Visit the Farm Through Data: Wearables in Food Traceability

Meagan Douglas
Wed, Jul 6, 2016
Virtual Reality technology can show consumers exactly where food comes from.
Virtual Reality technology can show consumers exactly where food comes from.

Food manufacturers and distributors need to find ways to stay competitive in a market that prioritizes visibility. The Center for Food Integrity performed a survey of consumers to see who they felt was responsible for quality of products they eat themselves and serve to their families. Respondents said food companies were more accountable than farmers and grocery stores when it came to food safety, business ethics, animal well-being and impact of merchandise on health.

When companies provide consumers with data to indicate the safety and quality of food products, they earn the customer's trust and - very often - their loyalty. If a food company bears the brunt of responsibility for consumer information, the business needs to find strategies to capture data from both internal operations and partner activities in supply chain logistics management.

Wearable technology allows employees to capture the details of activities as they happen through hands-free automated data collection solutions. This tech not only creates an accurate record of supply chain activities, but may offer a new way of delivering information to customers.

Giving Consumers a Close Look At Inventory
Fresh ingredients might not be the first thing that comes to consumers' minds when they think of fast food, but this exactly the bias McDonald's UK is trying to change, according to The Drum. A new marketing initiative invites McDonald's' customers to see where the chain gets its ingredients through virtual reality (VR) technology. Consumers can put on augmented reality devices to interact with a virtual representation of the farms where the company's food comes from.

Allowing consumers to see where food originates is a direct way to provide visibility. This requires employees and partners to capture video. Technology like Google Glass allows customers to see exactly what the people handling food products see. Other solutions such as voice picking solutions and wrist computers allow workers to report updates in real time while using their hands to perform tasks. This still creates a full and consistent record of inventory management activities for curious consumers.

As companies implement data collection solutions to provide visibility of every step of a supply chain, they should see an improvement in efficiency as well as consumer satisfaction. Gartner ranked McDonald's as the second-best retail supply chain in a recent list of top 25 companies, according to Chain Store Age. Metrics for success were based on replenishment rates, revenue increases and peer opinions. McDonald's also scored well when it came to following modern trends like social responsibility and visibility.

A Smarter Supply Chain
The use of wearables not only provides information for consumers, but can help ensure the data shared with customers reflects an efficient supply chain. A proper automated data collection solution should serve a dual purpose of delivering insights to external partners and consumers and internal decision-makers and employees. When consumers can see where food comes from and how it moves, they know it's safe for consumption. This same information helps business leaders evaluate performance and design future distribution and warehouse management procedures.

An accurate account of inventory activities is a primary driver of wearable technology adoption in distribution centers, according to the RFgen white paper "Making the Case for Wearable Tech in the Warehouse." Automated data collection devices that can monitor temperature, movement schedules and inventory handling allow companies to make sure food doesn't encounter conditions that could cause harm. The accurate account of activities means decision-makers won't overlook mistakes that slow down operations or diminish quality.

It's not just employees that can wear tech. Modern Farmer described a few automated data collection devices cows can wear so farmers can monitor their health. This technology helps ensure the quality and safety of meat products. New solutions such as these grow more popular with companies that want to show their people and consumers exactly how products make it to plates.

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