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Omnichannel ops and IOT

IOT prevents mandated data tracking for food retailers from being a logistical nightmare

Editor’s note: This is Part 3 of a special series sponsored by Par Technologies Corp. Read Part 4 on Sept. 25.

With just a few taps on a smartphone, a week’s worth of groceries is ordered for a family and delivered right to their door. For them, their grocery store’s adoption of the omnichannel approach to streamline in-store and online shopping experiences is about convenience and quick service.

For the grocery retailer, however, this move to stay competitive in the market place presents a whole new set of risks and challenges to deliver safe food to customers’ doors.

Where was the food sourced? Has it been continuously kept at the proper temperatures? When is the expiration date? How has the food been handled after returning from a cancelled delivery? When did the order exchange hands from the delivery driver to the customer?

While this may seem like a lot of information to keep track of, it doesn’t even begin to touch the amount of data food retailers need to track to stay in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

For food companies exceeding $1 million in annual revenue, at least two years of food safety records must be kept on file. If inspectors come knocking, failure to produce them in a reasonable amount of time can result in enforcement actions up to and including suspension of operations.

And it doesn’t stop with the food companies. Shippers and carriers are required to have 12 months of transportation and training records on hand.

Records don’t have to be a logistical nightmare
Paper-based records, which are still an industry standard, have a lot of potential to be a logistical nightmare because of human error and increased labor. However, as technology continues to develop, more food retailers are switching to cloud-based systems, with sensors automatically streaming into the online data base via the Internet of Things, otherwise known as IOT.

While the integration of IOT and the omnichannel approach may seem complex, the process in which they work is straightforward. Wherever and whenever a food retailer wants to start tracking its products in the food chain, sensors can be placed in places such as shipping containers or individual boxes out for delivery to report data back to a centralized location.

The benefits of IOT are twofold. Not only are companies able to efficiently track data essential to an effective food safety plan to protect customers and reduce losses in spoilage, but also utilize IOT in keeping a real-time tab on inventory and other business management points.

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