Production and manufacturing has been in the midst of a slow and meticulous metamorphosis the past few years. As innovations continue to push more supply chain visibility, automation, and efficiency, fat continues to be trimmed and factory floors continue to be further and further optimized. Unfortunately, in the food and beverage space, there’s still quite the troublesome issue that hasn’t been solved- one that, especially during these times where even small disruptions can be catastrophized into massive dips in profitability, must be addressed. That issue is food waste. 

According to the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), ⅓ of food and beverage made for consumption is wasted. That converts to nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food a year. And what’s even more concerning is that these instances of waste aren’t localized in just one or two stages of the food and beverage production line. Food waste occurs across nearly every stage of the process, making it an issue baked into the very DNA of the industry and one that requires foresight to avoid. 

Read on for a few popular causes of food waste and some examples of food waste tech and their uses that have helped some manufacturers bypass this common issue.

Food Waste Statistics: What’s Causing Food Waste?

Like we mentioned, waste occurs across several stages of the food and beverage production process, meaning there’s more than only a few causes to address when it comes to employing food waste tech. 

Thankfully, a recent study by the researchers at Brunel University London and Ghent University provides a little insight into the most common of these causes. According to their studies on 47 food manufacturers in Belgium, the most telling food waste statistics they observed were that:

      • Human error accounted for 10.9% of food waste
      • 11% experienced regular food waste due to poor inventory management
      • 1 in 5 companies observed substantial food waste during production stages (processing and packaging)

4 Pieces of Food Waste Tech That can Address These Statistics

With the main culprits now targeted, how can a food and beverage manufacturer begin to address and provide fixes? More often than not, through smart-solutions such as food waste tech optimized to improve visibility, employee preparedness, and automation. 

1.) Artificial Intelligence

One of the unique issues faced by food and beverage manufacturers is the inherent shelf life of their products and raw materials. A company that uses a raw, natural ingredient like, say, blueberries for their product needs to order the right amount of blueberries to create the amount of product needed to meet the demand of their consumers. Unfortunately, unlike an extra screw or sheet of metal, these berries have a shelf-life, and a short one at that. Ordering too little of these raw materials can result in not meeting demand and over-ordering can quickly result in spoiled product that needs to be thrown away.

That’s where AI can, and has, been leveraged as a piece of food waste tech designed to address this pain point of the industry. 

Companies like Heinens have implemented AI-based solutions like Afresh’s to great effect. Tools like Afresh’s utilize AI and have machine learning algorithms ingest and analyze customer data in order to predict product demand. From there, the artificial intelligence can suggest a near perfect amount of fresh product to be ordered, allowing for factory operators to confidently order an amount of product that will yield the greatest ROI without adding to the food waste issue.

2.) Blockchain

With food waste plaguing the food and beverage industry across several steps in the production process, blockchain ledgers provide an amazing solution by improving both supply chain visibility and employee accountability. 

The way blockchain works, employees with access to a workstation, whether that be a portable rugged industrial tablet carried around the floor or an industrial all in one PC that’s deployed at a key part of the factory line, can gain eyes on the entire journey a food product has gone through to get to their station. With this kind of visibility, employees and stop stations on the supply chain can be held more accountable by all the other members of the supply chain since all those who are allowed access to the network can observe what work is being done, when it’s being done, and how it’s being done. 

If for example, your facility is able to see that a batch of raw ingredients, ones with finicky shelf-lives, is taking time to be deployed, you can nip this problem in the bud before that batch needs to be thrown out and wasted. 

Aside from being a wonderful piece of food waste tech for your arsenal, blockchain’s use cases for food traceability and control make it an amazing addition for quality control, product recall prevention, and fraud avoidance as well.

3.) RFID-Based Smart Manufacturing

One of the more technologically impressive methods of food waste control is spoilage monitoring allowed by RFID-based smart packaging.

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland recently developed a means of packaging capable of detecting the release of ethanol, what’s given off by a food product when it is allowed to spoil, and storing those readings onto an RFID tag printed onto the physical packaging of the food product. Using this solution, all an employee has to do is use their industrial tablet or computer with an RFID scanner to scan the packaging to receive an accurate read on whether or not the product has been spoiled. Doing this repeatedly throughout the production process can noticeably limit the amount of product that is left to spoil and optimize batch deliveries. 

4.) ERP Software

ERP software is a commonly used management tool in several manufacturing sectors. By integrating several apps that are used regularly throughout the course of a normal work day, these digital workstations have been known to improve efficiency and communication across entire supply chains. 

ERP software that is designed with the food and beverage industry in mind can be integrated with all of the applications we mentioned earlier. Functioning as a hub for all of the data being brought in by smart packaging, AI forecasting, and blockchain ledgers, ERP software made to house this data in real time can improve both cost efficiency and quality control efforts. 

According to the TEC ERP Software Facts & Stats 2018 database, companies who implement an ERP reduce process times, increase collaboration, and improve access to real-time data. All of this can translate into more efficient tracking of produce and goods so as to limit spoilage and food waste across the several disparate stages of the production cycle. 

Food Waste Tech and Visibility

Many industrial tech-based innovations may sound very similar in their emphasizing of supply chain visibility. And that’s because they are. Truth be told, a deep understanding of how an entire supply chain is functioning and running is essential to several optimization programs, food waste reduction included. It’s how these same pieces of tech and the same arsenals are re-calibrated to handle the specific problems your chain faces that determine ROI and positive results. For more information on how you can improve your food waste reduction or supply chain visibility programs, contact an expert from the Cybernet team today.