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Mobile for Postharvest Management: Investigating the opportunity of low-cost communication technologies for professional warehouse management

Mobile for Postharvest Management: Investigating the opportunity of low-cost communication technologies for professional warehouse management

Priebe, Jan and Tran, Bruno (2015) Mobile for Postharvest Management: Investigating the opportunity of low-cost communication technologies for professional warehouse management. In: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Postharvest Loss Prevention. ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss, Rome.

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Abstract

Investigating the opportunity of low-cost communication technologies for professional warehouse management Warehouse administration is important for effective management of food reserves and food stores, and is crucial to setting up warehouse certification systems. It creates the information flows necessary to provide warehouse managers with more accurate information about current stock levels, their age and quality, aiding decision making processes. Damaged stores can be identified faster and can be more easily traced throughout the system and eliminated, improving the overall quality of stores. Furthermore, professional warehouse administration and certification is a vital step to establishing a warehouse receipt system. The administrative systems currently used are paper-based and were often developed over time, becoming unnecessarily complex and time consuming. They often use rudimentary manual reporting systems making them inefficient to operate and, because of the errors and delays incurred in filling the forms and in transporting them to where they are collated and used, they often provide only outdated and unreliable data. Computer-based administration systems, on the other hand, can be costly and require extensive trainings to use, especially when they rely on computers and proprietary software packages. While they are increasingly being adopted for cash crops, they are often unsuitable for food security crops due to their associated high costs and required organisational skillsets. The rapid spread of mobile technology in Africa over the past 10 years means that relatively low-cost devices and software platforms are becoming increasingly available that could provide much needed information transparency in postharvest logistics and warehousing. These are driven by developments in cloud-based storage eliminating the need to invest in server infrastructure and software-as-service business models which make software more accessible to organisations by reducing access costs. Moreover, due to the steady development of open-source software packages, simple data collection and management software can be implemented at little or no cost. These low-cost and increasingly mobile systems can contribute to effective storage management by drastically reducing administrative costs and increasing the speed with which information is shared between actors in a system. However, although their potential benefits are considered to be significant, adoption of these systems has been relatively low, and little research has been done to understand whether these systems may contribute to the professional administration of warehouses. This study explores the capacity for mobile ICTs to facilitate information transparency in logistics and warehouse management. It reviews relevant case studies from the literature and incorporates first-hand experiences from projects conducted by the Natural Resources Institute in Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda. These cover the use of tablets to record warehouse receipts for the Zambian Food Reserve Agency, and the use of smartphones and tablets to support the implementation of a warehouse certification system by the Tanzanian Warehouse Licensing Board. It is argued that low cost ICTs represent an appropriate technology for supporting the professional warehouse administration of staple commodities, and can provide an important first step on the technology ladder allowing users to experience many of the benefits of ICTs without having to submit to all its burdens. The main benefits are to allow warehousing organizations to simultaneously increase the internal transparency of information, while reducing the time and costs associated with collecting it. However, as experiences show, the choice of technology plays a key role as does providing the appropriate trainings and incentives to staff at all levels of the organisation to ensure data is collected accurately and continuously. Cloud-based storage refers to data storage that is provided by a third party, which is accessible through data connections such as mobile data networks and fixed internet lines. Data is often protected through encrypted data connections and restricting access to the database. Software as a service business models provide access to software that are hosted by a vendor and can be used via internet connections, eliminating the need to purchase and install software packages. Remuneration is typically done via periodic subscriptions. (3) Open-source software is computer software that is made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

Item Type: Conference Proceedings
Title of Proceedings: Proceedings of the First International Conference on Postharvest Loss Prevention
Additional Information: Presented on 6 October 2015 (Poster Presentation Session III), Rome, Italy
Uncontrolled Keywords: Open source; smallholder; agriculture; open data kit; warrantage; warehouse management; Africa; mobile
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / Department / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Food & Markets Department
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2016 15:47
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/15878

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