Feeding Innovation: The Next Information Technology Revolution for Food and Beverage

Robin Irvine
By: Robin Irvine
Date: October 20, 2020

Feeding Innovation: The Next Information Technology Revolution for Food and Beverage2020 has brought new challenges for every industry, especially food and beverage manufacturers. Shifts in business dynamics and consumer demand have called for an accelerated need for change, agility, and innovation. In the same way, the global pandemic has brought to light new focus areas for C-suite leaders to prioritize in their digital strategy, including supply chain transparency, data visualization, product traceability, and investing in Industry 4.0 technology.

Current State

We are seeing greater desire for a broader and deeper view of the business, combined with a need to be able to forecast further out, but still to be realistic and layer into that scenario-based planning. Manufacturers need to be more agile, as shown during the beginning of the pandemic, and organizations that were better prepared in adapting were the ones who invested in technology early.

Technology plays a large role in agility. Being right on time, the first time, during all stages of the production cycle and having a single source of the truth to be able to make decisions more confidently and faster opens vast opportunities for efficiency as well as the ability to scale effectively.

Although Industry 4.0 can feel like another industry buzz word, organizations that are investing in these new technologies are seeing ROI through optimized workflows, lower downtime, less production bottlenecks, faster response time to recalls, and improved margins. Organizations that invest in connecting their machines, operations, and people, especially with more employees working remote or globally, are more easily able to automate tasks and increase visibility along supply chains.

Focus on Supply Chain

Supply chain transparency comes down to how well organizations can share information across all parties involved. Historically, companies and suppliers have feared sharing too much information, but as internal focus switches to collaboration and consumers interest shifts to organic and ethically sourced products, organizations are being pushed to break old habits. Increased transparency brings benefits including faster identification of inefficiencies, reduction of food waste, potential for longer shelf life, and better demand and production planning.

A dedicated focus on traceability also allows food and beverage manufacturers to be more proactive in their approach to food safety. If a contamination is uncovered, a traceability solution facilitates tracking within minutes. It is equally important to understand where issues originate as it is to know the batches that were affected, and which ones were not. Organizations that act swiftly and are openly transparent when it comes to recalls are more likely to maintain customer loyalty.

Modernization: Where to Start

A common mistake is to try to boil the ocean in one project but a strong digital transformation is made up of many projects. While cost is a factor in any technology investment, it should not be the only metric which determines if you start a journey. Some steps to consider:

Start with buy-in. Aligning the organization and key stakeholders from the start will allow for a smoother process down the line.

Where do we want to be in 10 years? Visualize where you want to be and work back step-by-step, defining a realistic timeline which balances ROI versus risk. This should not be an all or nothing approach, but a step-by-step journey.

Check your foundation. Before jumping into Internet of Things (IoT) add-ons, establish a solid technology foundation that can support the transformation, while maintaining flexibility going forward. Ensure you are getting the most out of existing equipment by measuring progress with KPIs before jumping to the next project.

Acme Smoked Fish’s Kevin Robillard spoke with Avaap about Acme’s move to Infor CloudSuite Food and Beverage and how the team drove its vision from RFP to implementation. Kevin stressed the importance of being able to operate as one business, removing silos between locations, and the ability to focus on strategic initiatives versus keeping the ERP up to date as large factors in their push to the cloud.

Preparation is key when it comes to a transformation plan and growing a competitive edge with technology. Food and beverage manufacturers that prepare early, pay attention to the supply chain, and are flexible to support the long-term strategy will fare the changing technology landscape best.

Looking for more information on Industry 4.0 technology and how new developments in data visualization and supply chain traceability are impacting food and beverage manufacturers? Watch Robin Irvine’s latest interview with Infor’s Mikael Bengtsson, Industry Strategy and Solution Director.

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