When a two-week community quarantine was first imposed in March to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country, panic buying, goods hoarding and supermarkets with empty shelves dominated the news. Food security and safety immediately became top concerns, especially with transport restrictions directly affecting the delivery, supply, price and quality of goods.
Food producers all over the country are highly affected by strict transport restrictions: Farmers in Quezon province sold their produce at lower prices because they could not bring them to other towns to sell while fisherfolk in Palawan lost income due to decreasing demand for seafood and inability to sell their catch. With the continuous transport disruptions hampering trading, delivery of summer fruits to high-demand areas that farmers depend on for mid-year profit was also compromised, as was the supply of other key food products needed for daily consumption.
The reimplementation of the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) in Greater Manila area in August translated into a decline in demand for fresh produce with additional major consumers of fresh goods such as restaurants and hotels closed, which in turn meant a drop in the income of farmers slowly beginning to recover from the impact of the earlier quarantine restrictions. Adding to these concerns is the question of how food quality can be maintained given the long delays in the transport of fresh goods.
To help food producers such as farmers and fisherfolk market their goods and address the dearth in supply in other key cities due to lack of food delivery mechanisms and limited transport, the national and local governments and private groups have initiated several efforts such as roving markets, food trucks and online platforms that allow customers to directly communicate with farmers. These projects also aim to answer food quality and safety concerns. The Department of Agriculture has also launched online seminars on growing one’s own food and has been distributing seeds for backyard farming.
The ongoing pandemic underscores the need to assess the country’s food security for the long run. To ensure long-term food security and high quality of food and perishable items, stop-gap approaches will not do and stronger, longer-impact programs and measures are needed. These may include establishing an efficient system of tracking, tracing and storing shipments and maintaining modernized warehousing facilities. Investing in cold chain facilities armed with the latest automated warehouse management system (WMS) that enables companies to closely monitor and oversee processes from picking, storage through delivery in real-time addresses the needs of the times and is more adaptable and sustainable.
Unhampered movement of products
A continuous movement of goods is the best way to sustain the prices and supply of agriculture and fishery products in the country. It helps address the concerns of all stakeholders – farmers and fisherfolk get to send their produce and catch to other areas and earn some income for their families while consumers have access to food items. Metro Manila, which has the most COVID-19 cases in the country, and other cities dependent on outside sources for their food requirements will greatly benefit from unhampered movement of food supplies.
AEB, a Germany-based logistics software specialist with 40 years of experience in global trade, logistics and IT, acknowledges the value of cold chain facilities with the right system in helping address food supply and security. The company understands the advantages of real time paperless systems and the urgency of the implementation of zero-touch policies to reduce the chances of contact and spread of the virus, making them ideal for use during this pandemic and even after this global scare.
With more than 5,000 customers worldwide, AEB has a global view of how cold chain processes affect food quality. Its WMS suite caters to the needs of cold chain storage companies looking for unique and advanced features and state-of-the-art interfaces for future automated warehouse processes such as ASRS.
“We developed our cloud-based WMS with our customers and have implemented best practices from the industry. The goal is always to exceed expectations and elevate their experiences — in this case with food, to help them navigate the changes brought by the pandemic,” said Francis Kok, AEB Asia Pacific general manager.
Making cold chains agile, smart
Warehouse management systems enable a more efficient handling of cold chain facilities, ensuring proper product storage and handling for suppliers and best-quality products for the end-users. Through WMS, cold chain facilities can easily adapt to market and business demands.
AEB’s cold chain WMS features blast freezer receiving, allowing simultaneous physical and system handling of frozen food items in a fast and continuous manner. It also consistently follows strict inventory storage rules, improving space utilization and increasing storage capacity, thereby resulting in a more efficient picking strategy.
As AEB’s cold chain WMS provides support for different picking strategies, it enables companies to benefit from better picking performance and 99 percent pick accuracy. AEB’s system identifies stocks for picking using strategies such as First In, First Out (FIFO), Last In, First Out (LIFO) and First Expired, First Out (FEFO) to prioritize items to fill entire orders. It optimizes space allocation and travel time, helping cut delivery lead time and order accuracy error, which results in higher customer satisfaction.
Equipped with unique capabilities and backed by greener supply chains, AEB’s WMS allows businesses to gain a competitive advantage in the growing cold chain industry in the Philippines. One of AEB’s local customers, South Alps, attests to the advantages of integrating an effective cold chain WMS to its operations.
“As we gear up for the future of the cold chain industry here in the country, we equip ourselves with solutions to be able to serve our customers better. AEB’s WMS has been key in improving our efficiency and productivity and raising the quality of our service to our clients,” South Alps President Mark Patrick Go says.
AEB will be at the forefront of the future of goods handling as the pandemic forces the country to confront ongoing food security and safety issues. In support of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF) 2021 plan of funding the enhancement and construction of logistics and road infrastructures such as cold chain, warehouse and refrigeration facilities, AEB’s cold chain WMS will enable the company to continuously refine its services to match the changing needs of customers across the country.