The food & beverage (F&B) industry is unique. And its distinct characteristics make inventory management especially challenging given current market conditions. No longer do F&B logistics professionals need to contend only with seasonal demand and evolving consumer tastes. With shipping delays, the risk of spoilage and contamination is more prevalent than ever. With on-time order distribution and fulfillment more difficult, the conventional methods of identifying and forecasting consumer tastes and innovating in the F&B space are increasingly complex. Let’s discuss inventory management and how the RSC box can help the Food & beverage industry.
F&B logistics professionals are no strangers to adversity. Shortages and radical shifts in demand have accompanied past recessions, natural disasters, and geopolitical instability. The industry’s residence has helped insulate it from past social, economic, and political shocks. Strategic professionals can leverage lessons learned and emerging innovations to position their companies well, even amid the current uncertainty.
Leaning Into Efficiency
When deluged with variables beyond control, successful companies have, in the past, optimized controllable factors. Today’s market leaders are doing the same while working to find distribution and fulfillment alternatives to tackle current obstacles. Leveraging first-class inventory management software platforms, preserving freshness and extending shelf life, and optimizing your physical operations are just a few approaches to improving the odds of success in today’s volatile market.
Leveraging Inventory Management Software Platforms
Perhaps at no time more than now do F&B logistics professionals need to understand their supply chain from end to end. More than just understanding where goods are coming from in theory, successful businesses can pinpoint where each item is in the chain at any given time. They leverage first-class inventory management software platforms and invest the necessary time to configure them to provide an accurate snapshot of the business’ inventory on any given day.
The best systems can be customized to provide early warnings that you may face a shortage, surplus, or other development that materially affects your supply chain. With these early warnings in place, you can effectively adjust your ordering, distribution, and every other aspect of your inventory management. With the right system, time investment, and attention, you may find yourself buying when costs are lower, reducing orders before demand drops, and avoiding surpluses and shortage-related woes.
However, F&B logistics professionals often don’t invest enough time in these platforms. They don’t configure them correctly or continuously monitor the type of data fed into them. And when they face sudden shifts in demand or huge surpluses, they blame the platform rather than its underuse or misuse. Effective logistics professionals know that the best inventory management systems start with the commitment of their time and effort and are rewarded for both.
Preserving Freshness and Extending Shelf Life
Another approach to improving efficiency involves preserving freshness and extending shelf life as long as possible. While often overlooked, mitigating the risk of spoilage and contamination is a potent approach to reducing costs and improving margins. Doing so requires complete inventory visibility to ensure your storage and shipping strategies keep your inventory as fresh as possible. It may also include using just-in-time shipping and other related strategies to extend shelf-life. And it means ensuring that our inventory is stored in optimal conditions, with special attention paid to temperature, labeling, food placement, and high-risk foods.
One estimate holds that spoilage accounts for roughly 21 percent of as much as $300 billion in food waste in the U.S. and Europe each year. And contamination cannot only cost you inventory but your reputation as well. One Tweet from a customer noting they became sick from your product is all it takes to cost you a quarter’s profit or more. And even if you’re lucky enough to avoid an outbreak, you can’t afford reduced margins from waste when you’re still contending with severe supply chain volatility. But by improving efficiency to preserve freshness and extend shelf life, you’ll be able to both mitigate risk and improve your bottom line.
Optimizing Physical Operations
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of optimizing your physical operation. Organization is essential here so that you know and can quickly find where every item is. Attaining complete in-house traceability is possible using QR codes as part of a comprehensive inventory tracking system. But tagging is useless without a well-ordered space. Too many businesses throw away hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars, in warehouses where nothing can be found. And in the F&B industry, the inventory you can’t find quickly becomes inventory you can’t use.
Not only must your space be configured to store your F&B inventory safely, but it should leverage container solutions that make the most effective use of your space. You’ll want sturdy containers, such as corrugated plastic RSC boxes, which can save you space and money. And you’ll need an inventory system that integrates your partners, suppliers, and client systems to ensure you’re able to maximize efficiency.
Building Effective Inventory Systems
Building an effective inventory system is not easy. But starting from scratch is in some ways easier than overhauling an existing system. Reconceptualizing your inventory management from your supply chain strategy down to your smallest container is challenging. Moreover, implementing changes, such as retiring your legacy system in favor of a new one, replacing your container system, and retraining your people, is even more difficult.
However, with supply and demand fluctuations, fulfillment worker shortages, and geopolitical instability fueling certain shortages, F&B logistics professionals face too many challenges that lock foolproof solutions in the short term. Instead, working with industry experts like Flexcon, companies like yours can build the most effective operations possible to save time and money.
Our team has more than 150 years of industry experience. Not only can we help you design the kind of container solutions you need, but we can also help you design and implement the kind of comprehensive inventory management plan that can help you grow and scale your business, even during these tough times. No matter your specific needs, we can help you build a more efficient operation and improve your margins.
If you’re looking to overhaul your inventory management operations, contact us at Postal Totes. We look forward to helping you fulfill your F&B storage and shipping needs.