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The highly consumer-driven food industry has been growing at a rapid pace. With that comes an increase in the number and complexity of challenges. For example, supply chains are likely becoming more complicated as they spread across the globe.

And then there are the changing consumer expectations - such as their rising interest in knowing where their food products have come from, the need for effective allergen management and sustainability.

How can food businesses overcome these challenges? In episode 11 of ColumbusCast, I join Business Development Manager Laura Gilbank and share some of the lessons I’ve learnt over the two decades I’ve spent working in the food industry.

Challenge #1: Handling the demands of seasonal periods

For seasonal periods like Christmas, products such as gammon, turkey and pigs in blankets, are all produced as early as June. Planning by the development team can start in February! They’re all frozen of course because in terms of fresh, it’s difficult to manage the supply.

Challenge #2: Managing customer and consumer demands

Just look at the food trends that have changed in the last few years. For example, there’s a huge demand for plant-based products and people are conscious about what they’re eating and where it came from.

Then there are the ongoing challenges like managing the short shelf life of food products, food safety, allergen management, maintaining product quality, reducing waste (for not just wasted materials but also time, productivity etc).

And that’s before we consider the unpredictable events that might happen - like COVID!

Challenge #3: Staying ahead of competitors

If you can’t do this, your business can go somewhere else. Implementing the right technology solutions at the right time can help with that - for example, an ERP system.

I’ve been involved in ERP projects from an end user perspective. I’ve seen the new systems help businesses achieve their full potential, thanks to centralised systems, standardised processes and access to accurate, real-time data.

How do you ensure a successful transformation?

Digital transformation projectPhoto by ThisIsEngineering 

People generally don’t like change. When they’ve worked a certain way for years and it’s seemingly performed, why should they change?

That’s why you must engage with the users - the system has to benefit them and you should be able to demonstrate this. So, get on the shop floor, look at process flows and look at what your users are actually doing rather than what they’re supposed to be doing. Look at where you can improve process flows.

And don’t forget to test these improvements - continuously.

Your quality of data is very important here - it can help you gain an understanding of not only the real-life shop floor but how it impacts the business financially. It’s about looking for improvement opportunities. The data will help you focus on the areas that are struggling rather than wasting your time looking at everything.

Here are some more tips for transformation projects:

  • Don’t wait - time waits for nobody. I just sit back and look at how food has changed over the last 30 years and it’s outstanding. So, start your transformation project now
  • Don’t be afraid to call in third-party consultancies - you’ve been following the same processes day in, day out for years. So it can help to get a fresh pair of eyes to look at your processes and share their unbiased perspective to help you improve things

Your goal is to produce a high quality, safe product that complies with regulations. A consultancy, like Columbus, can help you do that and make the job so much easier and more streamlined. That’s the way forward for businesses looking to embrace change and transformation.

Contact us

To hear more about what I’ve learnt from working in the food industry, scroll to the top of this blog post. Alternatively, you can search for ‘ColumbusCast’ in your podcast app.


The time to innovate your food business is now

In our guide to innovation for the food industry, we cover how you can prepare your business for change and the top seven technology trends you should know about. Ready to transform your business?

The complete guide to innovating your food business


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