Some of the biggest challenges facing the food supply concern things like visibility, traceability, and skyrocketing costs. These are happening at the same time consumer shopping behaviors and preferences are shifting, putting additional pressure on food growers, manufacturers, logistics companies, and sellers.
So, what are the solutions to some of the ongoing challenges in the food supply chain? Of course, businesses can work harder. But those efforts will produce diminishing returns. Some of the best ways to address food supply challenges and remain competitive are through technology strategies like various wireless solutions.
1. Wireless technology allows for optimal use of the Internet of Things (IoT).
There are currently over 10 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices in use today. These devices are expected to explode in use even more over the next decade as businesses find more services for them. The food supply chain is now using this technology for things inventory management, asset tracking, and fleet operations management.
IoT devices have the potential to transmit valuable data to supply chain managers, such as where products are, food quality data, and employee safety data. But some of this technology has been limited by wires and the requirement for batteries. Now wireless power is transforming the use of IoT in the food supply chain. Workers no longer need to keep track of batteries in sensors, which is labor-intensive and inefficient.
2. Wireless creates a larger focus on transparency in the food supply chain.
Sixty percent of consumers globally say social responsibility and sustainability are vital considerations when choosing which products to purchase. These customers look for food brands that provide the greatest transparency, meaning customers can tell where the food came from and even track it from farm to fork.
Blockchain has become a popular tool for tracking each ingredient that is added to processed food as it makes its way through the food supply chain. When it comes to perishable food, sensors are increasingly used to record things like temperature, location, water composition, and more. And RFID labels, which can be scanned wirelessly, give businesses and consumers 100% of the information they need to track items in real-time.
3. Mobile solutions allow food shipment data to be automated.
When food products ship, how does that information get entered into a tracking system? If the answer is “manually,” you probably aren’t using wireless or mobile solutions. Some logistics functions in the food supply chain can be completely automated, which reduces errors, cuts costs, and improves transparency.
Technology solutions like RFID-enabled labels are an excellent example. These labels are so thin they are nearly indistinguishable on a food product. This affordable technology can be scanned automatically, with scanners able to record the data for hundreds of products simultaneously. And a single tag can hold valuable shipping data about your products, such as the product name, expiration date, weight, destination, and much more.
4. Smartphones have become vital tools in the food supply chain.
Today’s smartphones are pretty powerful devices. Whether the company provides them or they are “BYOD” (bring your own device), most workers today have access to a smartphone that can run the latest apps. Managers, truck drivers, and warehouse personnel are using these devices more and more in their everyday work, and this includes in the food supply chain.
When it comes to the logistics process, smartphones can be used to create more efficiency and transparency. Using various apps and technology solutions like RFID tags, workers can quickly process items for shipping, inventory, processing, and more. Mobile devices can also allow managers to pull up real-time data about the logistics process, giving them the information they need to make more informed business decisions.
5. Wireless technology helps food supply chain stakeholders work together.
One major challenge in the food supply is the lack of cohesiveness among the players, meaning different stakeholders don’t talk to each other. If the food processor isn’t communicating with the grower, transportation company, or warehouse, there will clearly be some bottlenecks at some point.
Wireless and mobile technology allow for tighter communication across the food supply chain, including individuals who are out in the field. For example, drivers no longer need to track someone down to pick up instructions. The information they need will be delivered to them wirelessly, saving time and reducing potential errors.
6. Mobile devices and applications provide a more efficient logistics process.
Wireless technology put to use in the food supply chain is allowing businesses to address some pervasive challenges. The entire supply chain has been struggling with labor shortages for several years running. Fortunately, technology allows logistics providers to get more done with less.
Wireless and mobile solutions can add automation to many labor-intensive functions, such as product picking and packaging. For example, warehouse workers can wear wireless headsets that provide instructions for picking orders. This can reduce errors, improve efficiency, and lower overall costs.
7. Wireless technology can boost the sustainability of the food supply chain.
One thing consumers and many food businesses increasingly care about is sustainability. Growers can focus on organic practices, and manufacturers can adopt green packaging. But, how can wireless technology contribute to these efforts?
Interestingly, it is now possible to safely transmit power wirelessly to some devices. Wireless power is addressing some common problems with shippers, such as locating misplaced trailers in crowded distribution centers with wireless “trailer trackers.”
Going forward, wireless technology will play an increasingly vital role in the food supply chain. When businesses are able to “cut the wires,” they can address many of the most common challenges facing the industry. No longer tied to an office or desk, supply chain workers will be able to make the best use of mobile devices and applications to improve visibility and reduce costs.