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The digital journey of an apple - Battle for freshness and customers

The journey of an apple from the tree to the supermarket shelf might be a short one in distance within Austria, but the logistical process is a complex one. Having a look on the supply chain, we would like to explain why a digitization of the supply chain is necessary especially for fresh goods like fruits and vegetables and why this is crucial in the battle for customers.

"When it is harvesting time for apples in autumn, consumers immediately have in mind fresh, crunchy, juicy fruits that are freshly available in the supermarket shelves again. The digital component of the supply chain and the complex processes are almost invisible for the consumer. " Thomas Mayr, CEO LNConsult

As soon as the apples get ripe, the apple farmers and their hard-working harvest workers are on duty to pick the fruits. At the end of the day, the harvest arrives at the wholesaler - there the apples get stored, sorted and packaged. Dozens of apple growers deliver their crops to such wholesalers every day - the incoming crates must therefore be labeled so that the goods remain traceable afterwards. Delivery date, charge number, name of the apple grower, apple type and other data are very important – not only for the wholesaler, but also for the consumer at the end of the supply chain.

The sorting system records further data in the process chain. In the water basin, pictures are taken from all perspectives with the help of high-performance cameras. The goal: determining the quality, checking for damages, measuring and weighing the goods. The apples are then assigned to predefined categories. After that step, the apples get stored, packaged or further processed.

As you can see, data is recorded along the supply chain and - if stored digitally in the cloud - can be used for other processes. Retail logistics, internal logistics, the labeling of goods on the retail shelf and also the end customer benefit from the transparency of digital information.

 The digitization of the supply chain is of enormous importance for the food industry. As soon as goods are perishable, efficient logistical processes are essential. Digitization already plays an important role in agriculture and is growing steadily. Thanks to a closer cooperation among producers, suppliers and dealers and the increasing level of process automation, supply chains of fresh goods can be optimized. The key to success is not lying in the recording of data, but above all in integrating digital systems and processes that are interconnected. The IoT (Internet of Things) can help that the master data generated from production, delivery and product management is accessible from everyone involved in the supply chain.

Trends that make a digital and connected supply chain essential

Speed: The short lead time from the field to the supermarket shelf requires a seamless cooperation among producer, supplier and dealer. Downtimes can be reduced and internal and external transportation routes can be made transparent.

Flexibility: Consumers demand permanent availability of their favorite apples. Dynamic flow of goods management and flexible sourcing are also based on reliable data.

Precision: The automation of processes is only possible through digital data recording and availability. Quality control, warehousing, inventory recording and more can be managed with maximum precision which results in satisfied customers.

Transparency: The producer, the manager of logistics, the retailer and also the end customer need certain information – therefore transparency along the whole supply chain is key. It is important that the data is available in real time and in accurate quality (data security).

Supply chain optimization for fruits and vegetables

The more digital the processes and systems are, the better the overview of goods and inventory can be. How much of what is when and where? Inventory levels can be tracked by using sensors on the shelves or digital price tags. The connection to a digital checkout system can help to automatically re-sort goods as required. Digital solutions also provide information about the change in demand, show seasonal fluctuations, can calculate future requirements based on data and ensure replenishment on time. The goal: Permanent availability, maximum flexibility, highest precision and transparency.