IoT to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on the food supply chain

Patrick Cason, CEO of Sigfox France

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed certain weaknesses in food supply chains. Patrick Cason, Managing Director of Sigfox France, explains how Internet of Things (IoT) based technology can help optimize production, supply and distribution within the industry.

Globally, almost all links in the supply chain have been impacted by Covid-19. While the blatant lack of supply chain resilience has shaken many sectors, the agri-food industry has not been spared. The entire chain has been affected, from farmers to transporters, to supermarket shelf shortages and food waste, particularly in the UK and US.

Beyond the health crisis, the supply chain was already affected by a labor shortage in road transport. In France, several organizations including the National Federation of Road Transport (FNTR) are mobilizing to fight against these difficulties. Although a survey published in August 2021 by them shows a slight improvement, the figures remain below average and 53% of specialists in the sector are still struggling to recruit staff and recover from the health crisis.

Today, the challenge for companies is therefore to make their supply chains more resilient, without reducing their competitiveness. And simply using new technologies is not enough to create a self-sustaining supply chain. These technologies must also be connected in order to manage planning, procurement, manufacturing and logistics in a transversal manner and that they operate beyond the confines of a company. Thus, a change in a customer’s demand can be immediately perceived by the entire value chain, so that all concerned actors can adapt their planning accordingly.

Logistics software platforms

One of the solutions to bridging disruptions in supply chains, and making them more resilient, is to plan routes and optimize pickup and delivery times more efficiently. Some logistics software integrates business planning with execution technologies, allowing changes to be made as changes occur in the supply chain.

Taking fresh food logistics as an example, IoT-based technology can be used to intelligently bridge any supply chain disruption, using available carriers and building a more efficient logistics solution. effective. In particular, it is possible to re-route the truckers so that they can recover the goods more efficiently while ensuring that perishable food is optimally followed. Another solution is to set up a system for connecting farmers and drivers, which makes it possible to avoid the expiry of harvests, which today is often the result of a lack of flexibility in terms of collection times. .

The IoT can also dramatically improve the visibility and efficiency of the supply chain. Data on physical objects can thus be available centrally, in real time and at low cost. A small, intelligent, battery-powered tracking device can be safely set up on a container, truck or railcar carrying goods. Once activated, the device collects real-time information on the exact location of these goods at any point in the supply chain and transmits this information securely through an IoT network. The information is gathered on a personalized application platform, or connected directly to the company’s logistics information system.

A more resilient and competitive food supply chain

IoT-enabled systems have a positive impact on the entire food supply chain: from better crop management to more efficient home food deliveries. Storage costs can also be reduced with level sensors that alert users when stocks are running low and help predict future demand and potential shortages.

At the beginning of the food supply chain, agriculture also benefits from IoT technology. Like road transport, agriculture has been affected by a lack of labor, which has resulted in both food shortages and wastage. While IoT cannot do anything to improve the employment situation, it can allow better visibility and better control of crops or food quality. IoT can also drive efficiency gains through the automation of processes, such as controlling lighting, temperature, humidity and soil conditions in greenhouses. In addition to digital tools for monitoring the condition of crops,

Not only can IoT-based systems provide very detailed data, but they are also able to continuously improve by “learning” from the difficulties encountered. The information gathered gives users the visibility they need to analyze problems and fix loopholes in their supply chains. By harnessing the power of IoT-based logistics, businesses can minimize disruption to their supply chains while increasing transparency and efficiency across all of them.

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About the author :
Patrick Cason has been Managing Director of Sigfox France since 2015. He began his career in various companies specializing in the telecommunications sector, where he worked in sales and marketing centers. From 2000 to 2004 he worked for ALCATEL as Marketing Director. He then joined Vanco as Commercial Director to finally take over the general management of EASYNET in 2009, before joining Sigfox. Patrick graduated from ESSEC Business School with a Master in General Management.