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How a WMS can Help Food Banks

Food security has become a topic of concern that is facing the entire world. Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, climate change, and other factors are having a huge effect on our ability to ensure that people are adequately fed. Every region in the world has been affected by some if not all the factors above.

Currently the world is able to produce 1.5 times the amount of food it needs compared to the global population. Populations though are on the rise, while food production less so. It’s estimated that by 2050 there will be an extra 2 billion people added to the global population. At current estimated rates of future production it will be a struggle to meet global need.

Already we don’t meet the needs of our communities and we produce more than what is required. Stress points are being seen and nowhere is that truer than in food banks, who are on the front lines of the food security issue. Take for example Feeding America, a non-profit whose mission it is to address food insecurity in the United States. They operate approximately 200 food banks and have seen an increase in demand by 50 percent since the beginning on the pandemic. They are at the same time inundated with donations. They are thus presented with several scaling factors: large and increasing footprint, growing demand, and increasing product/donation management. These increased logistical, storage, and demand factors put pressure on their current infrastructure and means, including human resources.

This is representative of only a small portion of the challenges faced by food banks and non-profits the world over. With an ever increasing risk to food security optimizing food bank operations is a must, now.

One high-impact area of optimization is in warehousing. Non-profits face several challenges such as staffing, funding, fluctuation in volunteer labor, and more.

Yet optimizing the warehouse with a modern and robust WMS can improve efficiency and output significantly by as much as 20 to 30 percent*. This relieves stress on the organization, helps with issues of scale, and increases output to those in need. This requires no additional staff, nor investment in costly facilities, and can be implemented immediately.

A WMS provides the tools and features to be able to implement better inventory management. Ultimately a food bank's core role is as a food manager, requisitioner, and distributer. Not dissimilar, in principle, to conventional grocers. A WMS provides non-profits the same ability to accurately track and record what and when product is brought in. Categorize that product, store it correctly, and distribute it effectively so that it has the greatest impact. As well by implementing concepts like allocation rules or implementing lot and expiry tracking less product is wasted. And if demand ramps up, or fluctuations in donated goods occur the organization can instantly react to and manage variables. On top of this with accurate tracking comes with it accurate data, which allows the non-profit to effectively report on their operations. These data reports allow for advanced planning, as well as finding areas of improvement.

Akatia Technologies has been partnering with non-profits to help them in transforming their warehouse operations so that they can meet the current and future challenges facing them. We’ve had terrific success in partnering with organizations like Goodwill and Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. By implementing our WAM warehouse management application on Salesforce they’ve been able to implement technologies like cloud WMS and mobile scanning. As well they’ve taken advantage of WAM’s feature rich suite of tools and functionality like kitting, lot and expiry tracking, reporting, allocation rules, warehouse routing, multi-warehouse management, and more. They been able to find huge gains through efficiency and proper best practice inventory management concepts. Yet most important was WAM’s ability to meet their specific needs by being configurable to their requirements. They knew their operations and community best and WAM was able to help them improve in the areas they had pinpointed.

Akatia had a terrific opportunity to deliver a talk at Dreamforce 2022’s Zero Hunger Summit. We presented Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s customer story and how inventory management could help in solving the food security problem facing the world. Inter-Faith Food Shuttle are a great example of a non-profit food bank exploiting new WMS technology to meet the new and growing challenges facing them. We came away from the event inspired to do more for non-profits. With that in mind we’ve put together the “Doing Good for Good” non-profit program, the details of which you can find here,

Ultimately there are a lot of challenges facing food banks and the greater issue of food security. A lot of work is still to be done. WMS and inventory management is just one part of the solution. But by maximizing all the tools and implementing the strategies we possibly can to tackle this issue we can succeed. And Akatia is committed to helping.

*Source: McKinsey and Company


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