Food and Beverage TMS Provides Shippers with a Recipe for Success

Cloud-based TMS software provides tools needed to achieve transportation optimization
As a consumer, there’s a good chance that you or someone close to you has been affected by any number of foodborne illnesses – more commonly known as food poisoning. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) foodborne illnesses affect about one in six Americans every year. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of E. coli, Salmonella, Botulism, and Hepatitis A in everything from produce and peanut butter, to poultry, beef and canned goods in grocery stores and restaurant chains – costing the food industry billions of dollars over the years through lost sales, recalls, and legal expenses.  And, potentially fatal bacteria aside, what consumer doesn’t want to see a fresh and attractive food product in their local grocery store or restaurant?  But how often do we think about how our food is transported, and the measures that must be taken to ensure safety and freshness?
Consumer demands for “fresh food fast” continue to drive shippers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) toward more stringent safety requirements and greater transportation efficiencies, but it is legislation like the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that has perhaps played the biggest role in ensuring the safest and fastest methods for food to travel from farm to table.
Food and Beverage TMS Ensures a Safe Transport
The FSMA was enacted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to promote the rule for the “Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food” and was prompted by an upswing in reported foodborne illnesses in the early 2000’s. While the FSMA also regulates the way food is grown, harvested and processed, this latest rule under the FSMA – which took effect for large businesses on April 6, 2017 – focuses squarely on the transportation of food and beverage products.
While all shippers and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) face any number of challenges in managing their transportation strategies, for those that transport food and beverage products it can be especially challenging to ensure they are meeting the stringent shipping requirements to keep food safe. Carriers must ensure proper climate controls for items that must be kept cold or frozen, and that the vehicles and equipment used to transport food are kept clean at all times. Specific mandates under the FSMA call for measures to prevent ready-to-eat food from touching raw food during transport, and protecting food from contamination by non-food items that have been transported in the same or previous load.  At the same time, shippers must navigate the complex scheduling requirements for transporting food to ensure the highest levels of freshness that consumers have come to expect – especially when it comes to perishable goods.
Another level of growing complexity? As consumers’ palates have expanded to include more international flavors, the demand for shipping food from around the world has also increased. The FSMA also provides for ensuring the safety of international food and beverages shipped to the U.S., essentially requiring that imported foods should be held to the same safety standards as foods grown or produced domestically.
Technology Ensures Compliance, Drives Efficiencies
With all these unique shipping challenges and ever-changing legislation, it’s not surprising that many food shippers and 3PLs rely on technology – and specifically a transportation management system (TMS) – for navigating these complexities. Selecting the right carriers can be crucial for any shipper, but can be especially critical when transporting food products and addressing regulatory compliance. The MercuryGate TMS can identify which carriers are in compliance with the FSMA – and perhaps more importantly, which carriers are not in compliance – helping you to avoid costly penalties while also ensuring product integrity.
Ideally, a TMS will provide you with a single platform for all modes – ocean, air, rail, truckload, less-than-truckload, and parcel. With the ability to integrate inbound, outbound and reverse logistics across all modes of transportation, you are able to optimize your entire supply chain. And, while some TMSs do not support parcel, the MercuryGate TMS architecture includes parcel capabilities to provide for flexible delivery options – especially important when dealing with changing retailer demands.
Manage Complex Food Shipping
The complexities of managing refrigerated trailers (reefer), while also monitoring for driver error and loading shipments in the wrong sequence can leave shippers at risk of rejected loads, insurance claims and poor customer satisfaction. A TMS can provide shippers with decision support, recommendations on item segregation based on product attributes, and loading sequence recommendations based on business rules. This enables identification and separation or co-mingling of frozen vs. chilled products, ensuring the right mix for consolidation, as well as the right placement within containers.
The MercuryGate TMS provides temperature capture, alerts, logging and the ability to set appointments by locations and docks. Automated workflows within the MercuryGate TMS enable you to enforce appointments and track actual times, while online appointment scheduling provides easy access for carriers to make appointments. Dock scheduling capability also enables proper capacity planning to improve productivity. Proactive alerting and notifications ensure that corrective actions can be taken to avoid penalties and ensure a smooth flow of goods.
Using an optimization solution within your TMS allows you to consolidate shipments across inbound/outbound, business units, locations, and customers. And, “what-if” analytics can enable you to simulate different scenarios to evaluate backhauls, pooling, mode shifting, zone skipping and other real-world constraints.

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