Many industries have already introduced automated technology into their day-to-day operations. While the food and drink industry has been resistant to this change, digital transformation appears to be finally underway. For example, food businesses are finding automation is helping them gain full visibility of their supply chain, protect their workers from serious injury and reduce labour costs.
Let’s break these down further and take a look at the benefits of automation in the food and beverage industry:
- Improve quality control throughout the process
- Keep your workers safe from injury
- Gain unprecedented levels of end-to-end traceability
- Increase efficiency and boost output rates
- Protect your brand from damaging product recalls
- Become more flexible and adaptable
- Reduce waste with better supply and demand management
1. Improve quality control throughout the process
There are so many processes, workers and touchpoints along the food and drink supply chain that it can be difficult to monitor the quality of food, let alone keep track of it. It goes without saying the quality of produce is incredibly important yet it’s difficult to minimise safety concerns in a complex system.
Automation can help you address these issues by improving line efficiency, maximise ingredient usage and enhance food safety while reducing the risk of any human-related errors.
Consistency is also crucial for food businesses – consumers want to buy the same product over and over again and want it to have the same consistency in terms of flavour, taste and texture. Automation provides this by eliminating the chances of human error and effectively managing production, which in turn reduces the risk of product recalls and ultimately protects the brand.
2. Keep your workers safe from injury
Automation eliminates the need for your workers to perform monotonous, repetitive motion jobs or dangerous tasks such as lifting heavy items. It also frees up your team to focus on more business-critical tasks.
For example, meat processing plants can use robotics when handling difficult cuts of meat. This helps reduce the risk of injury to workers and accelerates the process.
Increased safety for your workforce also helps to reduce operation/maintenance costs in the long run. Traditionally, changes to new regulations will usually involve new equipment or additional training for your workforce which can be time consuming. You may even have to fork out for expensive (but necessary) safety gear.
Automation allows for faster adoption and is as simple as updating existing hardware and software to meet compliant standards – saving you the trouble of having to deal with all of the above.
3. Gain unprecedented levels of end-to-end traceability
With the number of food recalls on the rise and allergen-related hospitalisations in the news recently, improving end-to-end traceability is still high on the agenda for food businesses.
Automation and modern analytics tools can track products and goods throughout the supply chain journey, allowing you to tap in anywhere along the chain to see the information relevant to you.
For example, automation tools can be used to find a contaminated order and pinpoint where it’s been/heading. This way, you can isolate issues before they impact the wider public and protect your brand value.
Plus, automation can help relieve stress and compliance cost by improving the overall performance of your supply chain and provide full visibility into key processes. An ERP system, for example, integrates your data into one location, creating a single source of data. This makes possible to quickly see how long products spend at a particular stop in the supply chain and provide deeper analytics on areas for improvement.
You can also use the data to:
- Build an accurate profile and predictive system for future gains, such as better sales forecasting reports
- Monitor changes in consumer behaviour and identify any emerging trends/preferences
- Increase knowledge on market trends and use this information during new product development processes
4. Increase efficiency and boost output rates
You can reap the rewards of increased efficiency and higher output rates with automation. This is because technology can work 24/7 (with the occasional break for maintenance) and often more efficiently than what humans can do.
Automation also allows you to gather data insights from the production line that can be used to improve maintenance.
For example, a smart factory with IoT (Internet of Things) enabled devices, can automatically collect data on its performance and transfer it straight into your ERP system. This access to real-time data helps identify potential issues more quickly and can alert you when maintenance is needed.
It also eliminates the need for manual inspections of machinery, freeing up your team for other tasks.
5. Protect your brand from damaging product recalls
In the food and drink industry, we’re seeing added pressure from today’s consumers who want to know about several practices before purchasing food products. This includes its origin and the journey it took to get to their basket.
Therefore, to maintain trust with your consumers, you need to ensure your business is following best practices. Multiple product recalls or disease outbreaks can be highly damaging to both your company’s reputation and profits, ultimately leading to you losing valuable business to your competitors.
An integrated business system can centralise data from multiple sources to make it easier and quicker for you to find what you need. You can take this one step further by investing in a food industry-specific ERP system, which can provide visibility over regulations. Cross referenced with the data gathered from your supply chain and processes, you can ensure your food business is compliant.
Sometimes a recall can be absolutely unavoidable, but what you can do is to limit the impact they have for both your consumers and business.
For example, solutions like Lot tracking help you to quickly determine where the affected product entered your supply chain and where it is now. So, you can trace and remove it before it causes more damage. The faster you can respond, the better!
6. Become more flexible and scalable
The last 12 months has highlighted the importance of remaining agile to cope with the disruptions of modern society. Trying to manually update processes to fit changing consumer demands and regulations is a huge drain on time and resources.
By investing in automation, you can become more flexible and easily adapt to changing production needs as well as regulations. These changes can simply be programmed into the automation software, eliminating the need for added workforce training.
7. Reduce waste with better supply and demand management
Waste reduction has long been a key focus area. In particular, supply chain waste within food is always a concern, given the short shelf lives of certain products. Over-supply can also lead to products being wasted if they’re not used in time.
Automation can help food businesses improve their supply and demand management. An end-to-end-solution, such as a food-specific ERP system, can provide accurate data on the amount of stock needed based on real-time demand.
An ERP system can also help food businesses avoid any lack of alignment on inventory levels and reduce their chain carbon footprint by minimising travel throughout the supply cycle.
Technology brings several benefits across the board. So, are you ready to invest?
As you can see, automation in the food and beverage industry brings several benefits across the board such as consistent quality, improved food safety and unparalleled levels of traceability. But if you’re planning to adopt new technology or update your existing ones, it must be communicated properly – get input from your employees from the beginning and you’ll be able to stop them from feeling they’re being replaced.
Our guide to technology adoption for the food businesses provides tips on how best to approach your team, what current technology is being used in the industry and much more.
Download it below.