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Why technology holds the key to the future of food safety

Rather than posing any sort of “threat”, the digital transformation brings immense opportunities for boosting transparency, organisational efficiency and implementing rigorous monitoring processes.

By James Nunns

Technology is revolutionising businesses, and the FMCG sector is no exception. The rise of artificial intelligence, data analytics, the Internet of Things and blockchain all have huge implications for supply chain management, business-to-business transactions and even marketing programmes.

There can be a tendency to fear technological change; media headlines tend to be dominated by fears over robots taking all the jobs. However, the digital transformation should be considered an opportunity, especially when it comes to the consumer goods sector and food safety.

Food safety is becoming increasingly important in the FMCG sector, as a recent scandal over hygiene at a prominent meat supplier illustrated. A failure to implement rigorous monitoring processes and identify anomalies in production processes can lead to severe reputational damage. If consumers cannot be certain the food they are eating is authentic and risk-free, then they are likely to shop elsewhere; the impact on the bottom line can be profound. Fortunately, certain technologies are now available that can minimise the risks of becoming the centre of a food scandal.

 

Blockchain

Blockchain has been dominating the headlines lately due to the rise of Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that is based on the technology. Blockchain works through a distributed ledger system, where all transactions are recorded on a central database that is visible to all. It is therefore a much more transparent way of doing business, bringing many benefits to FMCG leaders. For example, suppliers can now share transactional and operational data with major corporations, enabling both parties to identify unusual patterns in their supply chains and act quickly to protect their goods. Blockchain can also be deployed as a cybersecurity tool; the use of a shared ledger system means that it is almost impossible for external parties to tamper with central data, making life difficult for hackers trying to manipulate food data and undermine an entire supply chain.

 

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence can often be associated with the “robots taking over” narrative, but there are many reasons to be optimistic about its impact on the food and drink sector. Predictive AI has the power to analyse supply chain data, using it to anticipate problems before they arise. In future, the technology may have the potential to identify any product irregularities or breaches in security protocols and ensure that fraudulent goods do not reach the market.

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Rather than replacing human workers, the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to create high-value jobs in the FMCG sector. The rapid expansion in data volumes will require the employment of highly skilled data interpreters, who are able to interpret the information and apply it to business management, working together with predictive algorithms.

 

The Internet of Things

The IoT is rapidly changing businesses. In the FMCG sector, the technology is set to have a huge impact, especially in relation to food safety. The IoT, which relies on connected sensors transmitting large amounts of data, is set to revolutionise supply chain models.  It will allow corporate leaders to better track their assets and production processes, quickly addressing any unusual operational issues.

Crucially, the IoT is set to enhance transparency and visibility. With sensors monitoring every product going through the supply chain, FMCG leaders will be able to track every single food item produced and guarantee their authenticity.

There are also implications for organisational efficiencies. Through the collection of real-time data on weather, soil, air quality, crop maturity, as well as physical equipment, corporate leaders can also better monitor supply chain efficiencies and immediately address any operational issues.

Clearly, the FMCG industry has nothing to fear from the rise of technology. Rather than posing any sort of “threat”, the digital transformation brings immense opportunities for boosting transparency, organisational efficiency and implementing rigorous monitoring processes. However, it’s crucial that corporate leaders stay aware of the latest developments and ensure that they are best placed to capitalise.

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