Inside the Ingredients Supply Chain
Consumers see the goods sold by food and beverage companies as a single product, but of course it’s not that simple. From the perspective of the manufacturer things are a lot more complicated since every product’s recipe requires a combination of ingredients and an equally intricate supply chain.
This means behind even the simplest product requires a well-run logistics operation that sources from numerous players. The inbound movement of ingredients to a manufacturing site must take a lot into account. The measure of success for a food company’s supply chain is not just transit time and cost containment like many other industries, but also taking care of key details like the safety and security of raw ingredients.
Here are a four ways ingredient suppliers are unique when it comes to their supply chains and tips for overcoming the challenges.
Equipment Matters. Freight can be a dirty business, but for ingredients there’s no room for transportation equipment tainted with bad smells or moisture. Dry and powdered ingredients tend to take on the flavor and smells of the things around them so trailers must be void of any possible contaminates.
Reefer trailers can be especially dirty due to their usage in meat and produce supply chains, hence the recent Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) mandates put in place to make them safer. Even harder is keeping bulk tanker equipment clean. Working with logistics partners who understand the expectations that qualify food-grade equipment and specialize their networks to satisfy those expectations is the best way to prevent issues with ingredient safety and quality control.
Must Have Multimodal Expertise. It’s necessary for an ingredient company’s supply chain to include multiple shipping modes. Proteins from Canada, oils from Mexico, or gums from Europe may start as an ocean container or rail shipment. Along the way the same product will likely be handed off to a drayage company, warehoused, and eventually delivered by truck to a production facility.
Logistics partners with multi-modal experience can help make this seamless for ingredient manufacturers and food or beverage producers. Coordinating multimodal shipments is hard without broad industry resources and carrier relationships, both of which a strong 3PL can provide. They must know how to ensure no contamination, spills, over handling, or tote breakage occurs.
Delivery Performance is Essential. Production lines shut down without the needed sugars, flavors, or spices. That means timeliness of ingredient orders is imperative. Inadequate equipment, or damage caused by handling and rejected product deliveries can cause nightmares in food supply chains.
Working with specialized service providers that understand your equipment needs, handling processes, and transportation safety specifications is the best way to avoid the blown pickups, damaged freight, and rejected deliveries that cause costly fulfillment issues. It’s their role to take care of the important details like hitting appointments and following the proper unloading processes. These are the things that keep your production lines moving.
Technology Boosts. The need for proper load routing is acutely felt by ingredients suppliers. Thankfully, today suppliers can gain access—whether on their own or through a 3PL partnership—to a transportation management system (TMS) that enables for easy load optimization and cost comparisons.
There is also an added importance on ingredient safety and tight delivery windows, so working with carrier partners who can provide accurate tracking capabilities is vital. GPS tracking, rapid delivery alerts, and timely updates are a must.
Most consumers do not realize how many unique ingredients from all over the world go into manufacturing food and beverage products. These ingredients suppliers must face a handful of unique challenges—shipping across multiple modes, tight timelines, handling concerns, and need for visibility. Partnering with a 3PL or other service providers that can help manage these intricacies, and can help ingredients companies mitigate a multitude of issues, cut costs, and deliver on customer demands.
Jesse Juett, senior national sales associate at Zipline Logistics, is the company’s ingredients transportation specialist. Managing upwards of 70 percent of Zipline’s ingredients volumes, he is an expert in trailer requirements and product handling and knows the unique needs of customers who produce starches, proteins, spices, flavors, and other ingredient products.
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