Increasing Supply Chain Visibility: A Path to Improved Collaboration and Efficiency

Soiltech_BlogImage_SupplyChainMainSupply chains involve multiple stakeholders, from farmers and processors to manufacturers and retailers. This complexity often leads to disconnects and misunderstandings, resulting in inefficiencies and wasted resources. The key to addressing these challenges is increasing supply chain visibility through technology and collaboration.

Blame game vs. effective supply chain management

Supply chains consist of many parties: there are farmers and processors, and then there are the people who turn the crops into food and package them for sale. Because of all the contributors, there are often multiple disconnects along the way. One of the most evident ones is the blame game.

For example, when trucking harvested potatoes from a field to a processing plant. Somewhere along the way, the crop goes bad, and the processor might blame the trucker, who might blame the farmer, who might then blame the processor. On the one hand, it’s important to know where the issue materialized, but on the other hand, we really want to understand how to avoid the crisis altogether.

“Not knowing where the issue came from is bad for everyone, from the farmers who believe in the quality of their product to retailers. It costs money and time, and everyone loses. But in reality, there are a lot of factors that can play into things going wrong, and if you don't know where the problems occur, you can't fix them,” said Ehsan Soltan, Founder and CEO at Soiltech Wireless.

The most straightforward solution is a unified source of objective, real-time data that provides insights into potential issues, such as crop damage or loss or improper transportation conditions. This data enables proactive measures to be taken before problems escalate.

What optimal supply chain visibility looks like

Optimal supply chain visibility is based on transparency and collaboration, not finger-pointing. Ultimately, everybody wants the same thing—for their operation to succeed. One way to achieve this is to adopt a single device that captures information and makes it readily accessible to everybody throughout the supply chain process, from the farmer to the processor and eventually onto store shelves.

McKinsey & Company proposed a next-normal model of strategically enhanced supply chains, where resilience, agility, and sustainability complete the traditional approach. Although associated with different industry types, these new dimensions are easily achieved with the Soiltech solutions suite. Proactively managing growth, transportation, and processing all on one easy-to-use platform adds to implementation efficiency, which most industries don’t have the benefit of enjoying. 

We haven't always had the luxury of mobile devices and sensors that can move seamlessly throughout the whole supply chain. So, this simple yet crucial act of knowing something that you might not have understood before makes a tremendous difference. Objective data on where and when problems arise allows everyone in the supply chain to focus on quick resolution rather than time-wasting accusations.

“It is entirely possible to reduce and even avoid crop loss or damage by relying on a device that follows the crop through its entire lifecycle. Although there is no perfect solution, I believe that a single source of truth like our Beacon, across the whole supply chain can be a great first step to improving both supply chain visibility and resilience,” said Ehsan.

The next stage is to combine data transparency with collaboration. The relationship between the farmer and the processor can get combative, which partially makes sense because it's contractual. But working together instead of against each other could lead to better outcomes. There will be compromises on both sides, and there will be an agreed-upon expectation that some things might go wrong, but it will be for the greater good because that’s how problem areas are identified and addressed.

Enhanced supply chain visibility with Soiltech

The Soiltech Beacon is productive right out of the box and can be placed prior to seeding, accompanying the crop through the very first stages of growth. Immediately upon deployment, it then begins to supply real-time environmental data from the field, allowing farmers to optimize water and other inputs, reduce labor costs, and enhance sustainability.

All the data the device collects plays a critical role in tracing back potential root causes of problems that occur later down the road, issues you might not have been able to correlate without those crucial insights.

For example, Beacon collects soil moisture data immediately before harvest, which can impact how the crop is stored. If it comes into the storage facility too wet, it's at higher risk of rot, hotspots, or disease. Without the device, the crop's moisture at harvest wouldn’t be recorded, affecting the rest of the supply chain.

The Beacon is carried through the harvest process so you can trace what happened in the field, trucking, and into storage. And it’s not merely moving along with the crop. At every stage of that process, it provides data to all those integrated into the system.

It tells you what the temperature and humidity are in the truck as it moves from the field to the processing plant or to the storage facility. The device then stays in storage as long as needed to monitor crucial conditions, including atmospheric gas concentrations, to help ensure the crop is of the best quality for the next stages of processing.

Final thoughts 

You never know what data will ultimately improve or, in some cases, save your crop. So, the very first step to increasing supply chain visibility, not to mention viability, is being open to new solutions that can uncover previously unavailable potential.

There are still the obvious things, like if it's too hot, the potatoes are likely to rot. But we can now go far beyond that to understand what is causing an impact that you could correlate later on by investing in accurate, action-ready, and easy-to-use technology.

“We have the Beacon, which is already creating foundational value. Beyond that, we have affordable add-ons to our device, which add extra return on investment and can unlock many different insights that might not have been available before,” said Ehsan.

Connect with us to learn how Soiltech Wireless solutions can help increase transparency and visibility in your supply chain.