According to the book, “Seeing the Whole” (Womack and Jones, 2003), researchers have used an extended value-stream map, which it is an extremely effective method for analyzing qualities of work streams, and the result of measuring this efficiency is unbelievably disappointing, demonstrating how 90% of the actions and 99% of the time along a typical value stream process can consume resources, but create no value for the customers. Also, demand grows at a continually increasing rate, which becomes more inconstant, as it goes upstream, increasing the major inventory, capacity, and programmed and non-programmed costs at every level. Quality falls, as a product moves upstream, influencing in a negative way the major costs downstream. Actually, unneeded actions, lost time and the circulation of a waste volume of unnecessary data are all representatives of ineffective modern product’s streams. The idea of creating an ideal chain of delivery is based upon the well known principle of the win-win strategy, which could permeate the up and down value stream, and, by creating a value-stream team, bring all stakeholders up to the Ideal State, a situation of satisfaction in which a significant part of the waste had been removed. “The challenges of doing so are great but the rewards are truly enormous,” said Womack.
Generally speaking, this idea, of looking ahead and predicting possible system evolution, is not something new or unique. Since 1947, Theory of Inventive Problems Solving (TRIZ in Russian) has provided some insight into this. One of the most significant parts of this theory includes the meaning of the Ideal State, which can be predicted in any known problematic situation which we can have. Every time we have a problem, we should know that the solution probably exists, and we can come to it by following a few steps. Some of the practical solutions were applied to the food industry and systematic solutions are widely presented in the daily work of hundreds of big and small companies and food research laboratories. It is either possible to develop the system gradually in the frames of the current system or it is possible to jump over the current system’s state and begin a new, more effective, system. During the first stage of implementation, it is possible to combine the two systems, to make the process of transformation smoother. It is not very difficult to predict such a development of the system.
It is extremely important to understand the internal meaning of food as a product itself and, according to the ideas of Paul Roberts in the book, The End of the Food (Roberts, 2008), the source of its most current problems, the food system, is treated as all the rest of other economic sectors, but food itself is not an economic phenomenon. It can look like all other products, it can make revenue, profits, you can use marketing to increase sales, but food is a unique product, and it should be properly treated. The overproduction or underproduction of most of the other products cannot have such harmful consequences, but food has a limited lifetime, and it produces enormous volumes of waste, by itself, and by its packaging. In an effort to reduce it, is usually over-processed and includes some harmful components; underproduction, or undersupply leads to a deficit, and as a result to price rises, and finally it can reduce consumption for most groups of people. As a result, Roberts came to the conclusion that food is not working well with a modern industrial model, “...there are incompatibilities between system and product... and there is a widening discrepancy between what is demanded and what is actually supplied”. And, if it is possible somehow to cover this gap between economic attitudes to food as a normal product and its biological specific, this is a big challenge (Roberts, 2008).
The Open University on behalf of DEFRA has undertaken on-going research into household waste generation and disposal (Jones, Nesaratnam and Porteous, 2008); this includes the analysis of all household waste, including food waste. The report gives a general overview of a proportions and tendencies in the household waste generation process. For instance, kitchen waste plus all sorts of packaging material constitutes about 40 per cent of all household waste. Unfortunately, there is no specific information about food-related waste; for example, some of the packaged materials are not food related. The report demonstrates good figures for the utilization of rotting kitchen waste, but this is a cold comfort, because it does not give a qualitative analysis of this waste, and why it was actually thrown away. The questions, which were based upon the self reflection of people about how they behave regarding recycling and composting, demonstrate that there was no statistically-significant difference for years; people are not tending to undertake voluntarily any qualitative changes in their habitual processes.
One of the most promising researches was undertaken by Timothy W. Jones, from the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology of the University of Arizona. The main idea of the USDA Food Loss Project (Jones, 2002) was to analyse food loss and waste at all levels of the food production/consumption cycle: harvesting, processing, storage; retail distribution; foodservice; and household. The project provided important information about food loss, the dollar value of the loss, and the environmental and social impact of food waste; what is more important is the fact that it was consolidated for the purpose of the further analysis of an efficiency increase in the food system. For instance, American households throw away annually 467.2 lbs/year, and it costs a family of four at least US$589.76 annually. The annual cost of food waste in American households is US$43,052,480,000 (Jones, 2004). This could be broken down by food type, this is: Meat US$14,042,280,000; Grains US$10,193,720,000; Fruit US$9,638,920,000; Vegetables US$9,177,560,000 (Jones, 2004). Impressive, isn’t it? And this is only the lowest level of the food system, about 14% of all losses (Jones et al., 2003). It is hard to comment on such information; it seems that there is something fundamentally wrong with the society of consumption. If, in this paragraph, we learnt a lot about the volume and cost of wasted food, in the next one, we are going to become acquainted with the waste of time and actions, in the same food marketing system.
The situation with food consumption creates more and more worries nowadays; for instance, the UK throws away 6.7 million tonnes of food annually, a third of the food bought (Jones, Nesaratnam and Porteous, 2008). The equivalent of all of the UK’s imports is just thrown away; the price for food is rising and needs some fast and effective methods to stop this negative process. It is necessary to outline that the importance of this topic in recent years has increased significantly. For instance, most of the companies, which are involved in the food chain supply in the UK, are united by FDF, The Food and Drink Federation, now working with the Environment Agency, the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). In particular, they have already conducted some surveys which can give important information about the elements in the chain, where the industry could make progress on the way to waste reduction (Watson, 2008). According to the General Director of the Provision of Trade Federation, sometimes the rules and legislation go too far. Originally, the right idea of increasing people’s safety by using correct food labelling lead to increasing the volume of waste; in fact, absolutely normal food could be destroyed only due to incorrect labelling. New labels could be made, and there is no need to increase the volume of waste (Cheney, 2008). The norms, regulations, and business procedures are basically aimed at protecting retailers from losses and customers from “incontinent” products: some of the tropical exporters say that it is extremely wasteful; from 15 tonnes of beans, they are able to sell only 8 tonnes. Of the rest, about 30% can be processed and the rest should be gone, as it has a non-standard curve of bean. A farmer gave a clear definition of the process in the food market: now farmers have nothing to do with food quality or production; the most crucial thing is a price – this is the Alfa and Omega (Roberts, 2008).
Most of the retailers today display doubled volume of products compared with the assortment which was available in 1987. They hope that, by increasing the selection, they will increase sales. What does this mean? It means that, in spite of increased demand prediction possibilities by using CRM (customer relationship management) software that enable a company to organize and optimize its customer relations, but due to the unilaterally of information stream during sales planning, the supermarkets are substantially overbuying, and then a big proportion of it goes to the dump (Roberts, 2008). The same thing is happening within households, and they have even poorer analytical facilities. If you think that increased selection it is good, wait a minute – the increased number of product substitutes, cheaper replicas which look and taste almost identical, and this is what happened: they are not just overstocking the market, they are illuminating each other. Thanks to the retailers’ power and the competition between them, transparent information about the prices is freely available on the market; let’s put it all together: Market madness + over abundant supply + chronic overstock + free information flowing = Ideal Competition.
In this situation, the majority of consumers prefer the cheaper option. The result is that tomatoes and cucumbers have an awful taste, and the season does not matter. An old meaning of brands, which was just a few years ago, now has lost its beauty, now is almost meaningless, because new brands through advertising are undermining not just the old brands, but the brand’s self meaning and authority. So, if not for the greedy consumers’ sakes, but for the producers and retailers’ sakes, we need to force customers to become a homo economicus, an advanced consumer, who will pay the maximum price for his health. A good example is organic food: the retailers and producers have a bigger margin, just for giving the consumer the idea of better quality of food; and, on the other hand, look at the Free Trade labelled products. They are less popular, and it is more effective to appeal to egoistical feelings, then to others. People need to learn how to be more rational and responsible, economical and effective, and so should the companies. The potential of this interconnection is huge, but as yet unknown (Ridderstrale and Nordstrom, 2004).
Another example of the ineffectiveness of the consumption system is presented by USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). Americans can live perfectly well with fewer calories, because “the current per food supply is about 44 percent more than we need nutritionally” (USDA, 2005), and the majority of this overproduction is wasted food during its harvest, transportation, harvest, processing and consumption. The most visible example of the ineffectiveness of the economy is obesity. It is rarely called a waste factor – at least it was consumed – but this is the crucial evidence of how this phenomenon, which is food, cannot be treated like a usual product, like a DVD or book (Roberts, 2008).
An interesting forecast of the next decade’s situation in the food market is to be found in the article named The Future of Food, written by Joanna Blythman, an investigative food journalist and author of a well-known book, Bad Food Britain. The article was written before the financial crisis, in times when the energy costs had beaten records every day. Now the situation is dramatically changed, but the result of new problems could be the same, so Blythman believes that, due to the problems, the food which is industrially made and over-processed, over-packaged, can be less attractive to customers, and as a result it may “lead to a long-overdue simplification of the nation’s understanding of just what constitutes healthy eating” (Blythman, 2008). A wider use of locally, or even domestically grown food, as an answer to the crises can be a possible and acceptable idea, but it is hard to believe that people in a more time-busy environment can spend more time cooking healthy food professionally by themselves, unless the modern kitchen becomes more advanced and non-professionals wish to make meals for the whole family.
Another interesting topic raised in this article is the problem with food labelling, it became too difficult to understand and analyze what is right for us, but it should be simpler. We even can see in it the covered idea of food producers using “chameleon” tactics for their products, and this opinion obviously has a point. Moreover, USDA, during the Diet and Health Knowledge Survey, realized an unpleasant fact, that people are losing their interest in labelling information, particularly young people who are probably poorly informed about the purpose and meaning of labels (Todd and Variyam, 2008). But, in times when science is discovering new threats to people, the labelling information should be even more informative, and here is the dilemma: you need to give all of the needed information, and perhaps some more, but not confuse people; the solution to this problem could be highly important.
Unfortunately, the existing choice is made mostly for appearances' sake and, in fact, modern society actually does not have a real choice mechanism. According to the book Nudge: improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008), we have a lot of things to do. A lot of people believe that is possible to use a liberal paternalism, as a gentle nudge to a better future, again the captains of mass society, to optimize the methods of decision making that have collapsed as they could not pass the exam of the recent difficulties; also, it is a big question if the people who run the country are good learners. The analysis of a choice architect in the present, after a few examples, can show how easy it is to manipulate mass society’s choice. Moreover, there is no such thing as a “neutral” choice design existing, deliberately or not, but it is always pushing one way. The insight that “everything matters” is one of the most important thoughts about the architecture of choice. Even if you cannot make the perfect consumption model at once, this does not mean that, if you have some good ideas, you should not introduce and use them. In close consuming structures like a food/waste chain, even if some of the actions can be wrong, “they can not be systematically wrong in a predictable direction” (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008). The two key instruments, by using which we can beat food waste, hunger and accomplish anything, are the forces of inertia, in a friendly form of good habits, and, secondly, so that power can be harnessed, we need law, and moreover we need a tool, a handy mentor, like a stone hammer for a monkey. This new instrument should nudge us to go from the current state into a better one. We are living in an imperfect world, but the good thing is that we are able to analyse and, through our ideas, create changes. According to Jim Rohn, a failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You do not fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day (Rohn, 2009). So, on the same thinking, Thaler and Sunstein feel that the main aim is, when we analysing what is wrong with us in a systematic scale, to understand: how and where “people systematically go wrong” (Thaler and Sunstein, 2008). Nevertheless, although the book is applying American examples and experiences, generally those methods of decision making and choosing architecture are completely applicable in any country. For instance, the borough of N Greater London, called Barnet, in September becomes the first local council which should receive £100,000, from the government provided by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which are funds to test "nudge" economics in particular; this experiment should demonstrate the ability to find ways of encouraging people to reduce litter, to recycle and to lower their carbon emissions (Stratton, 2008). As mentioned before, Jim Rohn gave us a cure recipe: success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day (Rohn, 2009).
In the book “Tom Peters Re-imagine”, we can find a reasonable discussion about the modern CRM systems, and the entire logic of it: modern CRM systems almost never produce the expected result, and people are unhappy with them; but people do not need old-fashioned personalised services à la Mr. Bank-manager; people want to feel a constant confidence and control over the situation; the problem is that we are looking upon a field that is not wide enough. Today, companies have to think in terms of “systematic possibilities” and “reconsider the whole company’s strategy”. We should speak not in terms of minor improvements, but about building deep, unimpeded, well-integrated relationships, when the customer can feel complete freedom when he have to deal with a full range of company’s products, services and supply chain, and all this is explained in terms of capital improvements (Peters, 2006). This idea can be illustrated by the words of David Weinberger, “...we do not have road maps, we even do not know if there are some roads, all what we know is "this" can not be reached by applying yesterday’s standards”. And another sentence from the Internet’s elder is, “It would be wise to make a new resource on top of Wikipedia, not on the site itself, alike the Wikipedia - but as a separate resource, which consists with a metadata, which points the articles, which it finds acceptable and not inter-contaminated with unreliable information” (Weinberger, 2007). New information products should accumulate the best knowledge of humankind and make it freely available and applicable, so that understanding is coming.
Michael Porter agrees with Weinberger, in his book “On Competition”. His proposals in the healthcare sector are good enough and completely applicable in the modern food industry; moreover, very soon it will be hard to draw the line between those two subjects. The retailers’ market demonopolization, the inclusion of a wider number of stakeholders who can act upon freely flowing information to make a more deliberate choice, and finally, the use of innovations as part of a dynamically updated and developing system are the ingredients of sustainable development, from the point of view of Michael Porter (Porter, 1998).
There are three main paradigms or approaches in the food industry: the first is a productionist paradigm; the second is a Life Sciences Integrated approach to health; and, finally, the third is an Ecologically Integrated approach to health (Lang and Heasman, 2004). To be honest, these are not really different approaches; there are just different points of view of the same problem. The producers or, in our case, processors and retailers say that we are doing our best in this frame of possibilities; we want to get income, and this is what has driven us since ancient times. The Life Sciences approach has seen the smaller picture of every individual person and his or her needs as the most favourable driven factor. The ecologically-integrated approach adopts a wider level of relations interpretation; it includes health needs and a processing/retailing component. Generally speaking, science today clearly understands in which direction society should develop. The following work should cover the gap between this understanding and implementation of these principles in real life.
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