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How modern technology is improving the overall efficiency of operations in the food supply chain

Written by corres2

Throughout the years, technology has proven to be quite beneficial in every very sector. Acceptance and widespread use of a technology-driven food supply chain has resulted in increased efficiency, with a longer shelf life till it reaches the end-user. According to the FAO 2019 report, India is the largest producer of ginger and okra. It ranks second in the production of potatoes, onions, cauliflowers, brinjals, cabbages, etc. However, huge amounts of food are lost every year worldwide due to a fragmented supply chain caused due to physical factors (inappropriate modal mixes) and some pathological factors (decay due to fungi or bacteria). The adoption of Modern technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are playing a decisive role in radically transforming the food supply chain from farm to fork. 

The inclusion of tech-enabled solutions has not only boosted the efficiency of the food supply chain but has also made it increasingly cost-effective. It has enhanced the experience of all stakeholders – farmers, retailers and end-users. The scope of logistics has expanded from merely making the process economic to driving an end-to-end structure that is transparent, efficient, and trackable. The players in this sector are leveraging technology to provide customers with safe, clean, and traceable produce. Further, modern technologies ensure that food wastage is reduced to a minimum.

Let’s dive deep to understand how modern technology is changing the food logistics landscape for good – 

Emulates human performance and knowledge 

 The food supply chain comprises numerous time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as physical loading and unloading of produce from collecting points onto transportation vans and trucks on a regular basis. In addition, manual work might lead to errors and wastage of resources. However, the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning makes monitoring easy and result oriented suppressing food wastage. For instance, by automating loading and unloading, the same task can be done quickly and efficiently, while cutting down labour costs. Predictive and analytical tools help in generating accurate forecasts based on past purchase data, order frequency, and relevant market trends. 

The predictive models have been one of the key beneficial tools for all stakeholders in the supply chain. They allow producers to determine the quantity as well as the price indent. Some agri-tech players have developed specific apps based on these models. These platforms help cultivators plan their harvest along with allowing them to select the market and the price at which they want to sell. Retailers or Kirana stores are free from the burdens of both over and understocking. Additionally, by improving delivery routes and inventory management systems, the overall customer experience is elevated. 

Enhanced Visibility and Connectivity 

The Internet has given connectivity and accessibility an altogether new meaning. By simply connecting a few devices, data can be shared across systems with just a click. Modern devices like smartwatches and mobile phones have paved the way for touchless supply chains. Each step is recorded, and necessary data can be obtained at any point. The Internet of Things (IoT) has simplified end-to-end data sharing while also detecting future faults and developing the ability to eradicate prospective dangers. The recent report (2020) cultivated by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Arthur D presents a Vision 2030 for the Indian Supply Chain, with an emphasis on logistics costs, optimising the logistics modal mix, automating 80-90 per cent of supply chain processes, building Omni-channels, and moving toward green supply chains Improving skill development is also a critical requirement.

Another technology that is promoting transparency and visibility is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). Under this system, commodities are marked with easily trackable tags. Information like the storage of crates, transportation routes, or the people who handled the products is readily available for all interested parties. It increases accountability and helps in mitigating the risks associated with food supply chains. RFID assists in identifying the discrepancies in time as well as quickly resolving them. Together, these technologies have been extremely critical in increasing connectivity, reliability, and safety.

Real-time updates 

 Data is crucial for all businesses. Today, there is no function that can be carried out without it. Logistic companies are using cloud-based systems to store information in a centralized manner. At every step, data is updated, and all the changes are made in one place. By doing so, organisations can help their customers with real-time information. Further, it even improves on-field communication and coordination. Cloud systems make information sharing hassle-free and integrate the efforts of players across the board. In case of any mishap, the centralized folders allow companies to immediately identify the cause and rectify the problem. A single software brings together a plethora of activities, thereby making supply chains efficient. 

Businesses operate to add value for their customers. In India, the emergence of numerous agri-tech companies has been crucial in bridging the gap created by the legacy channels. The integration of modern technologies in the supply chain has proven advantageous for all stakeholders. For instance, it ensures fair pricing for farmers, timely deliveries of retailers, and food safety for customers. Further, it even brings down the logistics costs, which used to 14% of the GDP, very high as compared to international counterparts. The buyers of today are conscious about what they consume. Making the supply chain transparent and traceable fosters a feeling of trust between the suppliers and consumers. Customers appreciate brands that offer detailed information about the goods and do not restrict it to mere packaging labels.

To conclude, today technologies such as drones, blockchains, and automated irrigation systems are making the supply chains more sustainable. It is safe to say that technology has worked remarkably towards the betterment of the end-to-end process. Though the wide-scale adoption of these disruptive solutions still remains a challenge, its myriad benefits will play a critical role in encouraging players to include them.

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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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