The food supply chain is the most critical service for consumers, pandemic or not. Other events have shaken the food supply chain like tariffs and food borne outbreaks, but COVID-19 has impacted the entire process form field to consumer. As such, it has exposed weaknesses in the supply chain that never could have been anticipated. MWCold has taken this as an opportunity to improve our systems and help our customers do the same. So here’s what we’ve learned about food supply chain safety in a year of quarantine:
Double Down on Basics
Basic food handling protocols in conjunction with basic COVID-specific health protocols have created a new standard in food safety that is sure to last. Pre-pandemic fundamentals of glove and hairnet wearing are easily accompanied by mask wearing, and standard anti-microbial hand-washing and surface cleaning has been increased significantly. Though physical distancing measures for staff were a new challenge in the beginning, their acceptance and the acceptance of other increased safety measures are so second nature after a year of implementation that populations served by food supply chains are likely more safe than ever before.
The primary goal of COVID protocol implementation across the board has been to protect supply chain workers from becoming sick. It is vital the food supply chain continues to move in order to put food on tables while controlling the spread of the virus. As such, MWCold has limited driver contact with our employees, implemented daily temperature checks as employees arrive at the building, and supplied PPE in accordance with guidelines from the CDC. Our workers make our business possible, and their safety and happiness is our own.
Visual Transparency is Key
As early fluctuations in consumer spending forced food executives to make quick decisions, the transition of supply chain data needing to be visible has become more important. Though quite common in a business setting, spreadsheets and enterprise resource planning solutions don’t allow for the agility needed to plan and respond to quickly changing circumstances. MWCold customers have access to our real-time supply chain transparency dashboard with visual, scalable and customizable data to make better decisions quickly, and we believe this trend in more visual data to improve supply chain visibility is likely to continue to grow beyond the scope of the pandemic moving forward.
Improve Sourcing Contingencies
Another significant shift that has improved food supply chain safety is the need for a secondary sourcing plan. From a pricing perspective, international sourcing is frequently attractive, but the long lead times limit flexibility when demands fluctuate unexpectedly and can lead to expedite charges at best or stop your supply chain in its tracks in the case of protectionist policies halting the export of goods like early into quarantine. If your business relies upon just in time inventory models, creating a supply chain contingency plan offers protection for your business in a wide variety of scenarios.
Target Inventory Management
With an increase in demand for product, many food companies experienced a total depletion of their safety stock, leaving inventory low. In response, some businesses have reduced their number of SKUs and placed some products on hiatus to make supply chains more manageable and improve profitability. Product rationalization has been moved up as companies accelerate the appraisal of their brands and products. But consumers will always seek out innovation and choice, so food manufacturers need to find a suitable combination of innovation and production efficiency to keep consumption levels high.
This last year has come with a great many challenges to all of us personally and professionally, so we want to take a moment to thank every driver, business partner, and employee for their flexibility, resilience and understanding. We’re proud of who we work with, and we have achieved a lot together this year, including significant improvement to food supply chain safety.