Information is power. And when it comes to choosing the food we eat, we have a fairly good amount of power: ingredients, nutrition breakdown, and use-by dates. But what about the origin of that steak you’re about to buy?
Do you have a good view of where it actually comes from?
How fresh is it really?
And are you sure it’s safe from contamination?
Golden State Foods (GSF), one of the world’s largest diversified food service providers, is tackling this problem using the latest technology and innovative ideas. Guilda Javaheri, Chief Technology Officer at GSF presented their story at Procurement Innovation Festival 2019, a two-day event that celebrates the latest technology and ideas transforming procurement.
Guilda outlined how they can potentially provide end-to-end view of their supply chain using blockchain, IoT and advanced analytics, to empower consumers to make the right choice about the food they eat. This initiative has recently been recognised in the Financial Times’ Intelligent Business Awards in the Supply Chain category.
Addressing over 250 procurement professionals, she painted an inspiring vision for the future of supply chain. “Imagine being able to use your phone to scan the barcode of the product you’re about to buy.
“You’d have all the information about the product from farm to fork. How powerful would that be?”
Who is Golden State Foods?
GSF services over 120,000 restaurants in over 40 countries, on five continents. If you’ve ever had a Latte or made a late-night KFC run, you’ve most likely tasted one of their products. Their core businesses include manufacturing of liquid products, protein, dairy, produce, and full line logistics.
GSF’s vision is to use blockchain to reshape the traditional supply chain from linear, one-up, one-down visibility, to a tightly coupled ecosystem that is information-rich, collaborative and instantaneous.
“We want every node within the supply chain to be transacted in a secured, immutable, and trusted manner.” Guilda says, describing this vision as “bold but feasible”.
To make this vision a reality, GSF are using technologies like blockchain, IoT and advanced analytics.
Blockchain a “Transformative” Technology for Procurement
Guilda shies away from describing blockchain in terms of its technology, instead focusing on the value it brings to the industry.
“You’ve probably heard blockchain described as a distributed ledger followed by some terms like smart contracts and hashing notes. While all these terms are really exciting and interesting, to me they really fall short of truly describing the transformative nature of this technology”.
“At GSF we talk about blockchain in terms of trust, immutability, and team play.”
Guilda points out that applying this technology to our food supply chains to tackle problems that impact everyone, gives us a higher appreciation for its value.
Using Blockchain to Improve Food Freshness
GSF started their blockchain journey with a design thinking workshop to uncover what end-consumer ultimately cares about. What emerged was a growing desire from consumers to ensure the freshness of food and an effort to eliminate food waste.
According to the World Health Organisation:
- An estimated 600 million (almost 1 in 10 people) in the world fall ill after eating contaminated food.
- Children under 5 years of age carry the majority of the foodborne disease burden, with 125,000 dying every year.
- One third of all food produced is lost or wasted – around 1.3 billion tonnes– costing the global economy close to $940 billion each year.
The GSF team hypothesized that they could reduce these numbers by using blockchain, IOT and advanced analytics technologies to track, trace, and monitor their product’s freshness as it moved through the supply chain.
To prove this hypothesis, the team needed to get insights rapidly which meant controlling the initial scope of the project. “The team adopted the mantra ‘think big, start small, act fast’. We decided to start with our beef products and focus on the area that we have the most control over in our supply chain which was manufacturing, warehousing and logistics,” Guilda explained.
Watch this video for the details of GSF’s blockchain project:
- Blockchain enables participants to share this data with the network while automating business process orchestration.
- RFID provides near real-time, case-level, product movement visibility.
- IoT sensors provide temperature data as well as independently verifying receipt versus shipment without any manual intervention.
Unexpected Insights Along the Way
As the team were monitoring this movement, they were rewarded with some unexpected insights.
“We initially wanted to track, trace, and monitor the temperature, but suddenly we were able also to look at inventory and have instantaneous information about the shelf life of the product at different stages of the supply chain,” Guilda explains.
“I have been in IT for over 20 years and I don’t know of many systems that give you that kind of information.” Guilda says that was another big “aha” moment in terms of what blockchain technology could do for the supply chain.
Data Integrity and Common Language are Key
Maintaining data integrity throughout this process was very important, Guilda stressed. The team developed programmes to extract data from their legacy system and IOT devices without manual intervention, as well as adopting GS1 data and transaction standards.
“We wanted to make sure that our business units speak the same language. But at the same time we didn’t want to disturb the business so we did this work in parallel to business operations.”
Guilda finished up with some valuable takeaways:
- Think big, start small, act fast: Challenge the status quo and reimagine your supply chain. Start small by addressing a particular pain point. And don’t try to reinvent the wheel, instead partner with an industry expert that has the courage to push the boundaries with innovation.
- IOT will continue to bury us all in data: Try to leverage your existing data to connect your ecosystem.
- Balance the hype with reality: The opportunity is as broad as your imagination, but don’t try to boil the ocean. No matter how small the outcome is, just get started. You’ll find the learnings will snowball.
“It’s not about just digitising your supply chain” Guilda reminds the Procurement Innovation Festival crowd. “You’re going to ultimately have the right product at the right time at the right place. Can you imagine how much waste today can be prevented with that kind of information? That’s what makes this pilot unique. Manufacturing, distribution and customers are sharing the data and that is really the common goal that everyone is striving towards.”
Hear more from trailblazing organisations like Golden State Foods at Procurement Innovation Festival, 15-16 June 2020, Luna Park Sydney. Join our mailing list and we’ll send you the latest thought leadership, speaker updates and ticket specials.
About the Author
Guilda Javaheri is the Chief Technology Officer, responsible for establishing the Innovation and Digital Solutions center at Golden State Foods, one of the largest, diversified suppliers to the quick service restaurant industry. Guilda works with customers to shape their strategy while crafting digital solutions that leverage leading edge technology across the ecosystem, which includes promoting business agility and creating differentiation strategies to advance strategic and tactical objectives.