Today’s consumers are becoming more demanding when it comes to their food and drink buying experience. They want to know even more about the products they’re purchasing, such as its origin and the journey it took to get to their basket.
In addition, the last year has shown us that supply chains must be resilient to cope with the disruptions of modern society. Fortunately, new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), automation and machine learning are all offering practical solutions to food businesses as supply chains and logistics continue to grow.
And looking further ahead, we firmly believe the next decade will be one of incredible change for the global grocery market thanks to the advancement of technology.
AI, automation and machine learning are paving the way for the future of food
Let’s take a closer look at what these mean and their benefits…
Increase overall efficiency with automation
Automation tools like robotics and machinery give food businesses the chance to improve overall process efficiency and boost product quality while reducing the risk of any human-related errors and safety issues.
For example, meat processing plants can use robotics to handle the most difficult cuts of meat - which reduces the risk of workers becoming injured and accelerates the process.
Other benefits of automation include:
- Better quality control – when processes are automated, errors and defects can be identified, isolated and resolved more quickly
- Improved food safety – you can gain a more granular view of your food manufacturing processes and ensure one process change won’t impact another
- Increased efficiency and less waste – when deployed correctly, automation can boost efficiency, reduce waste and improve cost efficiency much more than if your processes relied on just human workers
- More time back for your team – automate repeatable processes so your workers gain more time back to spend on tasks that actually require human input. This can also boost employee morale
- Enhanced traceability – as soon as a product/ingredient enters your supply chain, it can be automatically scanned and its data entered into your ERP system. Not only does this reduce the risk of human error, but it also ensures end-to-end traceability which can improve supply chain management
Optimise your processes with AI
AI is helping food manufacturers, processors and distributors gain in-depth insights into their process and machinery performance.
For example, IoT-enabled devices can automatically analyse and collect data on how your machines are performing compared to how well they should be performing. This saves your teams time as they don’t need to do it manually.
Another benefit is this vital data automatically transfers over to your ERP system. This not only eliminates the need for manual data inputting, but it also centralises the information. That makes it easier for anybody within the business to access the data and quickly see areas for improvement.
An ERP system that’s integrated with advanced analytics tools can even provide you with customisable data dashboards. So, you can gain a snapshot view of the information you want to see.
Improve supply and demand management with end-to-end solutions
Tackling waste reduction has long been a top priority for the food industry. In particular, managing supply chain waste and ensuring over-supplying doesn’t happen. After all, food items often have a short shelf life and over-supply can lead to products being thrown away if they aren’t used in time.
End-to-end solutions, such as ERP systems made specifically for the food industry, can help food businesses better manage supply and demand. Food ERP software can ensure suppliers and manufacturers only purchase the precise amount of stock required, based on real-time demand.
Leading food ERP software will also offer:
- The ability to help avoid lack of alignment on inventory levels
- Reduce carbon footprint by minimising travel throughout the supply cycle
- Co and bi-product functionality so you can reduce waste and create multiple end products to boost revenue
What other advanced technology do food businesses need?
Here are some of the other technology innovations the food industry should be investing in moving forwards…
An enhanced traceability process for food safety
We’ve already touched on how automation can improve your traceability process, but there are also solutions which can help you meet food safety standards.
Food safety is more important than ever before, considering the rise in consumers who suffer from food allergies. There are also specific food trends that are becoming more popular like plant-based foods, which has put added emphasis on food businesses to ensure their products are 100% free from animal substances.
By digitising your food supply chain, you can enhance your traceability process and increase transparency. Some ways tech can help include:
- Food industry-specific ERP software that can capture all the relevant product information from the moment it enters your supply chain, track vendor/supplier information and ensure compliance within the market you operate in
- Blockchain to reduce the risk of human errors occurring when food products/ingredients enter the supply chain
Using data mining technology to better understand market trends
As a result of today’s consumers being more informed than ever before, they’re more aware of the ethical implications of the food and drink they consume. Health is still a priority, but they also want to make sure the products have been sustainably sourced and the manufacturer supports ethical working practices.
If you’re going to keep meeting and exceeding your consumers’ expectations, you need to stay ahead of these trends. Data mining technology, such as Microsoft’s Power BI and Artificial Intelligence, will help.
For example, a Power BI and ERP system integration can give you real-time data on:
- Warehouse activity
- Chiller and freezer conditions
- Driver performance
- Customer preferences (based on historic data)
All in one place. Not only does this allow you to see where you can maximise operational efficiency, but also view visual dashboards.
These dashboards are customisable so you can digest the information you need at that moment in time. This can tie your customer preferences into other aspects of your business to drive overall efficiency.
Better manage loss and waste
Food businesses need to minimise the chances of over-supply happening for products that have short shelf lives. But they also need to ensure they don’t under-supply because that can lead to customer dissatisfaction.
End-to-end solutions, such as food ERP software, can manage supply and demand through the entire supply chain. Software integrations means ERP software can use historic and current data to make accurate predictions on how much supply to bring in to meet expected demand levels.
This can also put your business on a more sustainable path. For example, less product that’s leftover means less will end up in landfill and the fewer deliveries you’ll have to make, helping you reduce carbon emissions.
Is your business ready to adopt technology?
It’s clear technology will continue to play an increasingly vital role in how we produce, package and deliver food. The businesses we’ve seen thrive in the face of global uncertainty are the ones that have remained flexible thanks to their digital transformation efforts.
At Columbus, we've been helping businesses within the food and drink sector embrace digitalisation for over 30 years. And we can help yours too. Our food solution can help your business in its innovation efforts by tackling changing regulations and market trends, allergen management, product recalls, food loss and waste and much more.