5 Tips for Leveraging Technology in the Supply Chain
Your organization’s supply chain is constantly adapting to new challenges.
Waste in the supply chain is one common challenge. Roughly one-third of the food produced worldwide—approximately 1.3 billion tons—is wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In the U.S. alone, that amounts to $25 billion lost each year, according to ReFED, a non-profit dedicated to reducing food waste.
Although operators are constantly keeping an eye on supply chains, inventory management plays a role in the supply chain’s success. Over-ordering and sloppy tracking lead to waste—and smaller profit margins.
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Check out these Top 5 Tips to leverage technology in your supply chain.
Radio Frequency Identification: Widely adopted in other segments, it’s one of the newest technologies in tracking food and beverages in the industry. RFID gives every item a unique digital identity and uses wireless technology to provide quick and accurate inventory visibility and traceability. As the supply chain becomes more complex and labor costs become more challenging, RFID can bring automation and efficiency to driving optimized inventory and faster traceability, improving food safety and reducing food waste.
Labeling: Once your inventory arrives, an automated labeling system not only takes care of the U.S. FDA’s mandated nutrition requirement but also enables clear labeling of the “use by” or expiration date on the item. Inventory rotation is easier for employees when dates are located in the same spot on each item.
Temperature Tracking: Properly storing inventory in coolers is important. If you have an equipment failure and temperatures start rising without you realizing it, you’re in danger of losing valuable inventory. Experts estimate restaurants experience about two equipment failures each year, resulting in roughly $10,000 in lost inventory each time. Without tracking devices in the cooler, the problem operators face is uncertainty. When did the equipment malfunction, exactly? How long has the inventory been at unsafe temperatures? Is the food safe to serve?
“If in doubt, throw it out,” as the saying goes. Today’s temperature tracking sensors are easily installed and continually log temperatures, sending out alerts via text and email to selected employees if a designated temperature threshold is breached. That way, operators and employees are alerted to the situation immediately and can move food to other coolers, call a technician to check the equipment, and get it serviced if needed. Temperature tracking can save thousands of dollars each year, not to mention prevent many headaches associated with consumer food safety risks.
Task Tracker: It’s time to ditch the pen-and-paper “to do” checklists for employees. Utilize a digital standardized checklist for all restaurants. Laptops and portable printers help employees record and track what they’re doing while they work—during food prep, inventory rotation and more— allowing operators to track what’s being used and sold. A great training tool for employees, the Task Tracker also ensures employees accountability; digital logging makes employee “forgery” of checklists much more difficult.
The date collected from Task Tracker is readily available for health inspector reviews and backed-up regularly to prevent data loss. These analytics track performance and safeguard inventory at all times, saving in labor costs, streamlining efficiency and improving operational oversight.
Donation and Waste: At the end of a shift—or a week—what are you donating? What are you throwing out? Tracking this is just as essential as tracking what you order and how fast you use it. In fact, the two are intricately connected. Many software and hardware systems today have tracking systems so employees can record what’s being tossed and donated; this data is configured into inventory usage totals. At the end of the month, operators can easily see what they’re using and what’s wasted—and order accordingly—saving money and making the supply chain more efficient.
Some waste is inevitable; there’s no doubt about it. But it can be reduced - and profits increased - if your supply chain is operating optimally. The key to that is utilizing the latest technology to save time and labor, streamline your processes and track what’s working and what’s not. Stay ahead of supply chain challenges by keeping it in top-notch shape.
About the Author
Ryan Yost is general manager, Printer Solutions for Avery Dennison. In his role, he is responsible for worldwide leadership of and strategy for the Printer Solutions Division, focused on building partnerships and solutions within the Food, Apparel and Fulfillment industries. @AvyDenRBIS | LinkedIn | Website