It’s been three years since the UK horse meat scandal - can we trust the food supply chain?
The UK erupted in shock in 2013 when it was discovered that horsemeat had made its way into beef burgers and ready meals. After three years, it is clear that much has changed in the food supply chain while some issues persist.
Muddy Boots’ Greenlight Quality Control system checked over three million items of fresh produce last year, which is an increase of 150 percent since the scandal broke; this system enables all members of the supply chain to easily access, update and share information instantly. Supported by a central database of product specifications, the QC system provides visibility across the board; it is used by around 70 percent of the UK’s fresh produce supply chain.
Mark Powell, Product Development Manager at Muddy Boots said: “Traditionally, the produce would arrive at the supermarket depot and at that point the retailer either accepts and sells the goods, or rejects and discards it. This is a risky and costly approach that makes working efficiently and sustainably a real challenge.
“However, when all members of your supply chain are accessing the same data via Greenlight QC, everyone is clear on the required specification from the get-go; the supplier, and even his suppliers, have confidence that the produce is the appropriate quality for the customer before it’s shipped, and the retailer has confidence that all produce about to arrive at depot is fit for purpose.
This early warning system allows the supplier to identify any produce that the retailer will reject before he ships it, therefore allowing him to redistribute to another customer. The end result is a significant reduction in waste, increase in efficiency, and stronger supply chain relationships.”
While the uptake of this system is undoubtedly a sign that big grocers are taking steps to prevent a repeat of the past (or something worse!) But, for smaller businesses at least, the costs of mapping out entire supply chains can prove to be a massive barrier.
Will Public Procurement Budgets Increase in 2021?
Procurement is more than just a private enterprise. COVID-19 reminded us that sourcing materials is an essential part of the government’s role. Throughout 2022, tiny departments sourced massive amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and emergency vaccines and testing kits. Even non-procurement professionals were pulled into the fray, as frantic timelines demanded nothing less.
According to Celeste Frye, co-founder and CEO of Public Works Partners, the crisis brought procurement to the attention of skilled employees who had never considered it. As non-procurement personnel stepped up to help their coworkers, many found that they’d stumbled upon a critical and rewarding job. “Existing public employees have seen the essential nature of the work”, Frye said. “[They’ve] gained some critical skills and possibly [grown] interested in pursuing procurement as a longer-term career”.
Small, Local Suppliers Take Charge
Frye, whose firm helps organisations engage stakeholders and develop long-term procurement strategies, thinks it well worth the effort to open one’s mind to new opportunities. Cooperative contracts, for instance, can help public departments and municipalities save money, time, and effort. By joining together with other towns or cities in the region, public procurement teams aggregate their purchasing power and can drive better deals.
These cooperative contracts have the added benefit of advancing equity. Smaller suppliers that struggle to compete with established firms for government contracts can act as subcontractors, helping big suppliers fulfil bits of the project. Once they get their foot in the door, small, local, and disadvantaged suppliers can then leverage that government relationship to take on additional projects.
Especially as governments start to pay attention to procurement resilience, public procurement departments must expand their requests for proposals (RFPs) to take into account innovative solutions and diverse suppliers. According to Frye, Public Works Partners—a certified female-owned firm—has benefitted from local and state requirements that specify diversity.
Post-Pandemic Funding Swells Procurement Budgets
And the pandemic won’t be the end of it. City governments need to build sustainable energy infrastructure such as solar panels, charging stations, and recycling plants, ensure that masks and medicines are never in short supply, and source new technologies to keep up with cloud and cybersecurity concerns.
Public procurement budgets will likely increase to match demand. As Peter Ware, Partner and Head of Government at Browne Jacobson, explained, “in a non-pandemic world, the [U.K.] government spends on average around £290 billion on outsourced services, goods, and works...anywhere between 10% and 14% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Post-pandemic, city procurement will only increase as national governments provide local divisions with emergency funding.
And in truth, government employees might jump at the opportunity. Frye noted that public procurement could give immediate feedback on new programmes: “[Procurement] is where new laws and policies ‘hit the road’ and are implemented”, she said. “Professionals in these fields get the satisfaction of creating real change and seeing quantifiable outcomes of their work”.