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The deadline of October is fast approaching for food manufacturers to access a digital fund to help drive technological innovation across the food and beverage industry. So, if you’re wanting to take advantage of this fund, you need to be quick as time’s running out. 

Food manufacturers are already focussed on product innovation. But, having a focus on digitalisation to help transform the way your business operates can also provide a competitive advantage - particularly when extra financial support may be available to get you there. 

The following article gives some simple guidance on: 

  • Whdigitalisation is key for food manufacturers 
  • What the Government funded scheme looks like
  • What your next steps should be 

Why is digital transformation key for food manufacturers? 

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Digitalisation is focused on digitising various aspects of business processes to improve the way they operateThis can lead to improvements in efficiency, productivity, profits, customer satisfaction, service and more. 

In addition, you can reduce costs, save time and boost the efficiency of your core business functions such as product development, logistics and production.

The right digital strategy will also include an industry solution that will help you retain your traceability and compliance which is key in the food sector. 

So, what types of practical applications of a digital strategy can yield business benefits? 

The following are just some examples of where digital transformation can make a real difference. There are many more, but each needs consideration as to where business value can be achieved.  

  • Improve customer focus with technology - (like an ERP system) can centralise data from multiple sources enabling you to access the right customer information in real-time to provide excellent service or innovate products/services, and make the right decisions in a timely manner. 
  • Boost efficiency with automation - business areas such as purchase approval or automated warehousing, can help replace paper driven processes or reduce time-consuming manual tasks within your team. By using mobile solutions, you can take your digitalisation to the shop floor, enabling live updates to drive more informed decision making. 
  • Enhanced resource management - Organising staff schedules, for instance, can be made more efficient using tools such as algorithms within a solution. These tools can help you match the appropriate staff to the relevant task and machine learning can help ensure the process always improving, based on specific criteria. 
  • Make more informed business decisions - Predictive analytics and data conveniently displayed in customisable dashboards makes it easier for you to plan for the future. 
  • Optimise your supply chain - Technology makes it easier to control and monitor the flow of materials, assess material yields, understand associated costs and more. You can use this information to  build your resilient supply chain. 
  • Maintain quality control - Through a more centralised, digital system, you can gain more visibility over your manufacturing and production processes. So, you can ensure the best end-product for your customers. 
  • Reduce waste - Technology can help you reduce food loss and waste with the use of co and by-product functionality. Not only does this reduce your carbon footprint but it can also open new revenue streams. 
  • Managing allergens and ingredients Allergen and ingredient-related regulations are always changing. Ensure your business is compliant with an industry-specific solution that helps you keep up with new laws and consumer demands. 


So how does the Government scheme work and how can it support a digital strategy? 

innovation funding service

The Government scheme is designed to enable UK registered businesses to  apply for funding towards feasibility studies into digital technologies to transform supply chains in UK manufacturing. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. 

Essentially, the funding is to drive digital innovation in UK manufacturing supply chains and develop the use of digital technologies to become more efficient, productive, flexible and resilient organisations. These technologies must support better integration and optimisation of supply chain performance. 

The application period is open now until the 7th October 2020. 

To be eligible for this grant, you must satisfy the following conditions for any digital driven project: 

  • Have total eligible costs between £250,000 and £500,000
  • Start by 1 April 2021 
  • Last up to six months 
In addition, as a business, you must:  
  • Be a UK registered business of any size 
  • Collaborate with other UK registered businesses, academic institutions, charities, public sector organisations or research and technology organisations (RTO) 
  • Involve at least one SME 
  • Carry out its project work in the UK 
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK 

If you qualify then there is the potential to get the following grants to cover project cost if you are a Commercial focussed operation. Your funding request must not exceed the limits stated: 

  • Up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation 
  • Up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation 
  • Up to 50% if you are a large organisation 

For any funding, evidence must be uploaded for each expenditure with every claim made. These might include invoices, timesheets, receipts or spreadsheets for capital usage.  

You can learn more about the funding opportunity here. 

So how do I get started? 

Two creative millenial small business owners working on social media strategy using a digital tablet while sitting at desk-1With the current Government funding scheme under the headline of ‘Manufacturing Made Smarter’, which supports the implementation of digital technologies to enable more efficient, adaptive and resilient UK manufacturing supply chains, set to finish in October, there has never been a better time to consider how the right digitalisation approach could help your business. However, deciding where to start is the key challenge. 

The best approach is to focus on building a long-term digital strategy. Consider what pieces of technology will address your business needs and challenges, not just immediately but in the long run too. 

Here at Columbus, digital transformation is at the heart of everything we do, helping food businesses transform and optimise their ways of working across a number of technologies and industry sectors. 

The Best Practice assessment

As part of an initiative we are currently offering a two day ColumbusFood Best Practice Assessment which can help you to identify where you may be 'behind the curve' and highlight areas within your business that can help you to create a competitive advantage!  

This two day of on-site consultancy is available between now and the end of October 2020 which involves a Consultant-led review of your current pain points, business processes and future strategy linked to how you can digitally transform. 

An assessment report following the on-site time which includes... 

  • Business process review and maturity assessment 
  • A heatmap aligning gaps in best practice with pain points and future strategy 
  • Systems and infrastructure overview 
  • Recommendations on possible changes to meet future business objectives 

The consultancy and report are delivered at no cost and you have no obligations to proceed with Columbus, should we make any recommendations. We are passionate about driving business improvements for food businesses and want to share this with you. 

So, why not use this as a start point in assessing where you are and where you need to get to? Once you have a plan, you can then look to access the Government funding available to help you on your journey


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