The well-publicized Industry 4.0 Revolution is well underway, transforming almost every sector. But while many industries are making significant advances, the traditionally conservative food and beverage industry has been slower to adopt digitalization.
Times are changing though, and recent events have provided an impetus to the food and beverage industry to make digitalization a priority as part of its business continuity and resilience planning.
No bangs included
Digitalization has the potential to radically transform every aspect of operations, but it is not a one-off, big-bang project. Implementing digitalization is actually about laying the groundwork for a program of continuous improvement, building your digital maturity both organizationally and from a business value perspective.
Yes, there is normally a need to invest in new technologies that can support this goal. But initially, these efforts are focused on collating data from existing systems, making them available for analysis and dissemination across the business.
In reality, your business already has data that can be used to improve strategic decision-making, including what is in the heads of that most precious resource, your people. The biggest barrier you face right now is breaking through the silos that contain that information. This is often in the form of legacy applications tailored to a specific function – ERP, CRM, service and sales, etc.
As your digital maturity increases, you can begin generating and actioning new data, creating new, deeper insights that allow you to refine and automate interventions that increase efficiency while reducing costs and waste.
Increasingly accurate, more relevant data collected from every aspect of your operations lays the foundation for intelligent automation throughout your production lines, the creation of smart factories. Automation not only increases efficiency but also reduces waste, improves quality and makes for safer processes and products.
Meeting the increasingly specialized demands of a better customer experience with tailored products and services will require F&B production processes be more flexible while maintaining safety and productivity. Digitalization will allow you to extend beyond your organization to support this enhanced customer experience and even into your supply chain to create a truly responsive value chain.
It will require greater involvement of external partners to share data across the entire supply chain. Increased visibility allows partners and suppliers to better plan their own operations, giving you a better quality of service in the process. These joined-up operations will help to further reduce waste at every point of the food production process.
Digitalization is just the start
Digitalization is an ongoing, long-term strategy rather than a quick fix. Any business implementing digital platforms will record some quick wins initially, but the greatest value will be realized over a longer period.
The ultimate goal will be increasing digital maturity, processes and operations that are defined and driven by data. The F&B industry leaders of the future will have resolved the issue of information silos to create a single continuous view of every action and interaction. They will be closely aligned with their partners and stakeholders and be able to quickly respond to changes in the market and customer preferences.
To learn more about the route to increasing your digital maturity and the challenges faced by the F&B industry, please take a look at our new report Digitalization and the Food & Beverage Industry. As well as explaining the current state of play, the report also provides some practical guidance for starting the journey towards maturity. Click here to download your copy.
Neil is an internationally experienced industry consultant with 15+ years in operations management, shift operations management, operational risk management and operational excellence in the oil and gas, chemicals and rail industries. He focuses on implementing technology solutions and business process changes for front-line workforce in these industries.