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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
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This blog post was originally published on here.

Valentine’s day is just around the corner and, no offense Cupid, but on this special day, it’s the hard work of manufacturers, logistics providers and the complex supply chain that should be getting all the love.

For example, when you “say it with flowers,” the appeal to the senses is everything. The presentation and aroma create that “wow” reaction on the face of your loved one. Considering the fact that cut flowers are high volume and very perishable products, keeping them cool and delivering them from the field to the lovers’ hands at the right quality requires a very time-sensitive cold chain.

25% of the flowers sold in the EU are imported from outside of the region, mainly from Kenya, Ecuador, and Ethiopia. Throughout this journey, a stable temperature is a must. Storing the cut flowers at the right temperature (2-4 Celsius) keeps them fresh and fragrant for up to 3 weeks. At the end of the day, if the flowers are not perfect, the moment is ruined and the entire effort is wasted.

The condition of the flowers has to be tracked and monitored to prevent temperature fluctuations between refrigerated environments as well as non-refrigerated environments. Since product mistreatment at any stage of the supply chain affects the price of the flowers, various businesses use barcodes and sensor technologies to integrate the information from the supply chain partners. Investing in smart technologies as well as energy-saving technologies helps businesses to save costs and improve customer satisfaction.

A tropical journey from the farm to the star crossed lover can be quite complex. It starts with refrigerated trucks, then to refrigerated rooms for bunching and packaging, then loading into another refrigerated truck to an airport, then moving to a refrigerated cargo plane, then arriving at the refrigerated customs hall. You get the picture. You need to keep them cool.

Making use of a logistics network can help businesses to achieve real-time visibility and transparency, as well as alert supply chain partners for possible product issues beforehand.

From bean to bar: Make sure you double choc your supply chain

While the rich brown gourmet Valentine’s Day chocolate seems a simple treat for this special day, manufacturing and distributing them are anything but simple. Cacao beans are often farmed in the warm climates around the equator line and transported thousands of kilometers away to Europe, the US, and Japan, where the biggest chocolate manufacturers are located.

From the cacao trees to your sweethearts' taste buds, chocolate travels a long distance from raw material to product. The $130B chocolate industry relies on Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, which provide 70% of cocoa production in the world. In these warm climates, there is a high risk of damage to the cocoa crops due to changing weather patterns and global warming.  This was highlighted in the past 12 months when cacao bean production reduced significantly due to dry weather; which caused up to 40% decrease in global supply. Leading players are looking for a way to build a sustainable and ethical cacao supply chain.

When the chocolate is ready to consume, another risk that the supply chain needs to take care of is the temperature fluctuations. Chocolate is very sensitive to temperatures. The optimum temperature for storing chocolate is about 10-18 Celcius. It needs to be properly managed during its journey from the production plant to your loved one, as chocolate should spend its entire life below 18 degrees. When the chocolate is exposed to high moisture or experiences temperature fluctuations, there will be white spots or chalky residue when you unwrap your chocolate bar, which is not appealing to the eye.

Here is a delicious chocolate tip: The easy way of knowing the quality of your chocolate bar is something you can understand by listening to the ‘snap’ when you break it. The sharper it sounds, the higher quality it has. Chocolate manufacturers are aware of the importance of this psychophysical feeling which gives the consumers a satisfying experience. However, achieving this requires more than processing the beans, but managing the logistics across warehousing and distribution of the chocolate properly. With transportation planning usage of global track and trace, businesses can mitigate the possible risks by acting proactively.

Small changes make a big difference: Customized Gifts

Over the past few years, there has been a growing demand for customized products – which can affect the supply chain strategies of businesses quite dramatically. I have already started seeing various ads about personalized books, photo albums, shirts, even soft drinks, and chocolate boxes with written names and various messages on them. Depending on different approaches, businesses have to plan where the customization happens.

Let's take the example of a personalized book to show your love, which is really interesting. (Not that I am expecting one!) You can create two characters named after you and your partner, then choose the reasons you are in love with your partner. Then, the system automatically creates some sketches with the message you choose and make a perfect “love book”. They even deliver the book in a couple of business days with gift wrapping paper. At this point, the customization starts at the manufacturing phase.

The customers are also attracted by the customized messages printed on the chocolate boxes or soft drink cans. The manufacturer can mass-produce products with common names and messages on the products. Well, this sounds simple, but what if you want to go one step further? What about using specialized printers to create more customized messages on demand? In this case, the customization requires a great deal of logistics optimization and great network collaboration rather than manufacturing facilities. The orders can be routed to the printing location which is closest to the end consumer and send out the end product to the customer via a logistics partner.

On 2021 Valentine’s Day, whether you are giving a fresh bouquet of beautiful flowers or personalized chocolate truffles to your loved ones, be sure that you make sustainable choices and thank the complex supply chain that made its safe delivery possible.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

If you’d like to learn more about how organizations can achieve digital supply chain processes in times of disruption, check out the IDC Report, “Resilient Supply Chain for a Disruptive World.