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The Role Of Technology In Retail Food Sustainability

Joerg Koesters

You know your business. You’re an expert in what to expect from your customers, marketing campaigns, supply chain logistics, and IT developments within your field. But there are a lot of new concepts and technologies out there that impact the retail market and food sustainability. Let’s take a quick look at how technology is shaping each of these areas.

Social media and the generation gap

Social media is a hot buzzword right now, but many people in business leadership fail to appreciate the role social media plays in building their brand and their business. We have social media marketing, but it can also be a tool for gathering intelligence on potential issues that arise due to a recall or disease outbreak. However, the data gathered still needs to be handled logically. Gone are the days when a business would hire a couple college kids to respond to queries on social media. Instead, having your social media profiles connected to analytics helps you more quickly determine when you’re dealing with business as usual versus a serious PR nightmare.

But beyond social media, the focus consumers have on food is changing as the generations pass the torch to the next generation. Though we’re often focused on Generation X consumers, due to their position at the top of their earning potential, Generation Z consumers have a radically different view of food retail. In Switzerland, the dairy industry that has remained unchanged for centuries is now facing digitalization, transparency and traceability, potentially to the point of which region, farm, or even cow from which the consumer’s milk comes.

Digital transformation

Another hot trend is digital transformation or digitization of businesses. From farmers in developing countries who use mobile devices to verify the weather conditions for the next few days to utilities that are able to better expand and invest in their infrastructure to power farms, digitization has the opportunity to revolutionize our world.

Imagine a supply chain that starts with a connected farmer in a developing country. Digitization allows for mobile device connectivity, so the farmer can determine what needs to be done about a pest in the field. Sensors allow a grain elevator to estimate what the season’s yield will be, allowing for better distribution of bulk food ingredients around the globe. A manufacturer can use analytics to determine points of peak demand, giving them flexibility with just-in-time supply chain management. A store can use connectivity to determine exactly where produce or meats have come from during a recall. Consumers know they’re getting the best food for their families.

Personalization and 3D printing

Another driving trend in food is personalization. Whether it’s food that meets a hot new diet or doesn’t have allergens that cause health problems for much of the developed world, today’s consumer wants their food their way. As the Internet is bringing people together from across the globe, families with children who face the challenges of ADHD, for example, spoke out and demanded equal food quality to that being developed in Europe. Many children with ADHD have problems with hyperactivity caused by artificial food dyes. In Europe, these dyes have fallen under strict regulation, requiring foods that contain the dyes to be labeled similar to how alcohol and tobacco is in the U.S. Upon learning this, U.S. families demanded through a Change.org petition that a particular candy manufacturer stop using artificial food dyes in its candy.

Another trend in personalization is the advent of the 3D printer. No longer a simple gimmick to experiment with, the 3D printer has become an essential shop-floor tool in large and small businesses worldwide. Why? Because it makes it much more feasible for the average customer to afford the exact specifications they want in their food. Imagine a supermarket where a customer can simply walk up to a kiosk, request a pound of gluten-free, garlic-parmesan flavored pasta that is fortified with vitamins and is available in a number of child-friendly shapes. Instead of having an entire row of pastas, the kiosk only takes up a few square feet while still delivering a wide range of options, from economical to gourmet.

Sustainability

You’ve probably heard plenty about sustainability over the past few years. As a hot new buzzword, it’s regularly thrown into conversations whether it’s really understood or not. You know that climate change is turning into a problem for your suppliers as the weather becomes increasingly unpredictable, making it difficult to forecast potential crop yields in the long term, but what about in the short term? With your customers’ access to and interest in sustainability initiatives, your company needs to provide the information they need on what you’re doing to keep our world running. But can sustainability be good for your business? The answer is a resounding yes!

Many retailers may be unaware of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. This initiative among member nations is focused on ending hunger, improving nutrition, improving food security, and promoting sustainable agriculture across the world. Currently, half a billion small farms provide 80% of the food for developing nations. Rural development will help increase the output of small farms to meet some of the world’s rising demand. It’s estimated that today, 795 million people are undernourished, and projections show that our world’s population will grow by another two billion by 2050. How will we feed everyone? Sustainability feeds not only today’s generation, but it ensures that the capability remains to feed tomorrow’s generations as well.

Adapting to the latest trends

Though many companies are currently holding their own, how much longer will that option be viable? Food delivery, better convenience store foods, and healthy fast-food chains are all gaining ground in the market. To remain competitive, you need to understand that these seemingly esoteric, theoretical concepts can and will make a tangible impact on how food is grown, transported, personalized, and delivered in the future.

For example, let’s look at online grocery shopping. This trend has been growing wildly in the past few years, with the percentage of U.S. households that have purchased groceries online increasing from 11% in 2013 to 21% in 2015. These households are also shopping differently online compared to in-store shopping, and busy households are increasingly shopping for specific products or setting up subscription-based shopping. How does a traditional grocery store keep customers coming to a brick-and-mortar store when faced with these competitors?

I know you’re busy running your business on a day to day basis, but you can see the additional levels of complexity in these topics that you need to understand to drive future revenue. To remain competitive, you need to improve your customers’ brand loyalty and grow your companys’ market share. By getting a better grip on these topics’ complexity, you’ll be able to address those concerns with a deeper understanding of the latest trends.

At SAP, we believe in helping our clients get the tools they need to stay ahead of the latest trends in their industries. Our upcoming SAP Future of Food Forum is an online series of virtual live discussions, with the first session on October 18. Among the topics we’ll cover during these discussions is the role being played by technology in terms of food sustainability.

To learn more about food sustainability and topics around the future of food, please join our virtual forum.

 

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About Joerg Koesters

Joerg Koesters is the Head of Retail Marketing and Communication at SAP. He is a Technology Marketing executive with 20 years of experience in Marketing, Sales and Consulting, Joerg has deep knowledge in retail and consumer products having worked both in the industry and in the technology sector.

It’s Time To Replace The Aging Roadway Infrastructure

Megan Ray Nichols

Rhode Island is one of the smallest states in the U.S., yet more than 56% of its bridges are deficient. Its roads aren’t any better. According to estimates, the state’s neglected roads cost drivers $637 a year in vehicle repairs, making it just one example of why the U.S. received a D+ grade in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2017 U.S. infrastructure report card. The report scored bridges with a C+, while roads earned a D.

Due to limited funding from state and federal governments, roads with poor conditions are rampant throughout the United States, with 23 states having more than 50% of their roads graded as deficient. Of those states, six have more than 70% of their roads in disrepair.

According to estimates, more than 3 trillion miles were traveled on U.S. roadways in 2016. Overall vehicle travel has also increased, putting even more pressure on a weakened infrastructure. Higher travel rates, weather, and weather treatments like de-icing chemicals all contribute to a road’s aging. It’s the overall lack of maintenance, however, that eventually makes roads deficient.

Meanwhile, bridges marked as deficient are still used for travel. In fact, 188 million trips were made across structurally unsound bridges in 2016, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Bridges, which degrade from weather, chemicals, and repeated travel, also break down because of low-quality materials used in their initial construction. Age is a particularly significant factor for bridges: most are designed to last between 50 to 100 years, and nearly four out of 10 bridges in the U.S. are now 50 years or older.

How bridges and roads are inspected

Inspections of roads and bridges confirm the urgent need for repairs and maintenance. Commercial divers often inspect bridges, because wear and tear occurs beneath the water’s surface as well as above it. Divers look for erosion from sand and sediment, along with cracks from stress or signs of an eventual break. However, this method can be expensive and ineffective due to limited visibility and concerns about safety and security.

New technology, such as acoustic imaging and remotely operated vehicles, helps divers focus their efforts. The sonar technology of underwater drones also alerts teams to potential obstructions or dangers divers might otherwise miss due to poor visibility.

Drones can also provide live video feeds, allowing crews to assess and analyze visuals, which divers can use as a reference. Teams can then order any necessary parts or materials to start repairs more quickly and effectively. Underwater drones can also assist during repairs, providing workers on land with a live video stream to monitor the dive team’s safety and progress.

Road inspections are often completed with machine testing and computer-analyzed video of roadways. Computers analyzing these videos log cracks and surface wear to develop pavement condition reports, which workers can compare to previous years. Machines such as miniature trailers are used to test a road’s friction, smoothness, and pavement structure. Some travelers notice factors such as road smoothness and friction, or how much their tires are sticking to the pavement.

Pavement structure is an important test because it shows if a road can handle the weight and volume of its daily traffic. When the structure fails, it can cause potholes. Machine testing contributes to computer-analyzed databases offering information about specific areas prone to wear.

Inspections and technology are crucial to developing maintenance and repair plans for bridges and roads throughout the U.S., but how to fund these repairs is an unanswered question.

How will state and federal governments replace bridges and roads?

Federal and state governments’ primary source of funding to replace and repair U.S. bridges and roads is, of course, taxes. The federal gas tax, which was passed in 1932, was designed to fund the maintenance, repair, and construction of U.S. infrastructure. Fast-forward 85 years, and lawmakers have increased this tax only 10 times. Today, the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon, and its last increase was more than 20 years ago. Rhode Island and at least 17 other states, however, have begun to increase their taxes to support infrastructure.

Private investment is another possible solution to address crumbling U.S. bridges and roads, an option that is being considered by the Trump Administration. Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition, is directed toward earning infrastructure investments from outside sources, as tolls are not an option for all of America’s bridges and roads.

How the U.S. government will proceed with repairs to bridges and roads is still to be determined. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates the cost of repairing U.S. roads and bridges at $836 billion and $123 billion, respectively. And that cost will only increase, as strained budgets continue to prevent regular preventative maintenance that could have helped prevent the country’s current infrastructure crisis in the first place.

For more on how technology innovation can help solve societal problems, see Devices For The Digital Economy: Frugal Innovation.

Image source: Pixabay 

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About Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and the editor of "Schooled By Science." She enjoys researching the latest advances in technology and writes regularly for Datafloq, Colocation American, and Vision Times. You can follow Megan on Twitter.

Devices for the Digital Economy: Frugal Innovation

Danielle Beurteaux

Basic Utilities

Millions of people around the world still lack consistent access to the basics of modern life. They also lack resources to build conventional infrastructure in order to obtain essentials such as water and a consistent supply of electricity. Enter frugal innovation—a process for simplifying complex technologies so they are less expensive to produce and operate. Two startups have devised affordable systems that give people access to essential utilities.

Waterpoint Data Transmitter

About 780 million people, mainly in rural locations, don’t have indoor plumbing. Instead, they rely on hand pumps to access groundwater. Sooner or later, these hand pumps break and often aren’t fixed due to lack of parts and know-how. By some estimates, one-third of pumps aren’t functioning at any given time.

OxWater, a startup launched from Oxford University, has a solution that incorporates basic cell phone technology. The Waterpoint Data Transmitter is a monitoring device that communities deploy to track pump usage. If a pump stops working, a local, trained repair team receives a notification to fix it. The device also provides predictions of which pumps are likely to break and reports low water levels. A pilot project in Kenya showed a dramatic reduction in repair times, from an average of 37 days down to just two.

Quad

Solar power has become an important technology for people living in off-the-grid rural environments. But once the sun goes down, or during spells of cloudy days, the solar panels may not generate enough electricity. That often means a return to inefficient and unsafe solutions, such as kerosene lamps for lighting.

Azuri Technologies has developed a simple, independent system that enables solar users to adapt the amount of power they use according to the amount of energy they generate. The Quad is a small wall-mounted unit that’s wired to a solar panel that comes with a USB port for mobile phone charging. The system uses the company’s HomeSmart technology to monitor local weather patterns and learn consumers’ energy usage. Then, based on available energy, it automatically regulates the amount of power used for lighting (by, for example, adjusting brightness) and battery charging.

A 5-watt system costs about US$156, which users can pay off weekly using a mobile money account. Once they own the unit, they can generate power at no cost. Since its launch in Kenya in 2011, 90,000 Quads have been purchased in 12 African countries.

Digital Rescue

Preventing disasters and delivering aid when they do hit are difficult in isolated locations, where there aren’t enough services that enable quick reaction. Complexity and cost can also keep aid from reaching its targets. These startups are using frugal technology in imaginative ways to issue alerts of impending problems and deliver help to people in need.

Pouncer

Disaster relief is an uphill race against the clock. Whether responding to a natural disaster, war, or famine, aid workers must assemble and deliver supplies, navigate around natural obstacles, avoid thieves, and stay safe. Windhorse Aerospace has developed POUNCER, a disposable drone, to address these problems.

Designed for takeoff from a C-130 Hercules military transport plane and guided using a built-in GPS, POUNCER can be launched from up to 40 kilometers from its destination, with a landing accuracy of within 7 meters. The drone can carry enough food and water rations for 50 people. What’s more, every part is reusable and disposable. For example, the frame, which has a 3-meter wingspan, can be used for shelter or burned for fuel (Windhorse is meanwhile looking to develop an edible frame). Because the entire unit is designed for on-site use, there’s also no cost or peril involved in recovering it from the disaster area.

Lumkani

Many of the world’s poor live in shacks that are built very close together, and they lack electricity. As a result, they rely heavily on open flames for light, heat, and cooking, creating a high risk of fire. But conventional smoke detectors can’t be relied on in places that are already smoky. One devastating fire in Cape Town, South Africa, prompted a group of local university students to design a fire detection device specifically for these environments.

The Lumkani detector is a small wall-mounted unit that runs on batteries and, instead of being triggered by smoke, detects fires by monitoring temperature increases. The detectors use basic radio frequency technology to link all units within a 60-meter radius to a mesh network, which enables early warning alerts for the surrounding inhabitants. The $7 device also stores GPS coordinates, sends warning texts to residents, and can self-monitor the operating health of the whole linked system. Lumkani is working on a way to send real-time data to local emergency response units.

Data at the Digital Frontier

Do you own the land you’re farming? When will the next rainstorm hit? These are basic questions, but for some people living in emerging economies, they’re not so easy to answer. Startups are using clever designs and simple interfaces to provide the information that rural communities need to thrive.

FarmSeal

For millions of small landowners around the world, verifying a legal claim to their land is a complex, expensive, and practically insurmountable process. And without documentation that proves that they own their land, protecting their property rights is nearly impossible, as is getting loans to expand their land holdings and businesses.

Landmapp, based in Amsterdam and operating in Ghana, has developed a mobile platform to make mapping and filing claims accessible to small landowners. The company educates farmers about property rights and then, for a small fee, uses its own platform to record and legally validate land ownership. Landmapp uses geospatial technology and cloud data on a tablet, meaning they don’t need fancy and expensive surveying equipment. FarmSeal, Landmapp’s first product, serves farmers; the company is also launching HomeSeal, for homeowners, and CropSeal, for sharecroppers and landowners. The startup’s platform incorporates local government, legal, and traditional community agreements, and is customizable for different locales.

3D-Printed Weather Stations

Weather data drives numerous economic and public safety decisions. But in many countries, a scarcity of weather stations means no data about vast geographic areas. Unfortunately, conventional weather stations are expensive, costing upwards of $20,000 per unit. In emerging economies, governments and rural communities don’t have the resources or training to buy and maintain them.

At the nonprofit university consortium University Corporation for Academic Research, researchers are leveraging 3D printing to fill the weather gap. They’ve devised a weather station that local government agencies can install in rural communities. The units use off-the-shelf, basic sensors, store data on a small computer, and run on energy generated by a single solar panel. The local agencies have 3D printers to create other parts, including the frame and wind gauges, which can be easily customized or replaced.

The cost? About $300. And beyond letting communities know when, for example, rain is on the horizon, the unit can also be a first alert for natural disasters, like floods.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

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Taking Learning Back to School

Dan Wellers

 

Denmark spends most GDP on labor market programs at 3.3%.
The U.S. spends only 0.1% of it’s GDP on adult education and workforce retraining.
The number of post-secondary vocational and training institutions in China more than doubled from 2000 to 2014.
47% of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation.

Our overarching approach to education is top down, inflexible, and front loaded in life, and does not encourage collaboration.

Smartphone apps that gamify learning or deliver lessons in small bits of free time can be effective tools for teaching. However, they don’t address the more pressing issue that the future is digital and those whose skills are outmoded will be left behind.

Many companies have a history of effective partnerships with local schools to expand their talent pool, but these efforts are not designed to change overall systems of learning.


The Question We Must Answer

What will we do when digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence eject vast numbers of people from their current jobs, and they lack the skills needed to find new ones?

Solutions could include:

  • National and multinational adult education programs
  • Greater investment in technical and vocational schools
  • Increased emphasis on apprenticeships
  • Tax incentives for initiatives proven to close skills gaps

We need a broad, systemic approach that breaks businesses, schools, governments, and other organizations that target adult learners out of their silos so they can work together. Chief learning officers (CLOs) can spearhead this approach by working together to create goals, benchmarks, and strategy.

Advancing the field of learning will help every business compete in an increasingly global economy with a tight market for skills. More than this, it will mitigate the workplace risks and challenges inherent in the digital economy, thus positively influencing the future of business itself.


Download the executive brief Taking Learning Back to School.


Read the full article The Future of Learning – Keeping up With The Digital Economy

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About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is the Global Lead of Digital Futures at SAP, which explores how organizations can anticipate the future impact of exponential technologies. Dan has extensive experience in technology marketing and business strategy, plus management, consulting, and sales.

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Why Millennials Quit: Understanding A New Workforce

Shelly Kramer

Millennials are like mobile devices: they’re everywhere. You can’t visit a coffee shop without encountering both in large numbers. But after all, who doesn’t like a little caffeine with their connectivity? The point is that you should be paying attention to millennials now more than ever because they have surpassed Boomers and Gen-Xers as the largest generation.

Unfortunately for the workforce, they’re also the generation most likely to quit. Let’s examine a new report that sheds some light on exactly why that is—and what you can do to keep millennial employees working for you longer.

New workforce, new values

Deloitte found that two out of three millennials are expected to leave their current jobs by 2020. The survey also found that a staggering one in four would probably move on in the next year alone.

If you’re a business owner, consider putting four of your millennial employees in a room. Take a look around—one of them will be gone next year. Besides their skills and contributions, you’ve also lost time and resources spent by onboarding and training those employees—a very costly process. According to a new report from XYZ University, turnover costs U.S. companies a whopping $30.5 billion annually.

Let’s take a step back and look at this new workforce with new priorities and values.

Everything about millennials is different, from how to market to them as consumers to how you treat them as employees. The catalyst for this shift is the difference in what they value most. Millennials grew up with technology at their fingertips and are the most highly educated generation to date. Many have delayed marriage and/or parenthood in favor of pursuing their careers, which aren’t always about having a great paycheck (although that helps). Instead, it may be more that the core values of your business (like sustainability, for example) or its mission are the reasons that millennials stick around at the same job or look for opportunities elsewhere. Consider this: How invested are they in their work? Are they bored? What does their work/life balance look like? Do they have advancement opportunities?

Ping-pong tables and bringing your dog to work might be trendy, but they aren’t the solution to retaining a millennial workforce. So why exactly are they quitting? Let’s take a look at the data.

Millennials’ common reasons for quitting

In order to gain more insight into the problem of millennial turnover, XYZ University surveyed more than 500 respondents between the ages of 21 and 34 years old. There was a good mix of men and women, college grads versus high school grads, and entry-level employees versus managers. We’re all dying to know: Why did they quit? Here are the most popular reasons, some in their own words:

  • Millennials are risk-takers. XYZ University attributes this affection for risk taking with the fact that millennials essentially came of age during the recession. Surveyed millennials reported this experience made them wary of spending decades working at one company only to be potentially laid off.
  • They are focused on education. More than one-third of millennials hold college degrees. Those seeking advanced degrees can find themselves struggling to finish school while holding down a job, necessitating odd hours or more than one part-time gig. As a whole, this generation is entering the job market later, with higher degrees and higher debt.
  • They don’t want just any job—they want one that fits. In an age where both startups and seasoned companies are enjoying success, there is no shortage of job opportunities. As such, they’re often looking for one that suits their identity and their goals, not just the one that comes up first in an online search. Interestingly, job fit is often prioritized over job pay for millennials. Don’t forget, if they have to start their own company, they will—the average age for millennial entrepreneurs is 27.
  • They want skills that make them competitive. Many millennials enjoy the challenge that accompanies competition, so wearing many hats at a position is actually a good thing. One millennial journalist who used to work at Forbes reported that millennials want to learn by “being in the trenches, and doing it alongside the people who do it best.”
  • They want to do something that matters. Millennials have grown up with change, both good and bad, so they’re unafraid of making changes in their own lives to pursue careers that align with their desire to make a difference.
  • They prefer flexibility. Technology today means it’s possible to work from essentially anywhere that has an Internet connection, so many millennials expect at least some level of flexibility when it comes to their employer. Working remotely all of the time isn’t feasible for every situation, of course, but millennials expect companies to be flexible enough to allow them to occasionally dictate their own schedules. If they have no say in their workday, that’s a red flag.
  • They’ve got skills—and they want to use them. In the words of a 24-year-old designer, millennials “don’t need to print copies all day.” Many have paid (or are in the midst of paying) for their own education, and they’re ready and willing to put it to work. Most would prefer you leave the smaller tasks to the interns.
  • They got a better offer. Thirty-five percent of respondents to XYZ’s survey said they quit a previous job because they received a better opportunity. That makes sense, especially as recruiting is made simpler by technology. (Hello, LinkedIn.)
  • They seek mentors. Millennials are used to being supervised, as many were raised by what have been dubbed as “helicopter parents.” Receiving support from those in charge is the norm, not the anomaly, for this generation, and they expect that in the workplace, too.

Note that it’s not just XYZ University making this final point about the importance of mentoring. Consider Figures 1 and 2 from Deloitte, proving that millennials with worthwhile mentors report high satisfaction rates in other areas, such as personal development. As you can see, this can trickle down into employee satisfaction and ultimately result in higher retention numbers.

Millennials and Mentors
Figure 1. Source: Deloitte


Figure 2. Source: Deloitte

Failure to . . .

No, not communicate—I would say “engage.” On second thought, communication plays a role in that, too. (Who would have thought “Cool Hand Luke” would be applicable to this conversation?)

Data from a recent Gallup poll reiterates that millennials are “job-hoppers,” also pointing out that most of them—71 percent, to be exact—are either not engaged in or are actively disengaged from the workplace. That’s a striking number, but businesses aren’t without hope. That same Gallup poll found that millennials who reported they are engaged at work were 26 percent less likely than their disengaged counterparts to consider switching jobs, even with a raise of up to 20 percent. That’s huge. Furthermore, if the market improves in the next year, those engaged millennial employees are 64 percent less likely to job-hop than those who report feeling actively disengaged.

What’s next?

I’ve covered a lot in this discussion, but here’s what I hope you will take away: Millennials comprise a majority of the workforce, but they’re changing how you should look at hiring, recruiting, and retention as a whole. What matters to millennials matters to your other generations of employees, too. Mentoring, compensation, flexibility, and engagement have always been important, but thanks to the vocal millennial generation, we’re just now learning exactly how much.

What has been your experience with millennials and turnover? Are you a millennial who has recently left a job or are currently looking for a new position? If so, what are you missing from your current employer, and what are you looking for in a prospective one? Alternatively, if you’re reading this from a company perspective, how do you think your organization stacks up in the hearts and minds of your millennial employees? Do you have plans to do anything differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more insight on millennials and the workforce, see Multigenerational Workforce? Collaboration Tech Is The Key To Success.

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