The food industry is one of the most vital and challenging in the United States. As consumer demands and trends shift, food growers, manufacturers and sellers all have to adapt. However, that is easier said than done due to various factors in food logistics.
Understanding the top components of the food supply chain and the challenges that can occur along the way can make it easier to overcome them and adapt more efficiently in the future.
One of the most critical elements of food logistics is getting the product from point A to point B. Whether food is being transported from a farm, a supply warehouse or a shipyard, it has to arrive quickly and safely to its destination.
Some of the most pertinent challenges that companies and suppliers face in shipping can include:
Must-Arrive-By Dates (MABDs)
Most large retailers and grocery stores have strict MABDs for perishable products. If a grower or manufacturer misses these dates, they can be hit with hefty fines. Even worse, the items may be spoiled, creating a double loss for producers. For suppliers that have to ship over long distances, the chances of missing a MABD is relatively high since products can travel for weeks at a time.
Other retailer fees can include product packaging issues, the carrier being used to transport the goods, and even pallet configuration.
The Solution: Use Preferred Carriers
While it may seem fiscally responsible to choose a more cost-effective carrier, any loss due to MABDs can offset those savings. Instead, it is often better to pay a premium for “preferred carriers” that ship items to retailers daily.
As consumers demand fresher, high-quality food, suppliers have to adapt or fall behind. Here are the top logistical issues when trying to deliver the best food products possible:
The Problem: Cross-Contamination
When too many untrained workers are handling food, they may contaminate the packaging or the products themselves.
Food cannot be stored, transported or warehoused with hazardous toxic items such as household cleaners or chemicals. If these products are not packaged, stored or handled correctly, toxic elements can get into the food, making it unsafe and unusable.
While cross-contamination is typically a concern once the food is in transit, problems can occur at the supply site as well. High-profile recalls due to salmonella, E.coli and foreign objects in food illustrate the potential for disaster.
The Problem: Unknown Variables
Once the food leaves a supplier, they have to trust that it will arrive in excellent condition. However, because the supplier can’t control these variables, it is hard to prevent disasters. Issues that can happen from packing to delivery can include:
- Extended Transportation Times
- Weather-Related Incidents
- Product Damage or Loss
The Solution: High-Tech Tracking, Better Supply Chain Planning
Fortunately, we are in the digital age, meaning that technological solutions are at our fingertips. With the right high-tech tools, suppliers can make sure that their products are stored, packed, shipped and delivered correctly.
Some potential tool options include:
- RFID Tags – Individual packages can get scanned at various points along the supply chain, giving suppliers real-time updates of location and package integrity.
- Wireless Sensors – For products that require temperature control, suppliers can have wireless sensors packed with the items. These sensors can relay temperature changes so that the supplier can notify the carrier if anything goes wrong.
- Blockchain Security – One issue with Internet-connect devices is that hackers can gain access. With blockchain technology, suppliers can rely on these machines to deliver results without getting compromised.
While technology can empower suppliers to keep an eye on their processes, the other half of the equation is having excellent relationships with other businesses in the supply chain. Suppliers have to have a birds-eye view of each link in the chain so they can understand when one of them is weak.
By forming strong connections with carriers, retailers and other suppliers, food producers can ensure better transportation and delivery. When food quality is non-negotiable, having these relationships will be critical.
Finally, since food logistics involves so many moving pieces, the whole system can be affected when just one of those elements shifts or fails. Here are the challenges that can come up within the industry itself:
Today, kale is considered a superfood and sales are at an all-time high. Fifteen years ago, no one cared about it. Consumer trends can shift on a whim, creating problems for suppliers and growers.
Not only can certain foods drive demand and prices, but consumers also have specific expectations, particularly when it comes to food presentation. For example, all produce has to look fresh and “normal,” meaning that irregular products are tossed, creating massive waste.
Food prices are affected by many variables, from the cost of ingredients, to transportation, warehousing and delivery costs. As trucking expenses go up, suppliers and retailers have to adapt accordingly. In some cases, food producers may have to scramble to find a new carrier to prevent price spikes, creating logistical nightmares. Even worse, these expenses can rise and fall based on outside economic factors, such as the stock market.
Contact Prism Logistics Today
As a food supplier, you need a reliable carrier to ensure that your products stay safe and correctly handled. At Prism Logistics, we understand the challenges you face, and we are committed to providing the right solutions every step of the way. Request a quote today and see what makes us better than the competition.