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Roles of Technology in Improving Perishable Food Supply Chains

July 19, 2022

October 4, 2022

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x min read

Managing a modern supply chain presents no shortage of challenges regardless of your industry. However, the perishable food supply chain requires a focus on execution and managing by exception,  which further magnifies challenges. Transportation managers who ship perishables need to optimize shipping to avoid spoilage at any point in the perishable’s path. Optimizing a food supply chain also requires companies to devise methods for preventing product spoilage and guaranteeing the safety and quality of their perishable foods.

The good news is that the right technology solutions enable perishable and food supply chain professionals to manage by exception, monitor cargo conditions either post-mortem or in real-time depending on a company’s needs, and provide a more strategic approach to supply chain optimization.

In this article, we'll look at the unique challenges of managing perishable food supply chains and how visibility and live monitoring solutions can help prevent spoilage and ensure the quality of your products.

The Challenges of Managing Perishable Food Supply Chains

In 2022, companies shipping perishable foods must contend with multiple supply chain challenges. Preventing products from spoiling in transit is vital to limit financial losses. Even companies not shipping perishable products can sometimes take a hit due to damaged cargo. When shipping foods that spoil if the condition inside the container or truck is not ideal, preventing damaged products with an effective loss prevention strategy is even more vital.

Any such master plan must include real-time visibility and tracking solutions to monitor the location, temperature, and other conditions associated with perishable shipments. We’ll touch on that in greater detail in a bit, but it’s also important to understand that grocery supply chains face many challenges beyond the need for real-time track-and-trace monitoring. Here are but a few examples:

  • Keep it fresh is in demand – Retailers are revamping the perimeter spaces of stores to accommodate consumers’  insatiable appetite for all things fresh, especially grab-and-go options. This trend adds a layer of complexity for store managers, who no longer can rely on straightforward, standardized, large-volume inventories.
  • Competition is fierce with so many options – Retailers continue to vie for the attention–and dollars–of consumers who can now choose between restaurants, meal delivery services such as GrubHub and DoorDash, and food-to-go outlets. It is an uber-competitive battleground that retailers must manage proactively, or it could lead to more food waste.
  • Forecasting requires deeper analytics – In days gone by, grocers predicted future sales simply by looking at their historical sales. Do that in today’s competitive landscape and they’ll soon discover they’re missing out on tangible market gains. There is no denying the need for real-time tracking and analytics.
  • Help wanted, but few takers – As the U.S. economy emerges into a post-pandemic reality, most businesses struggle to fill open positions. Retail grocers are no exception, making it difficult for them to optimize workforce management in a way where they can create a “fresh team” dedicated to supporting a perishable goods program.
  • Measuring improvements is not easy – Without perpetual inventory or deep data analytics, fresh departments have difficulting proving a consistent return on investment.
  • Adopting new technologies is tough  Emerging technologies seem to hit the market daily. Still, many retailers cite time and a lack of skilled talent as reasons for not implementing solutions that could very well save time, money, and perishable shipments.

Fortunately, more and more shippers are starting to embrace technology-driven solutions to help eliminate waste in perishable food supply chains.

For More, Download our White Paper:

Critical Challenges in Fresh Grocery & Supermarket Supply Chains
& Visibility’s Role in Keeping Shelves Stocked

How Technology Enhances Efficiency & Sustainability

Today’s perishable food supply chains are becoming increasingly digital as stakeholders across the board (and customers, too) demand instant, unfettered visibility into their shipments’ location and status 24/7/365. As such, tech stacks can be quite complex and vary by company but usually revolve around one or more systems (TMS, WMS, OPS, ERP, etc.) These systems must talk to each other and share data and updates in real-time to keep supply chain partners aligned, which is where seamless integrations using applied programming interfaces (APIs) and electronic data interchanges (EDI) prove incredibly beneficial.

Beneath this overarching framework lies a dynamic environment of innovative genius that drives global supply chains at the speed of technology. Here, advancements in internet-enabled sensors, robotics process automation (RPA), blockchain, radio frequency identification (RFID), computer vision capabilities, and augmented reality tools emerge seemingly daily to help supply chains for perishable foods and other commodities become more efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective.

How Real-Time Visibility Solutions Can Help

Of all the technologies mentioned above,  hyper-accurate location tracking of each shipment and its conditions in real-time is table stakes for any shipper of fragile or perishable products.

Tive's container trackers, for example, enable you to track the real-time conditions inside your shipping containers across criteria such as temperature, humidity, light exposure, and shock absorption. If a shipment's state drifts outside of pre-defined tolerances, the tracker submits an automated, real-time alert detailing the exact container where the issue occurs. Along with enabling you to track the condition of your shipments, Tive also provides real-time location tracking that can further improve the visibility of your perishable food supply chain.

In addition to empowering an effective loss prevention strategy, shipment condition visibility solutions ensure that any products that do become damaged in transit don't slip through the cracks of your quality control process. By enabling you to track the real-time condition of every product you ship, Tive makes it easy to pinpoint shipments that are likely to have been damaged and surfaced for further inspection upon arrival.

For More, Download our Playbook:

How to Implement Real-Time Tracking of Valuable Perishables Shipments

Bolster Visibility, Prevent Spoilage, and Improve Customer Satisfaction With Tive

By tracking the real-time condition and location of shipments in the perishable food supply chain, Tive helps companies minimize product loss and guarantee the quality of the products that go out to customers. If you want to learn more about how Tive's industry-leading shipment condition trackers can help you overcome the challenges of food spoilage or waste when shipping perishable products, contact us today. We save shipments and help you retain customers!

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