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Innovation and digitalisation to drive resilience

Digitally connected supply chains and the use of this process to mitigate risk and smooth flows of inventory in food chains.

In this video, Mr Liam Fassam, Associate Professor Food Supply Chain Management in University of Northampton introduces us to digitally connected supply chains and the use of this process to mitigate risk and smooth flows of inventory in food chains.

Risks in the Supply Chain

The Alliance risk barometer is produced every year and it takes a global (and regional) view of instances which happen within supply chains. Currently, cyber instance is the number one risk and the recent Covid-19 health crisis sits at number 3 on the business risk, ranking at 27% in terms of natural catastrophe’s.

While we did not predict the Covid-19 crisis, natural catastrophe’s and disasters are considered as part of the food supply chain risk management. However, each contingency plan we draw up for these differ greatly.

Case Study: Trucks coming out of Poland to the UK

Our food supply chain is very complex. There is a lack of connectivity and data flow from farmers to consumers. As a result, there is a disconnect between the food on our plate and where it comes from and bulk buying or ‘panic-buying’ has been a consequence of the Covid-19 control measures.

The average transit time from the United Kingdom to Poland is 3-5 days. However, due to Covid-19 and the border checks, this time has been extended up to 10 days. At one point, there was up to 50 km queues to cross the Polish border which was taking two days alone.

Within the UK, imports of food is about 5,500 trucks of food per day which equates to half a billion pounds with slower than normal supply chains. It is vital we smooth the flow of goods through our supply chain to prevent empty shelves in our supermarkets. The food is there it is just not making it through the supply chain quick enough. When consumers see empty shelves, it exacerbates the problem.

How can digital connectivity help?

If we had a connected data stream between farm and fork and consumers could see there is product in the supply chain it is just two days away, the supply chain is starting to smooth its way out, it would alleviate some of the panic and help supply chain management.

In addition, this digitally connected supply chain could trace shipments, their temperature, the estimate time of arrival to allow the distribution centers and retailers to make more informed decisions about stock movements to store.

Finally, digitally connectivity in the supply chain enables policy makers across Europe to take one view of the live supply chain in a proactive manner and make decisions based on real time data.

Communication is key

Communication is key in supply chains especially during crisis situations. Communication allows us to advocate change in the supply chain, smooth the flow through the supply chain, keep lower inventories and ensure supply in a way that is reliable, traceable and delivers provencance to the consumers.

Please note that due to Covid-19, all our video contributors had to self-record themselves using a laptop or smartphone. As a result, the audio quality is not optimal. We apologise for the inconvenience. Should you want to better understand the video content, we have provided the English audio transcript in the below downloads section.

What we would like you to do

Please share your thoughts on digitial connectivity in the food supply chain:

  • Do you think a food crisis forces us to become innovative?
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Understanding Food Supply Chains in a Time of Crisis

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