The global food supply is sophisticated due to the numerous challenges that are involved. While food is essential for human existence, significant disruptions have threatened supply chains. Some of the challenges include disasters, political unrest, and massive food recalls. Moreover, issues related to climate change and natural disasters are highly common these days leading to major delays and unnecessary suffering among the consumers. The biggest challenge that has affected most retailers is the ability to provide fresh commodities on time. Most supply chains that have been able to solve this problem have managed to gain increased confidence among the customers and, thus, increased sales. Freshness is the most vital consideration when it comes to food purchases among customers. Other considerations include quality, packaging, and other significant adjustments that are critical when it comes to meeting customer needs. As s result, major supply chains have resulted in the development of digital technologies aimed at reducing challenges involved in providing quality foods to the customer.
The demand for quality, safe, and fresh foods has presented major retailers with the most formidable challenge in supplying foods to all customers in every corner. Major food chains around the globe are facing problems such as inadequate storage facilities, delays in transportation, and unexpected industrial sabotages (Challenges of the Global Food Supply Chain, 2020). There are increasing trends among the population, whereby most of them get ill from using contaminated foods. With the rising demand for fresh and high-quality commodities, the retailers have resulted in various ways in which they can manage to provide fresh commodities in time and through cost-effective methods. The complexity of transportation systems has made it impossible to move and store foods safely. Technology has become an integral solution to solving these challenges. In this case, the internets of things have made it possible for retailers to forecast demand and hence, they are in a position to make prior arrangements to supply the required commodities (Carthy, 2018). Moreover, computerized stock handling technology such as first in first out (FIFO) and first expired first out (FEFO) have upgraded stock handling techniques leading to reduced food wastage and increased effectiveness (Carthy, 2018). Finally, refrigeration technology has enhanced food supply by providing temperature control techniques that protect foods from pathogens by limiting microbial growth. Therefore, retailers have been able to maintain the freshness of foods, which is an integral factor in enhancing quality.
The traceability and transparency regarding whereabouts the cargo to the final customer has affected most food supply chains for long. There are huge numbers of players involved, which makes it harder to for companies to trace their supplies (Challenges of the Global Food Supply Chain, 2020). In this case, the retailers find it hard to share accurate information on whereabouts their cargo is in terms of time and place. Tracking and tracing devices have been developed that are capable of monitoring locations for trucks and containers in the course of their journeys (Carthy, 2018). The systems have also managed to trace defective and risky food products. They are customized to withdraw unsafe products, thereby enhancing customer safety and transparency.
Supply chains have, in the recent past, been affected by increasing cases of fraud and organized fraud. The problem of counterfeit goods and organized mafias have affected most supply chains in Europe and other parts of the world based on the Interpol seizure of fake products in 2016 (Challenges of the Global Food Supply Chain, 2020). Moreover, cases of disasters have increased the number of many roadblocks that affect the supply of essential commodities (Banker, 2019). To solve this challenge, developed food supply chains have implemented hi-tech monitoring systems that enable the companies to monitor the state of products in transits (Carthy, 2018). Furthermore, big data, in combination with the internet of things, have increased intelligence systems. Increased intelligence has provided the much needed global scale infrastructure updates enabling the companies to evade possible problems involving organized crimes and frauds among staff.
Furthermore, tighter legislation acts have affected most supply chains whereby, most of them have experienced difficulties trying to comply with existing actions. For instance, in the United States, the 2001 Bioterrorism Act requires that food supply chains strictly identify the sources and origin of their foods, especially the ingredients failure to which there are tough penalties (Challenges of the Global Food Supply Chain, 2020). As such, it is the responsibility of supply chains to be updated and conform to the required regulations. In this case, by applying artificial intelligence, the organizations will be in a position comb through all the regulations related to supply chains and adhere to them. In doing this, the organization will be able to grasp all trending information, local events, and hence, will be able to plan and be compatible with the requirements.
Finally, the problem of waste increase and food loss in the supply is on the increase. Statistically, over 30% of the overall human consumption on food is wasted along the supply chains (Challenges of the Global Food Supply Chain, 2020). Normally, this is a problem of hiccups in the food production and supply chain, which are adversely affected by severe technical limitations. Some of the limitations include lack of storage facilities, weak food handling procedures, and lack of efficient marketing systems, which results in low movement of food products. In this regard, the application of computer augmented reality and visions allows for the detection of changes in food products (Hagen, 2018). The changes may include ripening of fruits, meat tenderness, among other changes. If these changes remain undetected, they lead to unprecedented damages and eventual losses that can be controlled.
Most perishable supply chains are faced with numerous problems. However, the primary problem for thee supplies chains, which creates massive challenges for the organizations are maintaining the freshness of their products. The majority of consumers, about 93% of them, prefer freshness as their primary attribute in ascertaining the quality of purchases. Therefore, perishable consumers work extremely hard to ensure that the commodities that reach customers are fresh and of the best quality. To achieve this, they have to make numerous adjustments aim at making sure that the freshness of products is maintained until it reaches the customer. For this reason, most of the supply chains have implemented diverse digital technology options aimed at enhancing the freshness of the products. In trying to meet customers’ expectations, the supply chains endure several challenges compared to canned food supply chains.
In the first place, consumers pay much attention to the freshness of commodities. Food loss is, therefore, a significant problem that has adverse effects on the earnings of the organizations. The perishability of commodities creates a significant problem in the supply chain processes, planning, and distribution of the products (Aleruchi, 2019). Supply chain managers, therefore, have to come up with ways aimed at mitigating organizational losses. In this case, the supply managers must adopt practices that reduce losses. The supply chains have to be innovative and develop ways that lead to more control in managing the deterioration of losses arising from perishables. Sometimes, the innovative strategies are so costly for organizations leading to more challenges for the organizations.
Secondly, the organizations are in constant haste to ensure the freshness of products. In this case, transport and distribution (T&D) is an essential part of handling the perishability of perishables. The ease with which products are transported to their destinations is integral in reducing the losses. To avoid losses, supply chains result in aggressive transportation and highly costly distribution approaches and at times, it becomes difficult to realize the speculated turn of events. In most cases, T&D is full of stumbling blocks that make them inefficient. Moreover, many costly assets are needed to make transportation and distribution plans efficient. Special trucks, containers, and loading equipments are required to handle the products. Statistically, the equipments and the logistical plans needed to transport the products have doubled the costs of operations, which are not the cases for the canned supply chains. Furthermore, there are cases of transit lags that are beyond supply chain control. Cases of traffic jams, possible scarcity of petroleum, and staffs strike at times lead to abnormal delays that are costly for the organizations.
Inventory control creates numerous challenges for supply chains. In North America, it estimated that over $7 billion of commodities spoils on its way to the desired market (Kinsey, 2017). In most cases, this happens at the back of the truck or, in some cases, while in the warehouses. The perishables are sensitive products that need hi-tech care, which is beyond the reach for most supply chains. In this case, most of these firms deal with numerous losses that threaten their survival. Despite the advances in technology, the fresh produce still undergoes irreversible changes in the quality between harvest and the point of sale. Temperature control is the most crucial aspect of maintaining the quality of most perishables. Usually, it is hard to detect the point in which cooling is needed, especially during harvest and post-harvest times. As such, the results are massive losses where billions of dollars are lost, a scene that can be prevented. According to a study performed by Verigo in the US, it was found that 27% of pallets were unsatisfactorily cooled (Kinsey, 2017). Customers complain of buying groceries only to find them with molds when stored in the fridges. The spoilage arising from poor inventory management procedures has presented a significant dilemma to the suppliers and health experts in most countries.
The poor handling of the inventories has resulted in increased incidences of illnesses. For instance, in the United States, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention noted that out 1 in 6 Americans or roughly about 48 million Americans report food-borne illnesses (Pal & Kant, 2020). Out of these cases, 80% are related to meat and fish issues, while the rest are associated with eggs and dairy products. Annually, over 3000 Americans die of food-borne illnesses, while over 128,000 are hospitalized due to related complications. Due to this, most customers have developed an increased dislike for perishable goods, which has been detrimental for most perishable supply chains.
Furthermore, the ever-increasing costs of perishables, logistics plans, and losses have adversely affected most supply chains. Rapid food spoilage has reduced profitability and the impacting sustainability of most supply chains (Moghaddam, 2019). Moreover, issues such as products’ delayed arrival at the desired destinations, complex regulations, and the resulting harsh penalties have altogether increased costs of operations to undesired levels. The increased costs of operations have considerably pushed the prices of commodities. Consequently, the demand for the products has reduced, making sustainability hard to achieve. As a result, most supply chains have been left struggling with reducing profits while costs and debts rise sharply.
Improved living standards demand better foods that are fresh and organic foods that are of high value. With the decreasing demand for frozen vegetables and canned foods, it is up to the perishable chain suppliers to be innovative and develop mechanisms that will maintain the freshness of products. However, the short life span of most fresh products presents with numerous challenges of maintaining the products’ freshness (Maras, 2016). Perishability is a factor of delays, high temperatures, and poor handling techniques that leads to products’ decay and loss of marginal value. Therefore, a better storage technology platform ought to address the aspects which contribute immensely to perishability. In the first place, temperature variance is a major contributor to perishability. Therefore, the technological platform ought to develop an all in one platform that massively addresses all temperature needs of varying products. In light of doing this, the platform should deploy hundreds of temperature sensors that well suited for products.
On the other hand, the platform should also comprise inventory handling techniques that reduce damages and probably increase the marginal value of products. The technology should comprise of non-thermal pasteurization methods aimed at killing pathogens. Moreover, it should encompass hydrostatic pressures enough to limit the overall growth of microbiological organisms that contribute to food decay (Maras, 2016). The technology should also major in incorporating smaller levels of freezing solutions, which have adverse effects on individuals. The best cooling system to use should be one that utilizes natural carbon dioxide readily available from the environment. The method is environmentally compliant and is free from future instances of taxation and legislation. By so doing, temperature fluctuations will be taken care of and any other environmental factor that would enhance the growth of micro-organisms.
Warehouse management systems (WMS) must develop criteria with which fresh food products are traced to ensure freshness. To do this, there are specifics aspects of product information that require scrutiny to ensure that the product at hand is fresh and present no harm to the user. Based on the rapid growth being witnessed in food management, customers are willing to buy fresh while the retailers are working tirelessly to maintain freshness (McKinsey & Company, 2017). In the first place, WMS should consider information regarding the origin of the product. By doing this, it will be in a position to determine if the product has been grown according to the required standards recognized by health organizations. Some products have chemicals that prolong their lifespan and could be unfit for human consumption. On the other hand, WMS will be in a position to establish if the product meets the existing legislation regarding the freshness of products.
Moreover, WMS should concentrate more on obtaining information related packaging, which identifies data sharing and product identification. Mostly, it is from these data that most warehouses can develop ways in which the product will be stored and issued to the customer before it loses its freshness. Among the most critical information to check in this stage are barcodes that will enable both the warehouse staff and customers to do self scans to ascertain the freshness of the products (McKinsey & Company, 2017). Furthermore, data such as the date of expiry, nutritional value, and probably allergen content will provide more details about a product’s freshness, which can be satisfying for customers. The goal for traceability data will be aimed at building an integrated fresh food determinant by all sectors and the eventual user.
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