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How Automation In The Food Supply Chain Boosts Output And Ensures Continuity

Automation leverages technological solutions and data to make the existing model more efficient, less labour intensive, transparent, profitable and fast.

The supply chain is an integral part of the production and distribution process. In the absence of a robust system to carry fresh produce from the farm to your plate, all stakeholders, right from farmers to consumers, will face immense challenges. Conventionally, the supply chain management in India was largely dependent on manual labour and techniques. However, the emergence of numerous modern startups and businesses in this field have played a crucial role in changing the face of this essential process. These organisations have added to the gambit of supply chain management, the concept of automation.

Automation leverages technological solutions and data to make the existing model more efficient, less labour intensive, transparent, profitable and fast. As farmers and retailers become more aware of the benefits of automation, their eagerness to adopt these disruptive methods is on the rise. Various governments have also introduced tech-enabled systems like the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS). It is a centralised platform that can be accessed by all authorised agencies to boost the transparency and continuity of the food market. The information stored on this platform is also used to make policy decisions and find effective resolutions for the existing challenges plaguing the food sector.

One of the key technologies that have transformed the face of the perishable commodities segment is blockchain. It helps create an extensive record of all transactions, transfers and movements that take place in the complex supply chains of today. Initially, this task was performed manually, consequently leading to several frauds, verification issues, mistakes and losses in the supply chain. Blockchain is free of all these drawbacks and establishes a secure environment, wherein accurate data is exchanged, simultaneously eradicating the unexplained discrepancies that occurred in the traditional supply chain.

Another technology that is becoming popular is the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. It transcends beyond merely tracking the fresh produce and goes on to provide 100% visibility and transparency throughout the various stages of the supply chain. Unlike the bar code trackers, RFID brings with it several other checks like temperature monitoring to ensure that the quality of the produce stays intact. Fruits and vegetables are tagged at the source point. At any given stage, if the tag is scanned, one can get all the information regarding the movement of the food items. Information like who handled the crate is also readily available with the help of RFID.

When it comes to the production and supply of fresh produce, time is a critical factor. The longer the items stay in transit after harvest, their freshness dwindles. Internet of Things (IoT) is responsible for converting legacy devices into smarter, integrated and well-networked tools for carrying out various tasks. For instance, automated sensors are used across the supply chain for monitoring, tracking and boosting efficiency. IoT has simplified identifying and rectifying errors, thereby reducing unnecessary wastages.

Technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have also contributed immensely towards modernising the supply chain. To begin with, AI and ML have tremendously reduced labour costs by replacing repetitive manual tasks with smart machine- based solutions. Further, they have even brought down the response time to any problem by providing immediate and effective solutions. These technologies diligently note and pin-point the slightest change in the regular course of movement, thereby nipping most issues in the bud. Vehicle route optimization has also been possible with the help of artificial intelligence and GPS technology. It will not be wrong to say that Industry 4.0 will be fuelled with new-age business models born out of real-time data analysed by AI and ML.

Automation has promoted the effective management of both supply and demand. Producers can make informed decisions and even choose the markets as well as rates at which they wish to sell their produce. Consumers, on the other hand, can easily get all the information about the products they wish to purchase. It is safe to say that automation has created a win-win situation for all stakeholders.

Source: Business World

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