11/02/20

The urgency for digital transformation in food processing

We are witnessing a disruption to how traditional tasks are being completed. Services like Amazon Go or Fresh Direct are starting to replace the traditional food shopping experience by allowing for zero human interaction through self-checkout or home delivery services. The convenience and speed they offer by cutting down on the time spent interacting with a person is what draws many to them. In a world where instant gratification is often attainable, this type of marketing works best.

The food industry is no stranger to the demands to make processes more convenient. In Fig 1 below, we see the kind of factors are leading processors to switch to digitally run processes in their factories. There are also consumer demands for more information that are placing additional pressure on processors to find ways to collect that information during the production while still achieving all of their own needs.

Factors that drive automation investments

Current state of food processing

Critical decisions for food processing have become so complex that analyzing data and implementing solutions often needs to be done faster than a human is capable of. Because of these changes, we are seeing a growth in the number of processors switching to automated data collection processes to optimize their needs. This is where digital transformation comes into play, by giving processors a distinct advantage on operations and decision making by basing them on careful calculations done by software.

This change is powered by both consumer and processor demands. Retailers and food processors need to operate with the most cost effective means possible, which for processors means lowering giveaway and improving overall throughput. Even the slightest change in either of these factors can increase the profit margin drastically. And the information customers are demanding? All of that can be obtained while improving operations for food processors.

How the food processing industry currently operates is both inefficient and runs the constant risk of human error. By documenting data by hand and entering it into a computer system later on, processors run the risk of there being a data entry error, a delay in the information being seen, or a complete loss of information that could cause financial losses if not addressed immediately.

Why digital transformation?

Digital transformation isn’t just talking about innovating more technology in more places, but instead about utilizing the technology already available to procure more information that can be used to improve processes. By switching to a streamlined system throughout the entire factory, processors can gather information from the entire production in real-time, while also developing historical data for finding trends.

This data more than makes up for the investment into digital transformation by giving processors full traceability, real-time process insights, and historical data trends through the information it collects. This information helps optimize their processes and meet their demands while also securing customer trust by providing them with as much transparency as possible about their food.

It is imperative that food processors accept the innovative standards that digital transformation sets. By integrating digital transformation into their processes, it can allow for processors to increase their operational efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

*Fig 1. Factors that drive automation investments and their relative importance, graph from What’s Driving Automation Investments in the Food & Beverage Industry, (Food Processing Special Report from www.foodprocessing.com)