When you’re out shopping for groceries, you probably don’t consider how that bushel of apples or package of raw chicken reached the store shelf. But the process of getting food from the farm to your fork is one of the most important supply chains in the world. After all, how long would you last without eating? 

Today, we’re going to break down the stages of the food supply chain as well as the greatest points of concern that companies face. Along the way, we’ll discuss how a network of enterprise PCs can collaborate with other pieces of technology to optimize the food supply chain. 

Stages of the Food Supply Chain

  • Production: This stage is where produce is grown, and livestock are raised. Optimization techniques like crop rotation, irrigation, and genetic modification allow for more frequent and more bountiful harvests. 
  • Handling and storage: During this step, produce is taken from the farm and washed or prepared. Not all raw fruits and vegetables are ready for consumption after leaving the farm. For example, fruit is often harvested before it is fully ripened so that it will be ripe by the time it reaches the grocery store’s shelf. If pesticides are used to protect produce from insects, that produce must be carefully washed afterward to protect consumers.
  • Processing and packaging: In this stage, livestock is butchered and prepared, and other perishable foods are packaged to last longer. Dairy products, for example, are pasteurized to prevent them from spoiling. Other food items are frozen for even longer preservation.  
  • Distribution: This is the longest step of the food supply chain, and also the most complicated. Food must be transported from the packaging or processing plant to the grocery store or restaurant. Most food is transported via ship and/or commercial trucking to reach its destination. 
  • Consumption: Finally, the food is purchased and eaten, whether in the restaurant or at home. 

Points of Concern in the Food Supply Chain

As you might expect from such a massive and critical business sector, the food industry faces numerous challenges. These are just a few.

Foodborne Illnesses

Consumers falling ill from food that was carrying bacteria or parasites is a scandal no company wants to deal with. This means that quality control must be strictly enforced at every stage of the food supply chain. This can include testing for pathogens, maintaining proper storage and transportation conditions, and upholding food sanitation protocols

Business tablets can be used as virtual checklists, with workers checking off quality control tasks as they are performed to ensure that QC standards are being upheld. 

Food Waste and Inventory Management

Most food such as raw meat, dairy products, and produce, has a limited shelf life. This makes managing inventory levels critical so that producers and retailers don’t overstock and see food go to waste. Complicating this is the fact that different types of food spoil at different rates and require different levels of refrigeration. 

When used in conjunction with technology like RFID tags, business computers allow workers to monitor how long certain products have sat on the shelf, informing them of what needs to be pushed to the front of the shelf and what needs to be removed entirely. They can also be used to monitor storage temperatures and prevent food from going bad due to cooling failure. 

Logistics and Transportation

Depending on the distance between the farm, the processing plant, and the retailer, food may have to travel hundreds or thousands of miles before it reaches the consumer’s plate. This means that transportation routes, scheduling, and delivery times all have to be carefully managed. Otherwise, the food might be spoiled and inedible by the time it can be sold. 

This means each business in the supply chain must be able to communicate and share data with its partners. For example, transportation companies need to know what temperature their containers need to be refrigerated at during shipping and how long before food starts to spoil. This lets them plan shipping routes more efficiently. Business computers are critical for gathering, sharing, and understanding data during this stage. 

Supply Chain Disruptions

The downside of a global economy is that it is easier to disrupt. We saw this exemplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, where shortages of food products occurred due to factory shutdowns and transportation blockages. We also saw food going to waste due to overproduction, such as with milk and onions. Predictive analytics software can help food producers and retailers better plan for disruptive events in the future and only plant or stock what is needed. 

Closing Thoughts

A growing world population means that the food industry must be more efficient to meet growing demand. By implementing advanced business computers and IT solutions, companies in the food supply chain can achieve this efficiency and ensure people go to sleep with full bellies at the end of the day. 

If your food processing or retail company is interested in exploring new business PC solutions, contact the team at Cybernet Manufacturing. Our team of experts is happy to discuss our various computers designed specifically for enterprise and how they can be used in your company’s supply chain management. 

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