SECTION 5 / TECHNOLOGY
Technology Fuels Green Efforts
Environmental challenges, practices for food manufacturers and distributors.
Environmental issues are here to stay. Global warming and climate change are the newest hypes in a long string of movements toward preserving our environment. Other areas of the green movement include reduction of pollution and preservation of natural resources.
In coming years, green movements will flourish through international policy initiatives like The Kyoto Accord as well as increasing consumer pressure. Industries will be forced to modify their processes to become environmentally responsible. Truly green strategies begin with well thought-out supply chain design and are enabled by internal operations.
A recent study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that the food processing industry is among the largest of manufacturing energy consumers in the United States. The same study also concluded that improvements in processes "including changes in operating techniques to implement best energy management practices, [and] optimizing energy consumption in scheduling processing" rank very high in opportunities for environmental improvements. .
There are a number of ways that food manufacturers and distributors can improve efficiencies while also moving towards green production strategies. Some very simple process changes can be enabled by today's software solutions. Mulvany Attard Associates, a Canadian food industry software solution provider, offers these suggestions:
- Convert to a paperless office space. Use already popular technologies like web order entry and wireless tablet PC's will make your office space almost entirely paper free. The need for your Sales Reps or Customer Service personnel to write orders on paper will no longer be required. This will not only reduce the amount of waste that is produced but it will also eliminate manual, time-consuming processes and lead to shorter fulfillment cycles. The ability to email files such as invoices, customer statements, and purchase orders directly from your software also reduces the paper that gets printed and helps increase efficiencies
- Truck loading and route planning. Load and Route planning is a very difficult and time-consuming manual process. It often results in sub-optimal use of transportation resources. Using software tools to help you plan truck loads, maximize truck capacity and map-out routes will result in reductions in terms of fuel consumption while improving customer service.
- Using lot control. Software designed for the food industry enables you to track and trace products through the entire supply chain. In the event of a product recall, food distributors and manufacturers tend to err on the side of caution. They often destroy large quantities of product because they lack accurate information to precisely identify the product that is bad. Being able to track and trace products through lot control measures means that only the lots affected by the recall need be destroyed and minimal amounts of product will be wasted.
- Manage inventory efficiently. Track product by expiry date to help to ensure that oldest products are used first which consequently results in less spoilage and reduced waste. Use Just-in-Time techniques to help to determine optimal inventory levels and minimize inventory holdings to save on space and energy requirements.
- Warehouse management. Manual warehouse management techniques do not allow the full capacity of a warehouse to be utilized. Current warehouse management software enables significant improvements in this area. The ability to manage and maintain a tight control of warehouse space so that minimum amounts of space are required reduces operational energy costs.
- Just-in-time production scheduling. Simple production planning techniques enabled by relevant data can improve production scheduling. The ability to generate well-maintained production schedules means that equipment can be turned on only when it is needed as dictated by demand. In addition only product that is required will be produced.