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10.06.2020

Food industry warehousing challenges

Food mini-feature series #2

It’s not an exaggeration to say that a company’s supply chain can make or break its business. And since warehouses serve as a key component in food manufacturing supply chains, having smart warehousing systems has become a sure way for businesses to stay ahead of their competition.

As such, it is crucial for food business owners to overcome any warehousing challenges they might face, while trying to keep up with the latest food trends to meet consumer demand. For example, food and beverage (F&B) warehouses often manage the storage and transport of perishable items, so sorting and handling such items with a time-sensitive approach can be challenging, yet absolutely necessary. Furthermore, with consumers demanding for more varied food options, F&B manufacturers now face the related challenge of storing and handling more products than ever.

A recent survey of hundreds of supply chain professionals [1] revealed: 

  • More than 90% aren’t ready to handle supply chain complexities;
  • Less than 50% can address more than one supply chain challenge at a time;
  • One in three still rely on manual methods for receiving, storing, picking and packing.

Let’s look at three major logistics and warehousing challenges that food manufacturers face today, and how to conquer them. 

Challenge #1: Inventory scheduling and control

F&B warehouses that handle perishable food items and ingredients face the challenge of meeting transport and storage demands that are typical of products with limited shelf lives. Businesses with inadequate warehousing systems often struggle with shortened selling windows, dissatisfied customers or wastage as spoiled or damaged products are pulled from store shelves. 

With a smart and effective warehouse management system in place, food purveyors will be able to control and monitor inventory in real-time. From recording changes in inventory to anticipating inventory needs, such automated solutions allow businesses to better schedule and execute warehouse operations effortlessly, from the time goods enter a warehouse until they are transported out.

Challenge #2: Improving food traceability and safety

In a time where food safety concerns seem to dominate amongst consumers, F&B businesses are facing a greater need to reinforce food traceability practices across their warehouse processes. Yet with food ingredients and finished products often having different and specific storage and handling instructions, food traceability and safety can be a real challenge within a warehouse environment. Warehouse operators need to keep in mind basic factors such as first-in first-out (FIFO), humidity levels and storage temperatures, as food product safety is often highly scrutinized, especially when errors do arise.

To ensure proper response times to product recalls and issues, F&B businesses are investing in new processes and technologies such as Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) to help support product traceability and to accelerate responsiveness in times of product recall.

Challenge #3: Stock keeping units (SKUs) vs. storage capacity

Consumers now expect and demand a wider variety of food options than ever before, with requests ranging from more flavors to healthier offerings, and even different packaging materials and sizes. In response, F&B manufacturers have rapidly expanded their product lines to cater to these demands, leading to a proliferation of stock keeping units (SKUs). Consequently, F&B warehouses face challenges of having sufficient capacity and increased capability for product storage and transport.

With a greater number of SKUs that may require different handling and warehousing treatments, F&B companies will do well to consider more efficient storage and retrieval options for their facilities. For better use of vertical spaces, automated systems like an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) can help optimize available storage capacity. Warehouse operators will also be able to pick orders more accurately and speedily with the ASRS.

Scheduling, Safety and Space — the complexities of warehousing demands will likely only increase as time passes. Optimizing warehouses to handle higher capacities and to improve safety and efficiency is essential to keeping pace with consumer demands and the latest food trends. Intralogistics service providers like Körber have the expertise to help F&B businesses overcome their supply chain challenges by recommending and installing the right technologies and equipment for seamless logistics operations.

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