In our conversations with fresh produce packer-shippers and marketing companies, the issue of quality standards comes up frequently. In particular, these companies face significant challenges when it comes to handling the many and varied quality control requirements of their customers.
In this article, we’re taking a close look at the problem, why it’s such an urgent priority for fresh produce businesses, and how Clarifruit’s Comparison Report analytics provides the much-needed solutions they’re looking for.
Juggling multiple standards: the challenge for fresh produce exporters
Quality control for fruits and vegetables is complex enough at the local or regional level. But juggling multiple sets of international standards and quality specifications multiplies this complexity. Exporters and marketers are tasked with coordinating these standards and ensuring customers get what they ask for. That’s no easy task, for a number of reasons.
Varied Specifications: These standards vary from country to country, and even between regions within a country. For example, the USDA has a set of standards for avocados, but several states such as Florida, California and Oregon have their own standards when it comes to grade requirements and handling. These standards are subject to change, either through legislation, or simply as a result of seasonal shifts.
Time Sensitivity: Fresh produce deteriorates rapidly, so decisions about which produce to ship – and to whom – must be made on the spot. Decision time means money, and there is little time for contemplation.
Suppliers and retailers aren’t on the same page: The most acute challenge is that each party along the supply chain is speaking a different language when it comes to quality. A retailer might share a complex 20-page document with a supplier, which can be interpreted any number of ways. With Clarifruit, everyone has access to a single digitized set of quality specifications – what we like to call the Clarifruit language – enabling them to grade inspections without the ambiguity.
The (intolerably high) costs of getting quality standards wrong
The net effect of these challenges can be devastating for exporters and marketing companies. As suppliers, they are evaluated and graded at least once a year. Any complaints or problems their customers experience can become part of this evaluation. If customers lose trust in a company’s produce, they will simply take their business elsewhere.
The resulting loss of income and profitability squeezes margins that are already under serious pressure. And even without the extraordinary cost of a rejection or “price re-negotiation”, many exporters and marketers face an uphill battle to analyze costs and optimize revenue. Faced with a multiplicity of different standards, quality control managers and Sales personnel simply do not have enough time to analyze them in sufficient detail to zero in on the best possible deal. As a result, they may resort to the “amber” category (good enough to be accepted, but at a lower price), potentially missing higher revenue “green” opportunities.
As long as they have to rely on outdated methods like spreadsheets and email threads, it is unlikely that quality control managers will be able to escape this cycle.
Managing multiple customers’ standards at once: the Comparison Report
The good news is that they don’t have to hold onto these traditional methods. As in so many other industries, AI is revolutionizing fresh produce quality control, enabling unprecedented gains in efficiency and accuracy.
- Clarifruit’s language stores all customer quality standards (and knows when they change)
- An inspector conducts a quality inspection, and the results are measured against these standards
- The quality control manager sees the results in real-time and can make a sound, data-backed decision
By using Clarifruit’s automatic reporting, along with the Comparison Report, companies have been able to save as much as 70 minutes per report by replacing inefficient email and spreadsheet workflows with smooth, AI-enabled automation.
The Clarifruit Comparison Report: accessing all relevant standards from within a single dashboard
The key advantage that the Comparison Report offers is the ability to compare one inspection against different standards. Once the supplier completes an inspection, the report takes the results and compares them against all customer standards. This enables quality control managers to decide which customers can receive the goods – and which selection will make the most commercial sense. She can also refer to her own suppliers in order to make decisions about which produce to prioritize. A single report provides all the data needed, both upstream and downstream.
The report also makes all customer specifications readily available for comparison, as well as any other set of standards such as OECD guidelines or USDA specs. And perhaps most importantly, Clarifruit replaces the maze of conflicting interpretations with a single, coherent language for quality control.
More agile decision-making
As we saw earlier, time is a luxury in the world of fresh produce. Without a digital solution like Clarifruit, decisions need to go through multiple levels of management before authorization. It can easily take half an hour or more to manually parse documents, sapping precious time. But with Clarifruit, quality director or Sales reps can actually make these calls themselves, safe in the knowledge that they’re making sound, data-driven decisions.
Beyond “acceptable”: zeroing in on the best deal
In addition to streamlining processes, Clarifruit enables decision makers to match produce more effectively with the best possible price on each shipment. By removing the guesswork from quality control, Clarifruit makes it much easier to determine the actual commercial value of the produce – and the Comparison Report shows exactly where it should go, moment to moment.
Clarifruit: modernizing fresh produce quality control
For fresh produce companies, effective quality control is the bedrock of long term success. In a highly competitive industry under increasing pressure to deliver more to customers, getting quality right CONSISTENTLY is a vital concern that goes far beyond quality control managers and inspectors.
Modernizing the way quality is measured and controlled is essential to remaining a preferred supplier of fresh produce. By harnessing the power of AI, Clarifruit enables fruit and vegetable exporters and marketers to move with confidence and deliver produce that meets and exceeds their customers’ expectations.
Schedule a demo with our team to learn more about the Comparison Report, and how to turn the chaos of multiple customer standards into new opportunities for growth.