Learning sustainability efficiencies: Ferko notes that sustainability aspects are a priority at U.S. Foodservice. He says the company was able to reduce the production of carbon dioxide by 22,000 metric tons in 2008. “We did this by simply reducing idle times, installing maximum speed controls, and routing deliveries more efficiently.”
He adds that the company, involved in its own research projects, would like to work with the Center in developing other initiatives that reduce undesirable impacts on the environment. “We look forward to interactions between Georgia Tech, our company and the industry to find more of these kinds of environmental solutions.”
Through the resources of the Center, improved applications can be brought to market a lot quicker. “Where you have consensus among different groups like government, private industry, and academia, this will provide a great resource for the industry to really be certain that we have the world’s leading cold chain environment and that we are protecting food integrity all the way to the consumer,” says Supervalu’s Owen.
“I work very hard at Wawa to assure our cold chain is the very best we can provide, yet I know there are opportunities to improve,” says Griffith. “Improvements will translate to increased shelf life, increased product quality, increased availability of products throughout the year to my consumers and increased consumer confidence that Wawa’s products are high in quality. Of course, all of these things translate to a profit, which makes Wawa very happy.”
The only other way to ensure safe food is to pasteurize or irradiate everything, notes Griffith. “But nobody wants to eat food that has been over-processed. Going down that road is just not what the consumer wants. Everyone throughout the world wants the safest and freshest food possible. Having this Center as a resource will help us monitor and improve every aspect of the cold chain, and it will provide us with a deeper understanding of the processes that need to be implemented in order for the industry to manage and maintain an effective and efficient cold chain,” she adds.
Georgia Tech: The Natural Choice
John Bartholdi is research director for the Integrated Food Cold Chain Center. He points out that Georgia Tech’s Supply Chain and Logistics Institute (SCL) has long been a global leader in supply chain and logistics.
“Georgia Tech’s SCL is the largest industry/academic collaborative in the world, with research offices globally,” he says. So the fit was perfect as the home for the new Center. A number of centers focused on food science do operate currently, most having grown out of schools of agriculture, explains Donald Ratliff, Ph.D. at SCL. “But there is no center focusing on the food supply chain and food logistics. So we are bringing something new and necessary to the industry through this Center.”
Jaymie Forrest notes that for the last consecutive 19 years, Georgia Tech has been rated the top industrial engineering school in the country. “So in leveraging our systems and design engineering processes, coupled with our expertise in the supply chain and logistics arena, we offer this sweet spot of ours that brings a lot of value to the industry,” says Forrest, director of business development at SCL.
SCL already has been involved in studying the temperature control chain as it relates to international shipments, continues Forrest. In fact, the Institute has established several research centers throughout Asia, South America and Latin America. “These centers focus on logistics strategies,” she explains.
“We are leveraging the knowledge we gather in order to collaborate and integrate the entire food chain.” This knowledge will help inform the Center’s work as anticipated international regulations become law.
“Its time has come for something like this Center,” notes Jane Griffith, senior director of quality assurance and food safety for Wawa Inc. “Everyone saw there was the need for this, but nobody really understood what the best approach should be. I am so grateful that Georgia Tech has seen the value of this by embracing the concept and becoming an owner of this, helping all of us in the industry to move this along quickly.” —A.T.