Guilda Javaheri, Chief Technology Officer, Golden State Foods
Imagine knowing the who, what, when, where, and how of every bite of food you savor every time. That meticulous level of detail, and peace of mind for many consumers, is possible with today’s technologies for supply chain analytics.
Trust in every bite. That’s how Golden State Foods (GSF) envisions it. The food supply chain has proven potential for greater traceability, transparency, and trust in the digital era from farm to fork.
Driven by emerging technologies, more efficient processes, and a tightly coupled supply chain, the future of supply chain analytics holds the promise of benefits for all stakeholders. Better inventory optimization, less product waste, and safer, fresher food supports success for growers, processors, wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers.
Convergence of Emerging Technologies
“Global corporations are embracing the technology underlying cryptocurrencies like bitcoin because they want to speed up business processes, increase transparency and potentially save billions of dollars,” explains an April 2019 Forbes article profiling its “Blockchain 50” list of big companies actively exploring blockchain through industry consortiums and other proprietary projects.
The Blockchain 50 list includes GSF’s participation in IBM’s Food Trust, a consortium of companies aiming to track food along the entire supply chain. Partnering with IBM, GSF tested a solution with its Protein Products business, sharing real-time beef temperature data with its partner companies, from meat processors to shippers to restaurants.
During the transport of fresh beef along the supply chain, GSF leveraged RFID locator sensors to automatically track the meat’s movement, IoT devices to monitor its temperature, and blockchain technology to orchestrate standard business rules and permit information-sharing between supply chain entities. According to IBM, its Food Trust has completed 500,000 traces on food supply chains, and users have seen 30 per cent less product loss and lower costs.
Tightly Coupled Supply Chain
Emerging technologies empower companies along the food supply chain to improve outcomes, such as reducing food waste and identifying contamination sources for easier product recalls. Realizing the potential for future transformation requires a tightly coupled supply chain and broad, collaborative participation among companies.
“It is one enabler to get us to the nirvana of transparency, but it is people and their willingness to share information that [will] play a big part,” explained Ramesh Gopinath, IBM’s vice-president of blockchain solutions, in a Financial Times article from October 2019 that recognized GSF and IBM’s Food Trust among its Intelligent Business Award honorees in the supply chain category.
Removing silos and enabling instantaneous information-sharing in a trusted manner equips supply chain professionals with real-time data for rapid response to market dynamics. For consumers, it’s the cornerstone of unsurpassed visibility into the origin of their food and all the hand-offs along the way that bring that food to its final destination on their plate.
Improving Process Efficiencies
When GSF embarked on its blockchain pilot to track, trace, and monitor the freshness of its beef products, the initiative delivered evidence of what’s possible upon scaling up. Companies can provide outcomes at scale throughout the global food supply chain to improve process efficiencies, reduce waste, and optimize inventory.
Having the right amount of product, at the right time, at the right place enables an efficient line of supply and thereby reduces food waste. Using AI and predictive analytics, companies can forecast the right amounts of inventory more accurately while seamlessly carrying that inventory forecasting throughout each entity of the supply chain network.
Applying IoT sensors and smart contract features through blockchain technology, companies can better manage inventory rotation to avoid spoilage and monitor the freshness of the product through its lifecycle. Improving process efficiencies ultimately leads to a more customer-centric supply chain. Further, the customer’s success supports the shared success of all supply chain stakeholders.
Engaging Future Supply Chain Thought Leaders
In early 2020, GSF engaged graduate students from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in a blockchain business use case. Their project work addressed some of the food industry's global challenges for delivering transparency about the foods we eat through trusted, actionable insights while maximizing each entity's value in the network.
Exploring various personas, including consumers, retail/restaurant, distributor, manufacturer, supplier, and corporate, GSF’s collaboration with academia resulted in affirmative insights into the value today’s consumers place on the quality of products, as well as assurance of provenance and real-time visibility into food’s journey throughout the supply chain.
In the digital era, GSF reimagines the traditional supply chain as one serving end consumers, especially those willing to pay more for transparent accessibility to inform their food consumption decisions. This desire for trust in every bite, together with emerging technologies, a tightly coupled supply chain, and improving process efficiencies, is GSF’s vision for tomorrow’s global food supply chain.