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How technology is transforming the food supply chain

19 February, 2018
Food manufacturing

From field to factory, technology continues to change the nature of the food supply chain. New technologies are helping businesses better plan and prepare for volatile supply chain conditions helping reduce the complexity and risk of food production. These technologies are used throughout the entire supply chain process.

Tech in the fields

Technology has played a big part in agriculture, farmers are able to work more efficiently with machinery that can cultivate significant amounts of land with less labour and genetically modify plants that can resist diseases leading to large savings on pesticides. Manufacturers can also monitor nutrients, insect attacks and the overall health of crops. By knowing what the specific issue is allows farmers to pin-point areas that require attention.

Smart factory

There is an array of technologies that with the Internet of Things (IoT) can generate data that allows factory managers to address concerns across all areas. For example, augmented reality (AR), bar-code readers and scanners are used to help individuals track items. This kind of process automation helps food manufacturers save time and money. These technologies allow for vision picking where workers are able to identify the items that have a shorter shelf life so they can be moved on thereby reducing spoilage and waste. 


Once the production process is finished and it is time to distribute the product, IoT can be used in delivery vehicles, whether that be trucks or shipping containers. IoT and sensors can monitor food storage to ensure the right temperature, humidity and hygiene are being adhered to. If delivery vehicles are not meeting the specific requirements this will impact shelf life and providing customers with items with a shorter shelf-life than expected will have an impact on customer relationships. 

Beyond monitoring storage conditions, sensors can also track where products are in their journey. Using data here can help predict when maintenance will be needed to avoid any setbacks as well as identifying the best routes to take to save time and money. Historical data helps companies identify patterns and trends to mitigate risk. 

Customer relationships

With consumers becoming increasingly health conscious and socially aware it is important for food manufacturers to be able to identify the specific issues for a quick food recall to help with damage limitation. Traceability give customers the confidence that they are buying safe and fairly sourced products. In 2008, Deloitte Consulting and Gallup Inc. conducted surveys that revealed about 60% of Americans have avoided certain foods or brands because of a recall.

Furthermore, when done correctly, traceability enables food producers to adhere to customers ever-evolving needs. Changes in products and flavour variations can easily be done and consumers now know with complete certainty what the changes are. 

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