A Food Factory Worker Is Scrolling On Tablet In Storage.
A food factory worker is scrolling on tablet in storage.

By Tim Chiu, Senior Vice President of TradeBeyond

Retailers across all industries have been grappling with increasingly frequent supply chain disruptions, but the food and beverage sector has had it worse than most. The intricate nature of sourcing perishable goods coupled with the delicate balance required to meet consumer demands for freshness and variety has made the food and beverage supply chain uniquely susceptible to disruptions. From extreme weather events to a complex interplay of geopolitical tensions, food and beverage retailers are navigating a minefield of obstacles that threaten not only their bottom line but also their ability to reliably stock the essentials that consumers expect. 

It’s no wonder food and beverage supply chain companies are nearly three times more likely to make decisions due to supply disruption than those in other industries, according to a 2023 Gartner survey. This year, global heatwaves, floods across China’s grain belt, and rampant wildfires have highlighted the precarious nature of the world’s most-consumed crops. In India, rice production has been constrained by both droughts and heavy rains, leading to a ban on rice exports and international price hikes. These events have led to significant reductions in crop yields in high-risk regions, impacting food prices and supply chains. Meanwhile, the suspension of the Black Sea grain deal amid the war in Ukraine has created volatility and uncertainty in the global market, contributing to soaring prices of cereal, bread, pasta, and other household staples. 

Unfortunately, experts predict that such disruptions are not just likely to continue but will increase in scale and impact, underscoring the need for the industry to adapt and build more resilient supply chains. Companies need to diversify their sourcing and build greater resiliency than ever to ensure stability in an increasingly unstable environment. All of this requires a significant investment in digital supply chain solutions. 

Digitalization is the most dependable way for companies to minimize the impact of these increasingly common disruptions and improve their agility and resilience. For food and beverage retailers, real-time tracking, predictive analytics, and agile operational tools are no longer “nice-to-haves.” They are necessities for navigating an industry where even the most dependable supplies can no longer be taken for granted.

A unified approach to supply chain management

A multi-enterprise platform offers an integrated approach to managing the complexities of the food and beverage supply chain. Unlike manual supply chain processes, these platforms allow for real-time data sharing, a crucial feature that 90% of food and beverage manufacturers still lack. This real-time data sharing can foster unparalleled collaboration and alignment across departments, allowing companies to make strategic decisions with unprecedented speed and accuracy.

Multi-enterprise platforms introduce a comprehensive approach that merges digitalization, optimization, and scalability into a unified solution. Under old management systems, the journey from product ideation to store shelves was often fragmented, with distinct stages like specification, formulation, packaging, and compliance managed through disparate systems and different supply chain departments working from non-standardized information. All that creates inefficiencies, higher costs, and slower response times to sudden market changes. 

Those outdated management systems also lack visibility, which leads to delayed decision-making and increased errors. A multi-enterprise platform corrects this, establishing real-time data sharing and unparalleled transparency earlier in the supply chain. This enhanced visibility empowers more strategic, data-driven decisions while fostering collaboration across departments, ensuring everyone from product developers, sourcing managers, and quality teams are aligned. And having this information in real time allows companies to make accelerated and more strategic decisions when their supply chain is seriously disrupted. 

When responding to disruptions, brands and retailers need to make sure they maintain their standards of sustainability and responsible sourcing. Multi-enterprise platforms ensure there are no lapses. Their advanced traceability tools allow businesses to map their supply chains down to the Nth-tier, which is key to staying ahead of global ESG laws and consumers’ growing expectations of responsible sourcing. 

Meanwhile, advanced monitoring capabilities within a multi-enterprise platform can screen for compliance and certifications across suppliers, offering timely alerts for any potential red flags. By automating this crucial function, the platform ensures your sourcing team only considers responsible suppliers. The platform can even prevent shipping departments from booking shipments from non-compliant factories, or from authorizing shipments with missing chain of custody information in cases where such documentation is required.

The need for comprehensive, agile, and intelligent supply chain solutions has never been clearer. Multi-enterprise platforms provide a unified, digitalized solution that optimizes workflows, enhances visibility, and supports sustainability, all in the service of a more robust and resilient supply chain. As the frequency and impact of supply disruptions rise, multi-enterprise platforms provide the food and beverage industry a path toward a future of greater resiliency.

Tim Chiu is the Senior Vice President of TradeBeyond. He has more than 25 years experience in supporting global sourcing automation and information technology that enables collaboration between global commerce communities. 

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