Protecting the Food Supply Chain

Food producers, distributors, and retailers need to ensure safe procedures are in place to protect the food they handle. These supply chain partners need to implement inventory best practices to guarantee SKUs are in the right store or facility at the right time to better meet customer service requirements.

Inventory positioning is not guesswork. Instead, producers, distributors, and retailers should use data-driven analysis to ensure inventory is available and correctly positioned for orders to be fulfilled properly and to eliminate out-of-stocks.

Brian C. Neuwirth, vice president, marketing and sales, UNEX Manufacturing, provides these tips for properly handling and storing food products in the supply chain.

1. Implement First-in, First-out (FIFO) storage. FIFO stock rotation guarantees food freshness because the first product loaded into storage is also the first product picked for an order.

2. Use inventory positioning. Food and beverage retailers typically fill orders in cartons, cases, or partial cases from warehouses or distribution centers. To save space, they can hold inventory in multi-level storage racks designed to handle a variety of products.

3. Speed fulfillment. Shippers should identify where they waste time during fulfillment, and implement products and processes to increase its speed.

4. Monitor critical control points. Controlling access to areas and facilities eliminates potential food adulteration. Prevent unauthorized access to critical control points, and monitor movement through these areas.

5. Develop an IIoT strategy. Implement Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) processes and technology—including sensors on pallets and storage units—to track inventory so you know where products are at all times.

6. Utilize goods-to-person processes. These processes bring products to warehouse workers, reducing the travel time and searching that adds unnecessary time to fulfillment. Fewer footsteps make for dramatic productivity increases and higher efficiencies.

7. Monitor temperature. Extensive control ensures food is kept at proper temperatures, both in the warehouse and during transportation.

8. Satisfy safety regulations. Focus on meeting Food Safety Modernization Act and other requirements by performing a hazard analysis at your food facilities. A hazard analysis, along with a critical control points plan, identifies food supply chain strengths and vulnerabilities. Utilize standard processes to increase compliance.

9. Have track and trace in place. Keep a trackable history of ingredients and end products throughout the supply chain in case of a recall.

10. Pick the right storage medium. Use carton flow, pallet flow, and tilted shelving to improve picking times and increase storage density. Separate slow-moving products from fast-moving items to help improve pick efficiencies. Because most food products have a definite shelf life, moving items from storage to store shelves as quickly as possible deters spoilage.