By 2020, the Earth’s population is expected to rise from 7 billion to 9 billion. The agricultural sector will need to find ways to produce more food in order to meet this increasing demand for supply. However, there is another way to help address this deficit—avoiding food waste by preventing or limiting recalls.
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Explore This IssueDecember/January 2018
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Across the industry, people are paying attention to this issue and are focusing on preventing it. But, oddly enough, the USDA states that the amount of food recalled nationally increased by 37 million pounds between 2015 and 2016. How can that be?
This uptick is likely caused by more diligence and sophisticated analysis tools on the part of food manufacturers, making them capable of finding more issues earlier and more completely. While increased vigilance for quality is good, the resulting increase in recalls can also result in significant costs to the manufacturer—the average being $10 million in direct costs according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association—and may tarnish the brand, leading to poor market performance against competitors.
In order to prevent recall risks, food manufacturers today are using a variety of techniques. One example, DNA analysis, can sense when ingredients are unsafe and could affect food quality or product safety. However, while manufacturers may have controls set up to monitor their own processes, they are missing specific, beginning-to-end monitoring of their entire supply chain, including raw materials through packaging and distribution, which will help them recalibrate and adjust to this new-found visibility. This need for beginning-to-end monitoring makes the food and beverage industry ripe for disruption with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Although it sounds like a large undertaking, food manufacturers looking to adopt the IIoT will only have a few main things to consider when first starting out.
Intelligent Tracking Technology
Digitization of the food supply, from farms to warehousing to food distribution and retailing, enables the IIoT to leverage technologies that monitor and analyze the entirety of the process. The IIoT has the potential to address many challenges, including food quality, timeliness of delivery, waste, spoilage, and recalls. Leveraging sensor technologies and real-time data analytics has allowed food manufacturers to precisely monitor incoming ingredients through the adoption of track and trace techniques.
This IIoT technology can gather specific details about crops, narrowing down to the exact row in a vegetable field where something was grown. Similarly, food manufacturers can now monitor finished products in real time from the manufacturing facility to the consumer, presenting manufacturers with the opportunity to mitigate issues that could lead to a food safety issue or spoiled product before it happens.
For example, this can give manufacturers insights into temperature changes during transport. A real-time monitoring, IIoT-based sensor and analytics system could quickly and accurately identify if products are being exposed to dangerous temperature shifts and gain insights into which batch of products might be affected in order to limit the damage. In addition to limiting wastage, it will provide valuable insight to help avoid future issues and can provide peace of mind to manufacturers who will know their product is being taken care of even after it has left their hands.
Implementing the IIoT
The benefits IIoT technology can bring to the food and beverage industry are undeniable, especially to help reduce recalls. Yet, thin margins and high competition are things food manufacturers need to consider before making the investment, which can sometimes make them slow or hesitant to move forward.
However, by knowing where to focus these efforts first and how it will pay off in the long run, manufacturers can make smart decisions when implementing the IIoT into existing processes. Three main factors to consider include the following.