spoilage every year. One of the major reasons for spoilage is pest infestation,” said Chris Wolfe, the CEO of logistics solutions provider PowerFleet. “The two major reasons that go hand-in-hand in pest infestation are temperature incursions and bad handling.”
For supply chains looking to facilitate the movement of food from the farm to the table, maintaining order across several logistics nodal points is vital. The foremost concern for a perishable commodity is the way it is stored and transported. There are often requirements to use effective cold storage for the perishables. Cold storage containers keep products at a certain temperature, helping perishables to stay fresh and increasing their shelf lives.
However, even within a carefully controlled environment, temperature incursions can happen. “From the point in time the product leaves the shelf in a controlled environment to the point where it goes across the dock, there can be several incursions. For instance, the doors might not be sealed correctly on the trailers. To avoid this, cold chain warehouses will have to set up specific doors that prevent air intrusion,” said Wolfe.
Temperature incursions and sloppy handling of products cause pest infestation. This is a critical issue as the existence of pests within containers is usually only found in the latter end of the supply chain process, leading to a massive waste of resources.
If in the event of an infestation attack, businesses need to back-track the chain of custody to understand the infestation origin to quell the source. For global food supply chains, the origin of such pests might be across economically poor countries that do not have tight controls over its product handling.
Data analytics can also be used to improve efficiency and avoid temperature incursions. “You can do predictive temperature management. If you know the freight route and the forecast of the ambient temperature outside, you can take proactive steps to adjust pre-cooling of the cooling units, which can reduce temperature incursions during loading and reloading,” said Wolfe.