How digitalization is impacting meat processing

In the digital era, it’s no surprise that digitalization is transforming the meat industry. But what’s behind the buzzwords, and what do they mean for your business.

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Whatever your company’s vision, digital transformation must be at the core of your strategy.

Significant improvement opportunities and accelerating progress

There are immense opportunities for digitalization in the meat industry. Although progress has been underway for many years, the global pandemic has dramatically accelerated the rate of change. Smart solutions have been key in responding to the rapidly changing environment, and most businesses have ramped up their investments accordingly.

Adopting new technology, for example, by integrating meat processing software across your production line can give you a competitive edge, whereas delaying necessary changes leaves you at risk of being left behind. But digital transformation does not mean impulsively throwing technology at problems. On the contrary, a successful digital journey requires a clear vision and purpose, supported by in-depth expertise. As Innova Sales Director René Kjaer advises: “Be well-prepared before embarking on your digital transformation and don’t underestimate it. Succeeding in this transformation takes clear objectives and well-thought-out planning.”

The idea of digitalization might seem daunting, but the nature of the meat industry—accustomed to constant change and the need to adapt—means that processors are ideally situated to take on the challenge and reap its rewards. With a proper understanding of your company’s goals and the technology that can support them, your digital journey can bring enormous benefits.

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What are the differences between digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation?

You’ve probably heard these terms before, but you might not be sure as to what they actually mean. And you’re not the only one—though they’re often tossed around interchangeably, they refer to different (though related) concepts. Let’s have a look at the differences.

Digitization means converting information from an analog format to a digital format, for example, making a digital version of paper-based inspections and saving them to an online database where real-time reports are generated.

Digitalization is the process of adopting digital technology like end-to-end meat processing software to enhance existing work processes, for instance, creating dashboards that display real-time KPIs on a processing line’s performance.

Digital transformation involves more profound and widespread changes to how a business uses digital technology. It’s about understanding and implementing the true potential of digitalization not only to improve existing processes but to transform how you do business.

Put simply, we digitize information from analog to digital, we digitalize processes to make work more efficient, and we digitally transform organizations and their relationship with technology.

In this article, we’ll explore how digitalization and digital transformation impact the meat processing industry and how your company can secure the full benefits of its own digital journey.

Let’s dive in.

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The power of real-time data and control

Real-time data analysis supports business decisions. Raw data is a precious resource, but only if you have the tools to make sense of it. Indeed, most organizations collect enormous amounts of data, but very few make good use of it. In an industry where every detail counts, this is a missed opportunity for improvement.

The good news is that meat processors are becoming increasingly aware of the power of data-driven insights to optimize their use of raw materials, enhance meat quality and safety, and guarantee traceability and support for continuous improvement. Using advanced digital solutions such as Innova Food Processing Software, meat processors receive up-to-the-second data on critical factors such as yield and throughput, use of raw materials, process statuses, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and much more. This allows managers and supervisors to make informed decisions at a moment’s notice.

Reliable data analytics can highlight opportunities for improvement and alert you to potential issues in real time, enabling you to maximize productivity and troubleshoot issues before they become serious problems. Without this ability, errors can go undetected for long periods, leading to costly and potentially dangerous predicaments.

Overarching food production software like Innova also provides a centralized source of information so that all systems are connected and operate in harmony. Moreover, with the ability to automatically collect, analyze, contextualize, and convert production data into valuable insights, you can make optimizations that add up to substantial cost savings and numerous other benefits.

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Meeting growing demands for traceability, transparency, and compliance

Today, both consumers and regulatory bodies demand complete transparency and the highest meat quality. They want to understand every step of a product’s journey: where all its ingredients came from, how it was made, its nutritional value, and if it was ethically sourced. This is why it’s essential to have a digital system that records every step of a product’s journey.

You can easily include detailed information on every label, and the consumer can see all the information they need to make their decision. This can increase the value of your product and give you a competitive edge.

Thorough data collection also supports paperless traceability, which is vital to minimize the risks of contamination and costly product recalls that can damage your brand’s reputation. By the time meat lands on a consumer’s plate, it’s undergone multiple steps of production, risking chemical, physical, and biological contamination along the way.

Without the benefit of digital data collection, tracing back through multiple steps can be a slow and challenging process, prolonging the time it takes to identify and address the issue. Fortunately, with the right software, you can store this information and have it ready at your fingertips so that products can be instantly traced if needed. In practical terms, this could mean the difference between a fast and easy resolution and a costly and damaging recall.

Detailed monitoring and data collection are also crucial to meet the industry’s strict regulatory demands. In fact, compliance is one of the most valuable uses for digital transformation, yet it’s an area where many meat producers fail to use the available solutions. This is largely due to a lack of awareness of how sophisticated digital solutions have become. Rigorous data collection can help your operation at every stage, allowing you to monitor products closely and ensure compliance with ever-increasing meat safety regulations.

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Automation is vital

The meat industry has already invested heavily in automation, with far-reaching benefits across multiple levels of production. Meat processors are under constant pressure to produce larger amounts and wider variety, and it’s no secret that automated processes can perform tasks faster and more accurately than their manual counterparts. Moreover, meat safety concerns are greater than ever following the global pandemic, and minimizing human contact and human error in processing can have substantial benefits.

Labor shortages and worker engagement are another huge concern, especially as we enter a post-quarantine reality where fewer people are willing to return to onsite work doing repetitive and potentially dangerous tasks. Digital technology, therefore, plays a pivotal role in filling this gap. Meat producers benefit immensely from lower labor costs and protection against labor shortages, and employees benefit from safer work environments, more options for remote work, and more fulfilling roles.

It’s important to note that automation isn’t just about digitalizing individual processes. Rather, it’s a matter of connecting all automated processes across the entire company to create an integrated, centralized approach. Fragmented automation is inefficient and can lead to lost opportunities to connect processes more effectively. Therefore, it is worth investing in a complete production control system such as Innova, which gives you a real-time overview of your entire enterprise.

Marel food processing software enables processors to weather the impact of digitalization in the food processing industry.

Succeeding on your digital journey

Now that you understand why digital transformation should be at the top of your strategic agenda, you might be considering the next steps. We know the process may seem daunting—digitalization projects are a large undertaking, and digital transformation can completely alter the status quo.

You need to consider not only the performance of your software solution but also your work partnership and service before, during, and after implementation. Choosing the right technology partner is crucial.

Fortunately, Marel offers the full range of software solutions and support you need on your digital journey. A data-driven approach has been at the core of our business since our foundation in 1983, and we have decades of experience guiding organizations on their digital journeys.

We offer a host of Innova Food Processing Software solutions backed by a global service network of experts. Innova is a powerful end-to-end solution that allows meat processors to manage their factories by linking equipment and processes to function together as a single entity. It ensures reliable data collection in a centralized system, providing real-time data insights, historical trends analysis reports, and full traceability throughout the production process.

Do you want to learn more about the potential of your digital journey? Our consultants are ready to advise you—no strings attached.



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