Tackling grocery’s traceability problem: now with a digital solution

written by IFCO SYSTEMS, 29th September 2022, in Stories

For the fresh grocery industry, there’s never been a more critical time to achieve better efficiency, visibility, and control over the supply chain. Living costs up, inflation rife, energy in crisis, shortages in the workforce, and a general demand to save the planet puts us in a perfect storm.

IFCO has embarked on an ambitious trial of track-and-trace technology to deliver the very step-change in traceability and transparency that our grocery and supply chain customers need to help overcome these challenges.

A digital solution for traceability and transparency

Working with a number of retailer partners in Europe, we are using multiple tracking technologies to track our reusable packaging containers (RPCs), which then become digitally linked to the fresh products they contain. That means customers can track the real-time location of their fresh products, which enables a host of new capabilities.

As an example, parts of the technology have already been tried and tested for tackling theft. For example, in North America, we used GPS technology to take down a high-value RPC theft ring in Chicago, which involved a network of more than 30 vehicles and dozens of individuals. IFCO managed to identify and recover hundreds of thousands of RPCs that were being stolen for the raw plastic, which represented a multi-million-dollar financial impact. As a result, several other customers have since asked for our support to solve a range of problems in the reusable asset supply chain.

A digital solution for real-time data and insights

But we knew the technology had the potential to do even more for our customers. From speaking to retailers, growers and agencies, we understood the need for greater visibility and control across the supply chain. Through our digitalization approach, we can deliver this seamlessly and efficiently – and help eliminate the administrative burden.

Our track-and-trace capability will significantly decrease the likelihood of products ending up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Retailers and supply chain companies will be able to see at-a-glance whether RPCs have been held up at customs, accidentally misplaced at the distribution center, or sent to the wrong store. By tracking RPC movement in real-time, changes can promptly be made, reducing delays and associated costs.

Combined with real-time analytics, the digital solution also generates a wealth of data insights for every kind of customer, from family-run farms to multi-national retailers. They will be able to spot trends, identify problem hotspots and inefficiencies, and make more informed decisions.

A digital solution to reduce food waste

On the sustainability front, we see the data and analytics we produce as vital. Every year, around a third of the world’s food is wasted – 1.3 billion tons worth approximately $1 trillion, a number that we can fundamentally impact.

Real-time RPC tracking can help reduce waste at every stage of the supply chain, from point of origin to the end consumer. Through deeper insights into the condition of produce, better cold chain monitoring and improved efficiency, we can keep grocery products fresher for longer and reduce the likelihood of spoilage caused by delays or loss.

Our entire business model is all about championing a resource-efficient circular economy, and sustainability has always been at the core of what we do. Digital transformation will enable us to further help our customers meet their environmental commitments and help them make even more of a positive impact on our wider society and our planet.

Looking to the future

We believe we can make a huge difference to the entire ecosystem and are continuing our rollout plan of the technology with our customers, where we all have an aligned vision – to build better, more efficient, and more sustainable supply chains.

Stay tuned for more as we update on the key data insights and learnings from our trials.

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