The major events of 2020 highlighted the importance of businesses remaining agile in a modern world that’s full of disruptions. Then when you factor in changing consumer demands, workforce shortages and social distancing measures, it’s clear why the use of automation in the food industry is now more than just a trend…
In this blog, we explain why the future of food is automated (and how your business can take the leap):
- What are the benefits of automation?
- How to make the transition from manual processes to automation a smooth one
What are the benefits of automation?
Food businesses are using automation tools like robotics and machinery to:
- Cut labour costs
- Improve visibility into their supply chain
- Reduce the risk of serious injury to their workforce
Let’s take a quick look at the other benefits.
Reduce supply chain waste
Supply chain waste and over-supply within food is always a concern due to the short shelf lives of certain products. End-to-end-solutions like a food-specific ERP system improve supply and demand management by providing precise data on the amount of stock needed based on real-time demand.
Track product goods with end-to-end traceability
With automation tools, you’ll be able track product goods throughout the supply chain journey and tap in anywhere along the chain to see the information relevant to you. For example, pinpoint contaminated orders and isolate issues before they impact the wider public.
Improve flexibility and scalability
The last 12 months have highlighted the importance of business agility. Trying to meet changing consumer demands and regulations with process that need to be manually updated is a huge drain on time and resources.
Automation reduces the amount of manual work so data inputting becomes automatic. For example, you can import a spreadsheet and the system will automatically populate it for you. Plus, you’ll only need to input the data into one place, meaning less work for you and your team.
Automated technology can work 24/7 (with the occasional break for maintenance) and often more efficiently than what humans can do. Plus, you’ll be able to improve machine performance with data insights gathered from the production line.
Better quality control
By investing in automation, you can improve line efficiency, maximise ingredient usage and enhance food safety.
For example, food packaging robots will handle the repetitive processes on your production lines, reducing the chances of human error and freeing up your workforce for more fulfilling tasks. End-to-end solutions like an ERP system can monitor produce throughout the food and drink supply chain.
This makes it easy to access data at any point of the journey and identify problems before they occur, lowering the risk of product recalls and ultimately protecting the brand.
Limit product recalls
Multiple product recalls or disease outbreaks can have serious repercussions for your company’s reputation and profits. Automation tools like a food industry-specific ERP system can provide visibility over regulations.
You’ll also be able to ensure your food business is compliant by cross referencing the data gathered from your supply chain and processes. Lot tracking helps you trace and remove products from your supply chain before it causes more damage.
You can read more into the benefits of automation in food industry here.
How to make the transition from manual processes to automation a smooth one
As we mentioned earlier, the switch from manual processes to automation in the food and drink industry was already happening. But, the current climate has accelerated many digital transformation projects, forcing businesses who were initially undecided on implementing new technologies into making the change now.
We understand that transforming your business operations can seem like a daunting prospect. You’ll also need to be mindful what effect the introduction of new technology will have on your employees as well.
Here’s our six-step guide to ensuring a smooth transition to automated processes:
Map out your current businesses processes at a reasonable level of detail. Start from the ground up while gathering feedback from the teams who actually do the tasks about what’s really happening. This knowledge will make it much clearer about what you do/don’t need.
Now, you can begin to sort through what you do/don’t need with the data captured. Think from a customer and internal stakeholder point of view about how valuable each piece of information is.
Next, identify where each piece of data that adds value can be captured and how you can get that kind of capture as close to real-time as possible. This will ensure your information is accurate.
Many digital transformation projects fail because employees can’t see the reasons for change or don’t understand them. So, take time to explain to your team the aim of the project and keep them involved throughout the process. By doing this, you’ll be able to maintain their buy-in, engagement and happiness at work.
Address the elephant in the room early on. Due to news media, employees will often automatically associate automation with huge job cuts.
Of course, there will be some job displacement initially, but show them that new technology can make their day-to-day lives easier (for example, a manual process that’s going digital).
Make it clear to your workforce that new technology can lead to new, higher level jobs which require an advanced skillset. Also explain how new tech may create new career paths, opportunities for progression and provide more scope for self-development. This will help improve employee morale, engagement and motivation and ultimately make them more inclined to embrace new things and master new skills.
By investing in state-of-art technology, you’ll obviously need people in your team who know how to operate it correctly. Recruiting people into your business who have the right skillset can be difficult, so consider upskilling your team instead.
Regardless of which route you decide to go down, it’s important to bridge the digital divide. This will ensure your team knows how to use any technology, as well as help alter their perception of innovation, encouraging them to act/think more proactively. Plus, you’ll be able to gain their input, ideas and buy-in, helping drive process improvements for any future projects.
Whenever you introduce new technology into your business, you’ll run the risk of compatibility issues. So, to minimise the chances of system issues and speed up the integration process, review all current technology systems before you launch something new.
That way, you’ll reduce costly build times, prevent system redundancies and help stop the budget from spiralling out of control. You can also relieve some of the pressure off your in-house team by outsourcing to a digital transformation agency.
You’ll always find great leadership at the centre of any successful digital transformation project. Strong leaders are required to motivate and lead your workforce to success, whether it’s upgrading your legacy systems or a global crisis that pushes your business to action.
Is your business ready to take the leap to automation?
Technology like automation can elevate food businesses to another level, helping them gain valuable in-depth insights into their processes and machinery performance. And it shouldn’t be something your team fears either – automation eliminates the tedious, mundane tasks from their day-to-day lives, freeing them up to concentrate on the more creative and fulfilling work.
In our guide to technology adoption for food businesses, we expand on the role of automation in the industry, plus examine other advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
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