Early adopters of food manufacturing tech stand to make significant savings by embracing the latest innovative digital technology.
Landmark research from Accenture, a market leader in tech thinking for businesses, suggests that the Food & Beverage industry could pull in a staggering £55.8 billion in value by using five key technologies:
- machine learning
- digital twin
- autonomous vehicles
- autonomous robots
The game-changing potential of these technologies is attractive to a food manufacturing industry that faces numerous challenges. These challenges include a constant pressure to reduce costs, increased competition from non-European countries, a demand for a greater variety of products, shorter lead times, increasing public awareness of food and hygiene standards and environmental legislation. Digital tech could offer surprisingly lucrative solutions.
Digital tech is already starting to impact the food manufacturing industry. Automation software and factory floor robotics are two such technologies that have become gateways into adopting digital tech for food manufacturers.
These technologies have been embraced by many food processing plants to help operational efficiencies and customer order fulfilment. According to MarketsandMarkets (MnM), a revenue impact research and advisory firm focused on high-growth niche markets, the food robotics market has projected a potential year on year growth rate of 12 percent from 2017 to 2018.
Accenture’s research goes on to highlight that despite the huge potential rewards, only 13% of manufacturers are using digital technology to create greater efficiency and new growth. There are clearly missed opportunities for a significant number of companies that are not currently incorporating digital tech into their everyday business operations.
32% of Accenture’s research participants still saw digital technology as only relevant to marketing and eCommerce, rather than as a foundation for all company operations. 27% of those interviewed saw the potential value of digital capability building, but, crucially, struggled with where to start.
With that fact in mind, we have selected three top technological areas that have the potential to positively transform the food manufacturing industry in 2018 and beyond.
Robotics in the Food Manufacturing Industry
Robots have revolutionised manufacturing in almost every industrial sector, increasing efficiency and product consistency. However, until recently, food manufacturing has been slow to see the benefits robots offer.
Robots are now rapidly changing the food industry with businesses forced to evolve to survive. Robotics are now seen as a viable solution to drive change and tackle issues faced by food manufacturers head-on.
Bringing robots into the food manufacturing industry can offer a multitude of benefits for businesses. A robotic workforce brings accuracy, efficiency and a continuous production line – a definite plus in terms of increased profit margins. They can prepare, pack, cook and clean our food.
The introduction of “Co-bots” (or collaborative robots) in the workplace is becoming more common as businesses start to understand how to use them effectively. Tasks are divided between robots and humans based on their own unique capabilities. Jobs that require a precise approach such as weighing ingredients and dangerous tasks like taking food in and out of an extremely hot oven are handled by robots. Humans take care of the more artistic processes of food design.
Blockchain in the Food Manufacturing Industry
Simply put, blockchain technology is a way of storing and sharing information securely in a shared network. Blockchain technology allows for users to look at stored data simultaneously and in real-time.
In food, for example, a retailer would know key details about the products they stock, including the various suppliers of ingredients. And since transactions are not stored in any single location, it is almost impossible for anyone to alter the information, making it private and secure.
High-street retailers Marks and Spencer’s have recently used stored DNA samples to gather information about the animals they use to produce meat. This enables them to track meat back not only to the farm, but the exact animal. This increased transparency of a supply chain means that retailers can confidently boast about the quality of their products. As there is an ever-greater demand from consumers to know about where their food has come from, Blockchain is very useful for both the retailer and consumer.
Due to a greater focus on each part of the food manufacturing process, it can allow the entire chain to be more responsive to any food safety issues.
Blockchain also allows specific products to be traced at any given time, This would help to reduce food waste.
Blockchain is an emerging piece of technology within the food industry, but we predict that you’ll be hearing a lot more about it before the year is out.
Automation in the Food Manufacturing Industry
Digitally automating everyday in-house business processes is an area that can reap rich rewards for food manufacturing companies. Industry experts are encouraging this increased automation as a way to save time and money. Creating centrally managed data management systems can offer far greater efficiency, accuracy as well as potential opportunities to re-route human resources to other areas in the business.
The Chaser, a part of our agile:SA software, is a great example of how automation can be incorporated into business operations.
The Chaser is specifically designed for food manufacturers to make the whole supplier approval process much quicker, easier and more robust.
Some key benefits include:
- The Chaser will send emails to suppliers reminding them when specifications, certificates, risk assessments, audits and SAQs (or other documents) are due for renewal.
- Automatically generated reports show an overview of all suppliers that have been chased, and those that haven’t yet provided the required documents.
- Speeds up the complaints process when subscribed to the complaints module, by chasing suppliers for responses to any non-conformances that are raised.
If you’re just starting to think about how digital technology could change your food manufacturing business for the better, our automation software could be a great place to start.
Benefits Of Digital Technology To Food Manufacturing
With the emergence of digital tech within the food manufacturing industry, a re-organisation of a human workforce is one of the biggest benefits touted by digital tech advocates. Technical teams would be freed up to focus solely on developing new products whilst the admin is carried out by a digital platform.
The benefits that digital tech offers the food manufacturing industry are hard to ignore. The question is not if or when a digital revolution will affect food manufacturing, but when you will start to reap the rewards of it.