It does come as a surprise when you realize that many businesses still shy away from using technology to streamline their day-to-day operations and to achieve better process optimization. Use of technology to improve profit and enhance customer services is the need of the hour.
The food supply chain is a multifaceted system in itself which covers farmers and consumers and everything in between. During a product’s journey, from farm to fork, numerous challenges can arise including lack of information on product traceability, food safety and packaging, as well as inventory management. So, how can such issues be resolved? The obvious answer is use modern day technologies such as internet of things, BLE, RFID and proximity sensors to enable better tracking of product as it moves through the supply chain, better visibility throughout the inventory and enhanced efficiency of supply chain itself.
The need of technology in the Logistics sector
It is not only the food supply chain that is evolving and moving towards the digitalization but the Logistics sector as whole. As businessmen look to expand their warehouse operations, scale businesses and open new warehouses, and this massive expansion combined with skilled labor shortage in supply chain sector comes to a stall, technology and technology lead automation, and use of robots becomes the only viable option for the logistics industry. The changing customer expectations and shopping patterns also demand for a customer centric supply chain that is able to fulfill customer demands vis-à-vis timely delivery of their orders. IoT can help with that.
IoT Solutions for Food Supply Chain
Various Industry 4.0 technologies have been proven to give excellent results when it comes to enhancing the supply chain visibility and automating various complex warehouse operations including auditing and inventory control. Technologies such as BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), NFC (Near Field Communication), Wi-Fi, LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) can automate the entire food supply chain and prevent losses as foods tend to go bad pretty soon. A robust and responsive food supply chain will help with that.
Apart from that Inventory keeping is also a big issue when it comes to foods and various ways to store foods and veggies. First of all you need constant temperature and humidity monitoring at the storage facility and IoT sensors can help with that. IoT can also help you set alarms and notifications as to when you need to move certain food items or if any food item is expired/gone bad.
RFID tags along with QR Codes can be used to track and trace certain item(s) throughout the warehouse where RFID will help with locating the said item and QR Code will give out the accurate information in detail.
BLE beacons in Food Supply Chain
BLE based beacon technology is also pretty popular with its PAwR (Periodic Advertisement with Response), with the launch of Bluetooth 5.4 specification. So how this works for food supply chain? Well, BLE beacons are low power consuming tracking and advertising devices that tend to send or receive communication (say advertisements here) using the smartphone of the user in the vicinity. If you tag a cold storage facility with IoT sensors, BLE can pass off the data to users nearby on regular basis, enabling the user to monitor perishable food items more frequently.
Apart from that BLE beacons can also improve the overall visibility of assets inside the warehouse. It is rightly observed by supply chain industry that only using one technology in a warehouse, say only RFID or only BLE beacons, will not get you the desired results. So it is better to use more than one technology in combination to get the desired result, i.e. enhanced visibility.
From Farm to Fork: Automate Fulfillment
From picking up the food packages from the farms/farmers, to inventory and to customer’s table is long and tedious journey. Customer fulfillment is the most crucial part of any supply chain and food supply chain is no different. Customers now expect better communication and updates on their order, its dispatch and transit status as well as delivery status.
Businesses, thus now need to make their supply chain intelligent and agile using available IoT solutions. Apart from that, technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning (Machine Learning) can be leveraged as well to automate the supply chain entirely.
Technologies like Predictive Analytics can forecast delays and supply chain bottlenecks and help you create alternate arrangements under such conditions.