Supply chain, logistics and warehouse operations are at the heart of most companies’ physical processes, either inbound into production or outbound to customers. This is never more true than for the food and beverage manufacturing industry in the UK. The food and drink industry, especially the sectors that serve the grocery retail market, sits in the perfect storm of increasing government - and industry-mandated regulation around product traceability and temperature management; expanding demand from customers (and therefore from retailers) for reasonably priced, high quality alternatives to eating out; public concerns regarding food safety and labeling and the increasing pressure from food retailers for innovative new recipes – average product life cycle is approximately six months - at ever lower prices, all while food and commodity prices are reaching global high prices. All of these challenges impact upon storage and distribution of fresh and short life food and beverage products, from suppliers to manufacturers and on to wholesalers and retailers.

The impact of enabling technologies

Recent developments and advances in technology are starting to provide tools to face up to the challenges outlined above. For many years now, bar-code (both conventional and 2D) printing and reading technologies, especially enabled by radio frequency devices have been deployed in the supply chain to improve speed and accuracy of data capture as well as eliminating manual errors and a significant administration overhead. In addition, the Internet has started to replace conventional EDI and become the chosen medium for exchanging information with supply chain and trading partners. This is enabling retailers and manufacturers to communicate more frequent order and up-date information, but also facilitating manufacturers and their suppliers to exchange demand information. Cloud-based solutions are taking this development forward, with even SMEs able to comply with manufacturing and retailer client’s requirements regarding the ever tighter planning of orders and deliveries, pallet and load building, labeling and Advanced Shipping Notifications. Increasingly, vendor- or co-managed Inventory programs will be enabled and supported. The use of a new generation of mobile devices and on-going developments within the “internet of Things” – direct device/machine to machine communications - will extend some of these capabilities to track products and loads anywhere in the supply chain; check temperature levels and inventory status (including the presence of narcotic or explosive materials); facilitate decision making in exception/emergency cases in transit (transport network disturbances, extreme weather conditions, etc.) and enable easier, more timely product recalls.

Collaborative supply chain process enablement

Building on the comments above, a range of new, as well as established business processes will be enabled and supported by cloud-based technologies. Deployed over the internet, with rapid deployment and a single, monthly fee, based on actual usage, these processes will become increasingly inclusive and collaborative. Processes, which used to start or stop at the dock door or site/factory gate, are being extended across the enterprise, through the supply chain, to provide supply chain and trading partners with the real time information they require to provide their own product or service, in a timely and predictable manner and at the right cost. Data is entered once and the relevant supplier, vendor, customer, etc. references are captured, enabling supply chain partners to view data from their own perspective. Exceptions to the standard process are highlighted early and alternative or emergency processes can kick in to ensure continuity of supply. Where supply of a product or service is likely to be interrupted, this information is available in real time, to enable potential alternative supply sources or products to be commissioned. Some of these processes are outlined below.

• Web-based management of growers and suppliers, including creation and labeling of inbound loads, load plans and outbound Advanced Shipping Notifications (ASNs);

• Inbound and outbound appointment scheduling, automated or manual appointment acceptance, gate and dock management, KPI reporting;

• Warehouse management of raw and packaging materials, including receiving, putaway, full date code and inventory management, picking to production orders, management of production remnants and WIP, supported by paper and radio frequency;

• Visibility of production inventory (including ingredients, WIP, packaging materials, etc.) across multiple sites and/or buildings for materials planners both within the enterprise and at vendors/suppliers’ sites. Suggested purchase orders based on available and ideal inventory levels. Supplier/vendor co-managed inventory and ability to propose purchase orders. Configurable traffic light system allows materials planners to focus on exceptions and emergency items. Out of date code alerting. KPIs.

• Finished goods warehouse management, including receipts from production, automated putaway or cross dock based on shortages and order fulfillment requirements, full date code and inventory management, wave and shipment planning, picking, marshaling, loading and shipment close. Reports and KPIs. Retailer/SSCC label and ASN compliance. Paper and Radio Frequency support.

• Support for cross-dock and hub operations.

• Proof of delivery, including loading of routes onto smartphone or Android devices, multi-level check-in and check-out at cross dock hubs and depots. Electronic signature capture.

What the future will bring…

The adoption of cost-effective, rapid-to-deploy Cloud-based and new generation mobile device solutions promises to extend sophisticated supply chain execution capabilities to companies of all sizes. Availability of these solutions will remove some of the current technology barriers to exchanging demand and compliance information with suppliers and customers, leveling the playing field with larger competitors and driving innovation. Supply chain visibility and control will be extended throughout the entire supply network, driving out time and cost and building customer confidence. Technology-enabled collaboration between supply chain partners, much vaunted in recent times, will become the rule rather than the current exception. The only limiting factor on this halcyon vision is that most elusive of human emotions: trust.

How can Jenrick help?

Jenrick is a specialist recruitment group that can source contract and permanent skilled personnel within the Cloud environment and also the Food and Drink arena. Please visit the Jenrick Group Website for more details. If you would like to get in contact with the Jenrick Recruitment Group, then please utilise the website links below...

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