Mumbai, April 20, 2017 – Accenture (NYSE: ACN) and Akshaya Patra, the world’s largest NGO-run Mid-Day Meal Program, collaborated on an innovative project that used disruptive technologies to exponentially increase the number of meals served to children in schools in India that are run and aided by the government. The “Million Meals” project revolutionized Akshaya Patra’s supply chain and operations, resulting in improved food quality and expanded service reach.
Rooted in a vision to eliminate child hunger, the “Million Meals” project demonstrated how disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain can help address significant challenges in mass meal production and delivery. Accenture Labs, the research and development arm of Accenture, executed the project over a period of six months in Akshaya Patra’s Bengaluru kitchen. An analysis of the project indicated a potential to improve efficiency by 20 percent, which could boost the number of meals served by millions. Akshaya Patra’s goal is to continue to optimize and streamline the program.
Sanjay Podder, managing director, Accenture Labs, Bengaluru, said, "The Accenture Labs ‘Tech for Good’ program specializes in solving complex social problems through the use of innovative technologies. Accenture Labs was excited to take up the challenge that every paisa saved in producing a single meal can result in additional meals being served to children. We thought this was an ideal proving ground to put the combined power of AI, IoT and blockchain to use.”
"It is indeed heartening to see big players in technology like Accenture come forward to lend their expertise and help to address societal challenges like hunger through the innovative use of technology,” said Shridhar Venkat, CEO, The Akshaya Patra Foundation. “This initiative not only enhanced efficiency while giving a boost to our operations, but ensured that quality standards are met while increasing the number of meals served. We aim to expand our reach to millions of more children with the help of such technologies. This is just the beginning; we look forward to more collaborations with Accenture.”
Accenture Labs began the project with a strategic assessment and design thinking, then developed a prototype for improving kitchen operations and outcomes. Technologies were then applied to four critical processes: collecting school feedback, tracking food delivery, measuring the quantity of food and supplies to be purchased, and monitoring meal production.
As a result of these process enhancements, Akshaya Patra improved their audit capabilities, attendance recording, invoice processing and payment, order and data collection, and food preparation operations, allowing for expanded production capabilities and establishing a blueprint for operating other kitchens.
An example of Akshaya Patra’s transformation was its move from manual collection of feedback from children and schools to a more efficient technology-based solution. Using blockchain and sensor-enabled devices, the technical team gathered feedback digitally, leveraging AI technologies to predict the next day’s meal requirements. The team tracked the timeliness of food delivered to each school involved in the initiative and collected the data using mobile devices and an Accenture-built system.
The team also used IoT sensors to monitor and sequence the cooking process to ensure optimum energy consumption and consistent food quality. This system not only aided in tracking kitchen performance but also provided accurate, real-time data to identify trends, make better informed decisions and save valuable time and effort.