Achieving integrated supply chain management

By Poul Lorentzen, General Manager, Consoveyo Singapore
Monday, 28 May, 2018

Achieving integrated supply chain management

In the food and beverage (F&B) sector, the warehouse is an important component in efficient supply chains, and gaining control of inventory is a core issue facing many manufacturers.

The top three challenges that the F&B sector faces regularly are food safety, product traceability and shorter response times, with food safety being the most important. Food safety is an industrial concern as there can be major repercussions if it is handled poorly.

Food safety

Different types of food ingredients and finished food products have different storage and handling instructions that can be quite specific. In the warehouse factors such as first-in, first-out (FIFO), location, climate, humidity levels and storage temperatures must be addressed if manufacturers are to avoid ending up with product that is unfit for consumption.

Product traceability

An integral function in the F&B industry, traceability requires information covering delivery and shipping activities and even expiration dates on ingredients and finished food products. Appropriate warehouse technologies such as an efficient warehouse management system (WMS) can help support product traceability and also accelerate responsiveness in times of product recall.

In the event of a product recall, the WMS needs to be able to provide the overall enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with all the necessary details to effect an efficient recall. This way unnecessary losses — like wastage of resources, time and energy — can be minimised.

Shorter response times

Where response times are concerned, with retail stores managing smaller volumes of inventory, the pressure is on food manufacturers to store and manage more small-quantity deliveries in a shorter amount of time. This can be challenging for F&B companies without a flexible, robust WMS to handle the demand.

Technologies for the F&B warehouse

With automated solutions such as WMS and order picking technologies, barcoding, radiofrequency identification (RFID), as well as automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), F&B companies can effectively mitigate the three challenges mentioned, and maintain high standards of quality control.

Automation is therefore a viable solution that increasingly adds value to the F&B industry.

By incorporating automation within F&B processes, manufacturers can derive benefits such as increasing business productivity, minimising human errors, safeguarding workplace safety and raising food safety and hygiene standards.

Warehouse management systems

To maximise warehouse operation efficiency, savvy F&B manufacturers today employ various forms of the WMS. As a pillar of support within the logistics network, the WMS is increasingly finding its place of importance within food supply chains.

The essence of a WMS is based on its ability to connect stores and distribution centres with warehouses, as well as to coordinate shipping and ground transport. Information is collected across these multiple logistic points and then compiled into a centralised database that allows companies to track inventory movement.

Additionally, the visibility of the WMS enables companies to maintain inventory control and uncover areas for improvement, which are of great importance to F&B manufacturers.

Order picking technologies

Order picking technologies such as pick-to-light technology, voice technology, goods-to-person systems etc have been on the market for a while, but of late, they have been garnering more attention as demand for automated logistic solutions has grown. Although each technology is different, all of them integrate automation to achieve higher accuracy and productivity levels and facilitate in simplifying the warehousing process to bring about higher efficiency.

Just as warehouses can be customised, order picking technologies can also be tailored to individual business operations, providing a variety of options to enable businesses to fully optimise and leverage on their particular strengths.

However, companies should consider the volume of picking, profile of orders, capital investment budget and space allowance its warehouse offers before deciding on an order picking technology.

Automated storage and retrieval systems

In a business arena fraught with stiff competition and ever-present threats to survival, the ASRS can potentially help F&B manufacturers cope with rising business pressures, increasing labour costs, intensified calls for safety and the need for tighter security. On top of more productive sorting and retrieving processes, the ASRS is particularly useful in minimising the warehouse footprint as it offers innovative storage solutions.

Utilising vertical space within a warehouse, the ASRS is capable of handling and processing a higher volume of orders in a given period of time and space.

Meet market demands with optimised warehouses

As the F&B industry continues to expand, warehousing solutions will continue to become more advanced to cater to increased market demand, and professional systems integrators like Consoveyo will continuously develop and provide innovative solutions for integral warehousing functions to meet these logistics and material handling needs.

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