May 21, 2020 By Wiggs Civitillo 3 min read

In the midst of one of the most widespread pandemics in recent history, it’s nothing short of a miracle that our global supply chain has been able to consistently deliver food to the people that need it, however this strain on our global supply chain isn’t likely to subside any time soon and companies will need to remain dexterous in order to respond to future shocks.

The spread of coronavirus is putting our global food supply chain to the test. As workers fall ill, plants, processers, and retailers have been forced to shut down unexpectedly. Combined with the financial impact of a global economic slowdown, resiliency in the face of this uncertainty may mean the difference between businesses staying open or closing their doors.

The challenge to our supply chain

These times have been especially difficult for the U.S. meat industry, where three of the largest pork processing plants making up 15 percent of national production have shut down their operations indefinitely. As a result of consolidation in recent years, retailers attempting to supplement this shortfall are having difficulty finding alternate production facilities. To make matters worse, once they’ve found alternate sources, they often face delays exchanging and validating the required certifications to ensure that they are able to conduct business with new partners.

Join the IBM Food Trust ecosystem for a smarter, safer, more sustainable food supply chain

Farmers are facing similar challenges in finding new abbatoirs to process their meats with shutdowns reducing the U.S. pork slaughter capacity by 40 percent. As their just-in-time production grinds to a halt, their herds (and expenses) have grown significantly. As they attempt to integrate with new partners, many operations struggle with sharing and validating their USDA and quality status certifications (Certified Humane) which are essential in justifying higher prices to support healthier practices.

Some retailers are already looking at alternative sources of meat including plant-based food makers to fill the gap, but that doesn’t provide any assurance that plant-based partners won’t face similar coronavirus disruptions, and they will still need to verify that these companies are certified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and NSF International (as Certified Plant Based).

Lessons learned

If the pandemic has made anything clear, it’s that it is essential for food companies to build sophisticated contingency plans to respond quickly and safely to disruptions in their supply chain. The challenges facing the meat industry are shared by players across our global food supply chain and too often, companies struggle to meet regulatory and safety requirements when finding replacements to missing links in their supply chains, even when both parties are in compliance but can’t track down and share their paperwork.

In this high-risk environment, it’s especially important to ensure that new partners are certified and meeting quality standards to help reduce the likelihood of diseases jumping undetected from animals to humans. With 85 percent of retailers yet to digitize their operations, sharing these certifications is a major obstacle which has been made even more difficult as employees globally have been required to work remotely.

Verify your business simply

IBM Food Trust is a blockchain-enabled data-sharing platform for the food ecosystem that offers a holistic approach to streamlining this certification process with its Documents module to help store, track and share all documents. Linked to a broad network of global food supply chain members, IBM Food Trust Documents could speed up your transition to a new partner meaning less downtime and better business continuity.

For growers and producers

Facilities can upload and manage business-enabling licenses, share authorizations, and validate certifications with Food Trust Documents. Users can customize the type of document and tag by product identifiers for easy search and viewing.

For food logistics managers

Logistics organizations can store and access quality assurance data, such as testing analyses and inspection results. Conflicting or outdated documents can be easily flagged for review or renewal.

For retailers and suppliers

With increasing consumer and retailer focus on the integrity of goods, the Food Trust Documents module helps map the product journey with compliance statuses and supplier credibility.

In order to help companies and their supply chain partners remain resilient in these unpredictable times, IBM is providing no-charge access to IBM Food Trust Documents through 20 August 2020.

Helping stretched supply chains

In today’s world, certificates and related documents are essential for complex supply chains. They can help confirm that a facility is properly inspected, that products have been treated according to law, and that organizations are certified according to industry standards. However, verifying that these documents are complete, valid, and current is complicated by their abundance, complexity and variety.

In a time when supply chain disruptions are becoming more frequent and the speed at which companies can replace a broken link could make the difference between staying in business or shutting down, adopting a platform to simplify and accelerate the approval process could be a critical factor in your business’ success.

Sign up today for IBM Food Trust Documents free of charge

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