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Nowadays, supply chains attract more attention of researchers all over the world as they remain an important part of the business in many fields. Speaking about the industries whose primary aim lies in food supply and distribution, it is important to mention that their role in the life of the human society cannot be overstated. As for the fourteenth chapter of the textbook which has been chosen for the previous assignment, it contains a lot of important information on technical aspects of supply chain management and various technologies facilitating the work of specialists related to the sphere of activity.
Considering that the topic of technology in different industries is extremely significant for the future specialist, it is necessary to pay more attention to the most recent studies devoted to the role of technology and communications in the global food industry. As is clear from the review, traceability systems, RFID, intelligent packaging technologies, and MOLP approach are seen as major enablers in the food supply industry.
Summary and Critique
In reference to the most recent studies that can shed light on the role of technology and communications as enablers, it is important to mention the work by Aung and Chang (2014) which is devoted to the principles of work of food traceability systems, acting as enablers in the food industry. According to the authors, it is a common truth that various specialists related to the food industry are likely to implement a more customer-oriented approach in order to improve the quality of service and customer satisfaction.
At the same time, considering that modern business is a changing world which tends to swallow up the companies whose employees make crucial mistakes, GTS systems described in the article are extremely important as they enable specialists to spend less time in order to identify possible sources of complaints and prevent distribution and production of goods that do not correspond to basic quality standards. According to the discussed research, traceability is regarded as a tool used in numerous industries that allows checking the quality of a product on a regular basis. Apart from that, the properties of traceability systems tend to vary depending on the type of production.
Thus, working with meat, specialists use the combination of RFID and material handling systems to ensure high quality of distributed production. Just like the authors of the previous article, Piramuthu, Farahani, and Grunow (2013) agree that improvements related to food traceability are supposed to be more effective than labelling. Thus, the former helps to ensure that all goods are authentic and that they do not pose a threat to customers’ health whereas the latter has weaknesses related to this problem.
At the same time, the researchers insist that RFID technologies need to be improved due to the fact that larger production volumes always entail the increasing number of cases of food loss; apart from that, in certain food supply networks, the opportunities for the employees to perform instant information exchange are limited due to different reasons. Therefore, with a lack of improved RFID technology, it becomes more difficult for employees to identify contamination sources as soon as possible and prevent further deterioration of alimentary products. Similarly, the effectiveness of food traceability systems within the context of the global food industry is also confirmed by Kim, Zhang, and Yoon (2016) who claim that the experience of East Asian countries such as South Korea and China indicates that the use of FTS helps to mitigate risks related to product quality.
The general effects of the implementation of RFID that confirm its effectiveness are described by Ha, Song, Chung, Lee, and Park (2014) who have conducted their research on the recent changes within the logistics industry. According to them, the use of RFID helps to create a more collaborative environment for employees and, therefore, acts as an enabler in the food supply industry. Apart from that, as it follows from the conclusions made by Mohammed and Wang (2017), RFID definitely helps to improve performance of companies in food supply industry even though many researchers still find the effectiveness of the technology to be a controversial topic.
Technology helping to improve traceability is also studied in the article by Costa et al. (2013) that provides a substantial review of methods enhancing food control. According to the researchers, traceability is mandatory for the food industry as it acts as a factor ensuring client safety. In particular, the authors focus on the role of RFID in the food industry, claiming that the latter is able to bring numerous benefits to business owners and customers.
As is clear from the analysis conducted by the researchers, RFID technology is becoming increasingly popular when it comes to the food supply, but the opportunities for its implementation are still limited due to economic and technical factors which act as the barriers to progress in different countries. Despite the fact that the authors agree that RFID technologies enable companies to improve the quality of products, they acknowledge that their implementation can entail negative consequences. RFID tools may be too expensive for smaller businesses and their implementation involves the use of additional equipment which may be costly or difficult to find.
According to Bibi, Guillaume, Gontard, and Sorli (2017), RFID technology can be regarded as a tool which is more preferred than the barcode because it can be used to fulfil a wide range of tasks, including the control of external factors (such as humidity or temperature) which may have an impact on product quality. At the same time, the researchers suppose that one of the important objectives for modern developers is the necessity to provide the opportunity for better monitoring with the help of sensors capable of working in combination with RFID tags. To the authors, it seems that the development of improved RFID technology involving the use of sensors acts as a key to the problem of food waste.
Traceability issues related to the food industry are also studied in the work by Dabbene, Gay, and Tortia (2014) which is focused on technologies promoting safety and quality in the food industry. As is clear from the research conducted by the authors, traceability systems present a critical tool for specialists in the field as they significantly increase the effectiveness of food supply chains. In their article, the authors review the approaches to optimise traceability systems to be used in the food industry so that they would act as real enablers. The approaches can be divided into different groups based on the type of goods involved.
For instance, when it comes to perishable foods, the most of the researchers whose works are reviewed suppose that the use of mixed-integer linear programming would be the most appropriate as it helps to optimise traceability systems based on the information concerning expenses. At the same time, the authors state that reducing the costs of product recall remains an important problem in the field. Unlike the authors of the previous article, Soysal, Bloemhof-Ruwaard, and Van der Vorst (2014) focus on the development and implementation of MOLP model which is expected to minimise the costs of logistic operations, make transportation safer for the environment, and, therefore, improve the reputation of a company using this model.
The effectiveness of such an approach is also confirmed by Kannan, Khodaverdi, Olfat, Jafarian, and Diabat (2013) who report the positive results of its implementation in the automobile industry. Despite the different requirements to product quality that are used in various industries, MOLP model has already demonstrated its effectiveness in the case with perishable alimentary products such as meat.
Continuing on the future of technology in food supply, Kumar, Heustis, and Graham (2015) highlight that a little part of technical solutions is thoroughly studied in the United States due to the lack of resources. Within the frame of their research, the authors were focusing on global standards related to a product recall. As is clear from their position, in order to improve product quality and traceability, specialists related to the field should pay more attention to instant communication between employees on different levels.
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The packaging is another important problem in the food supply industry. In their work, Vanderroost, Ragaert, Devlieghere, and De Meulenaer (2014) study basic functions of packaging in the food industry and the ways to improve it to ensure better protection. According to them, intelligent packaging is becoming increasingly popular as it can be seen as an enabler in the industry. The use of intelligent packaging can be regarded as a factor enabling business owners to improve HACCP systems used in their companies.
Among other things, the latter is supposed to act as important tools which are used to detect products of inappropriate quality which may be dangerous for customers, reduce the number of health risks for employees and consumers, and single out working processes which may influence the products quality. Understanding that it would be extremely important to create an integrated system that would control FSCs, product flows, and data stream simultaneously, the researchers acknowledge that modern developers are still unable to perform this task. Understanding the great role of sensors in the industry, the authors suppose that their implementation on the global scale is still impossible due to low flexibility of production, high production costs, and relatively low resistance to external factors such as temperature changes in the industry.
Therefore, the question remains open. The interest in intelligent packaging in the field can be illustrated by the fact that numerous researchers have studied the topic. Thus, Dobrucka and Cierpiszewski (2014) have conducted their research to study technologies of food packaging. According to the researchers, the use of technology in the food supply industry is closely interconnected with client preferences that tend to change with unfailing regularity.
As is clear from the analysis conducted by the authors, the most important trends related to packaging technology in the food industry are connected with the development of eco-friendly packaging which is expected to have a reduced impact on the environment and help to improve social image of food suppliers and manufacturers. In their work, the authors describe a number of technical solutions aimed at improving the performance of companies in the industry.
Among them, it is possible to single out the so-called “electronic nose” which propels smell recognition to the next level and helps companies to reduce the number of items of inappropriate quality. As is clear from the article by Fang, Zhao, Warner, and Johnson (2017), the use of intelligent packaging in meat industry helps to improve control of FSCs, minimise quality deterioration of meat products, and prevent the distribution of counterfeited foods. The use of new packaging technologies acts as a factor which improves both the quality of goods and the reputation of a company as proper tools significantly reduce the number of dissatisfied clients and distributors.
At the same time, the development of effective packaging technology is complicated by legislative problems related to safe materials and unstable customer preferences. As is stated by Ghaani, Cozzolino, Castelli, and Farris (2016) in their article, intelligent packaging technologies that possess the largest potential to change the global industry for the better include the use of sensory elements, electronic data carriers such as barcodes, and other devices aimed at improving product safety and customer satisfaction.
Such as authors of many articles that have been mentioned, these researchers believe that the use of intelligent packaging technology provides managers and customers with numerous benefits but there is an important weakness that needs to be paid more attention to during further research in the field: earning capacity for its users should be improved and implementation of these systems should not have an obvious impact on prices of the products as it can entail massive customer outflow.
Evaluating these findings reported by the researchers, it is necessary to notice that there is no significant difference in views when it comes to the effectiveness of the technologies mentioned. In fact, all authors whose works were reviewed tend to highlight the role of RFID, intelligent packaging, traceability systems, and MOLP in global food supply industry as numerous experiments show that all these technologies act as enablers, improve customer satisfaction, and reduce food waste.
Personally, I agree with the points covered by the authors as technologies studied by them are actively used despite the opinions of hard observers, who tend to exaggerate the risks of their implementation. At the same time, the opinions related to questions that need further research tend to be different. For instance, the majority of authors state that cost-effectiveness of RFID systems needs to be improved and additional sensors are to be implemented to reduce food waste on the global scale, and I agree with these points as prevention of food loss is the primary task related to the industry. Speaking of intelligent packaging, different authors single out such problems as the necessity to comply with environmental standards which may be different and the need to reduce costs of implementation of the technology.
To conclude, the fourteenth chapter of the textbook is devoted to the role of technology in supply chains, and the review demonstrates that the primary enablers in global food supply industry include intelligent packaging, the use of RFID technologies, food traceability systems, and MOLP model. In fact, there is a wide range of problems existing in the field that are already solved, but, based on the weaknesses of technologies reported by the authors, it is possible to single out suggestions for further research.
In general, the latter include studying measures, allowing to reduce the costs of these technologies’ implementation so that they could be effectively used all over the world. More than that, future researchers in the field need to pay focused attention to possible improvements to RFID technologies, helping to synchronise them with sensors to prevent possible mistakes.
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