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The natural switch from manual processes to automation had been slowly happening but the current situation has fast-tracked the need for agility and made this switchover more essential than ever before. However, transforming your business operations can be a daunting thought, even if you’re tackling it incrementally.

Here are five tips to help you through the process and ensure the best chances of survival for your food business.

  1. Understand your current processes
  2. Identify what you still need
  3. Get your team’s buy-in
  4. Don’t take shortcuts
  5. Fix the process, not the data

1. Understand your current processes

How to digitise your business

Start by mapping out your current business processes. Do this from the ground up and at a reasonable level of detail.

Keep in mind that few businesses do this regularly and the difference between what happens and what you think happens can be surprising! Be sure to maintain focus on what really happens, using the teams who actually do the tasks to inform the activity.

Done well, convoluted processes and time-sinks will jump out at you. When you have that knowledge, you can begin to ratify what you do need and what you don’t need.

2. Identify what you still need

This step comes naturally after the first one. Once you know and understand your current processes, what information you have and how it is captured, you can start to sift through what you need and don’t need.

Think about the value of each piece of information from a customer and internal stakeholder point of view. It’s at this point where you can see what information you still need.

And the rest of it, that spreadsheet that's created and emailed off to a distribution group that nobody reads? Bin it!

For every piece of information that does add value, it needs to be captured somewhere. So, identify where each of those pieces can be captured and decide how you can get that kind of capture as close to real-time as possible. This ensures your data is accurate.

After all, if you need to capture some output, you don’t want somebody punching that in a system three offices away, two days later. If you want to transform this capture process to improve its accuracy and your visibility, then you need to bring the digital to the process.

3. Get your team’s buy-in

Importance of change management

Whenever you’re executing any kind of business change, your people need to be on your side for the project to be a seamless, productive success. When it’s a manual process that’s going to a digital, it’s always better to get your team’s support because, at the end of the day it can mean less arduous work for them.

But it does need to be communicated properly. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Make sure your employees understand that they’re not going to be replaced by robots or automation. Instead, explain the benefits the new processes/solutions will have for them as well as your overall business. For example, their manual-heavy tasks will be automated which gives them more time to focus on more value-add activities and improvement projects. Not to mention, strategic, business-critical processes.
  • Get your employees’ input from the very beginning - during the planning stage, as well as input from your managers. Remember that it’s your everyday users who know exactly what happens on the shop floor and they will be the ones carrying out the new processes. They will deliver some very useful insights.
  • Keep your team involved throughout the process. Make sure they know you need their input and you keep them updated. The more involved they are, the more valued they’ll feel and the easier it’ll be for you to maintain their buy-in.

4. Don’t take shortcuts

If you’re going to make this change and forge a digital future path, you have to make sure that when you choose your go-live date, you go for it. The natural thing for people when under pressure and struggling to meet customer expectation is to fall back to the manual processes because that’s what they know and understand.

“I’ll just write this down to get this load out of the door and then update the systems later when it's calmed down,” - something they always say...

But that will only undo all the progress you made and make your business transformation process all the more complex and time-consuming.

So, when you push that button and it gets difficult when everyone’s learning these new processes, make sure the old way isn’t available. Put those old manual systems in the bin and don’t look back.

5. Fix the process, not the data

Food manufacturing digital transformation

I should have a T-shirt with this one on! When you’ve got your new systems in place and you’re starting to see this new information from your new digital processes, don’t panic if at first it seems incorrect.

If it’s not quite what you envisioned, don’t assume that it’s not telling you the truth.

It’s easy to think your numbers are wrong because they’re not what your old spreadsheets used to tell you. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it IS wrong.

Be conscious of the different between “I don’t like that number” and “ that number is wrong”. So, rather than changing your data and risk all sorts of problems associated with data inaccuracy for your future self, go back to the process where the data is being captured.

And, understand whether it is the data that is wrong, or if it's because the new data is a reflection of a problem that has always been hidden by the old manual processes.

It may be the case that your data capture process is wrong and that’s what’s causing those odd figures. If so, rather than changing the data to what you think it should be re-examine the capture processes in place.

In short, fix the process, not your data.

Gaining complete supply chain visibility is central to your food business’ success

From market trends and consumer demands to regulatory changes, the food and drink industry is no stranger to supply chain pressures. Recent events, such as Brexit, coronavirus restrictions and the ever-present threat of climate change, have caused even greater pressure. Digitalising parts of your business operations can help you gain a better, more accurate view of your supply chain which can help you tackle these growing challenges.

On 20 October, I spoke in a webinar with the Food Manufacture, discussing all the points in this blog post, plus how to increase resilience and efficiency, cut costs and more. The video's available on demand - watch it here.

Are you sure your business is following best practices?

Best practices are there for a reason - follow what the market leaders are doing and you're setting your food business up for success in this brave new world. But are you certain every aspect of your business is leveraging best practices to the max? 

The ColumbusFood Best Practice Assessment can help you see which areas of your business can be improved so you remain competitive. It's just two days of on-site consultancy between now and the end of October 2020 (involving a Consultant-led review of your current pain points, business processes and future strategy) at no cost or obligation to proceed with Columbus. 

Want to find out more? Click the button below.

Find out more about the assessment

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