Using Inventory Control Practices to Prevent Food Waste

Robert Brice
Tue, Sep 1, 2015
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Food that isn't cosmetically appealing could still be consumable.

Food manufacturers work with precious resources. As the world population increases, global organizations grow concerned over the availability of proper foodstuffs.

Unfortunately, a large amount of food is wasted each year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported about a third of all food produced is never consumed. Food is wasted by consumers buying more than they can eat, retailers throwing out materials with poor aesthetic qualities and manufacturers suffering from unintentional wastage. 

Wasted food is a major concern. Any product that doesn't reach consumers is detrimental to a company's finances. Consumers are also losing money on purchases they never use. Besides the monetary issues, there is the matter of conserving natural resources. Expired or damaged foods going uneaten are created using land and materials that could be put to better use.

The Guardian suggested food production has to increase 60 percent by 2050 to feed a growing population. Alongside increased supply, organizations like the Food Waste Reduction Alliance want to ensure all edible materials produced find a use. The FWRA is collaborative effort between grocery stores, restaurants and food manufacturers that pledges to cut down on unintentional wastage and find a solution for unsellable goods.

Data Collection Prevents Unintentional Wastage
Food manufacturers already put a lot of effort into inventory management. A recent Business for Social Responsibility study found only 3 percent of global food supplies were wasted by industrial practices. Consumers were the primary group responsible for waste and restaurants were second.

Restaurant managers should run their inventories like warehouses. Demand Media advised kitchens to make inventory management a primary concern. Management should place an individual in charge of supply and storage. Restaurants have to create procedures for routine inventories and minimum quantity levels. Small food-service companies can use simple software tools to aid in these practices.

Food manufacturers usually have much larger inventory needs than kitchens and must rely on faster, more automated data collection solutions. Restaurants can get by using pen and paper, but modern warehouse management systems use mobile devices to pick, store, count and audit inventory. Mobile data collection solutions provide quick and easy software solutions to company infrastructure. Inventory performance is visible to all software users and warehouse ERP systems can integrate with other company software.

Speed is crucial when working with an expiration deadline. Manufactures that produce perishable materials have to capture real-time data to create accurate product timetables. Solutions that facilitate constant data supervision of inventory from creation to distribution ensure materials are not forgotten or wasted.

New Inventory Management Solutions for Old Food
If food does pass its expiration date or become damaged, a manufacturer may not have to throw it away. FWRA encourages all companies to donate materials to different organizations.

Food that commercial retailers can't sell isn't necessarily bad. Many products could suffer from aesthetic problems but are otherwise consumable such as damaged or misprinted packages or busied fruits and vegetables. Manufacturers should first look to donate unsellable merchandise to food banks or other needy causes.

If the material is too damaged for human consumption, it could still be useful as animal feed. The U.S. Department of Energy & Environmental Protection encouraged food manufacturers to distribute otherwise unusable supplies or products to local livestock farms.

Manufacturers are culpable for the safety of donated products. Federal organizations investigate all possible suppliers when people or livestock take ill. Donated materials need the same supply chain tracking procedures as sold merchandise. The RFgen white paper titled "The Food Traceability Survival Guide" said mobile solutions provide visibility for many different data streams. Employees use the software to track items marked for donation or distribution. Any company that needs data collection from numerous sources should acquire a centralized solution.

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