<img src="https://secure.leadforensics.com/133892.png" alt="" style="display:none;">

Food manufacturing companies have been having a tough time during the COVID-19 pandemic; primarily in sustaining their day-to-day operations while ensuring food and employee safety.

Long-term growth plans have been side-lined by short-term business continuity plans; the need to put in place future-proofing strategies (to protect the business and stakeholders) in a post-pandemic world has never been greater.

Below are five key measures that can help food manufacturers safeguard their operations and ensure they succeed in a post-pandemic market:

  • Accurately forecast demand (and plan to meet it)

    When the pandemic broke out, countries across the world went into lockdowns of varying stringencies. Panic buying and stockpiling became rampant; consumers in certain countries are still exhibiting these purchasing patterns.

    Food manufacturers today are finding it difficult to understand whether people are consuming more or if they are pre-emptively filling their pantries. To accurately plan future demands after the pandemic blows over, food manufacturers must consider leveraging advanced analytical tools—like point-of-sale data or Big Data-driven business intelligence systems—to cull relevant information from reports, reviews, surveys, and metrics. The objective? Converting the findings from these into actionable, forward-looking demand planning critical for success post-pandemic.

  • Building flexible, but resilient, supply chains

    The restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic have drastically affected the flow of food from the farm to the fork. To minimize disruptions and reinstate flow continuity, food manufacturers are learning to redesign their supply chains to ensure future resilience. The three things that such companies can consider doing to build responsible and resilient supply chains are:

    •  Invest in omnichannel capabilities (especially those focusing on digital solutions) to improve go-to-market versatility

    • Create a leaner (and more manageable) product range to reduce risks and costs

    In combination, these two will free up time and resources for manufacturers which they can use to invest in developing innovative new, environmentally sustainable products. Companies will also have more time to invest in supply chain partner relationships—supplier and customer loyalty are crucial in ensuring business continuity and thriving post-COVID-19.                                                                                                                 

    A food industry-specific digital ERP solution can create the operational flexibility manufacturers need to produce new products/ change existing processes to promote the creation of new ones/ improve old ones. Such a food manufacturing ERP solution can also make multiple machines perform similar operations to promote large-scale changes in volume or capacity.

  • Putting greater focus on food safety and employee health –
    Recent surveys have shown a distinct shift in grocery shopping habits—while there is no concrete evidence of the coronavirus being transmitted through food, grocery shoppers are preferring pre-packaged/ canned food to fresh produce. Consumers are also concerned about how food products are being manufactured since food manufacturers frequently have several employees sharing workspaces and equipment. These considerations have put the spotlight on the food safety and traceability aspects of food manufacturing.                                                                                                       

    A food industry-specific digital ERP solution can track ingredients bi-directionally across the supply chain and trace the employee productivity landscape. This means that if a worker falls ill, a food manufacturer has complete visibility into the products, equipment and other employees he/ she came in contact with, allowing it to avoid further risk by implementing necessary preventive measures.

  • Meeting sustainability requirements
    As discussed, visibility into product sourcing and transparency in the manufacturing process have occupied center stage during this pandemic. Genetically modified food and those produced through the overuse of chemicals are topics of heated safety-related debates. With consumers becoming increasingly aware of these facts—nearly 25% of Americans are now eating more plant-based food—there is a distinct move towards consuming more plant-based, locally grown, healthy Do It Yourself (DIY) meals and products. Food companies are expected to tap into this trend to leverage what can be a great new revenue source.

  • Embracing digital transformation (and being Cloud ready)
    The pandemic has shown us how remote systems management through Cloud-based solutions is now non-negotiable. Even if a business is already working towards incorporating these new tools, a ramp up (to a digital ERP for food manufacturing) is a good idea. Cloud technology makes seamless collaboration, communication and access sharing with interested parties a reality.

    Then there is the aspect of ensuring contactless ordering, payments and pickup—all made possible by digital solutions. For instance, virtual tipping jars or mobile order-and-pay options like the ones McDonald’s, Subway, KFC and Burger King have introduced.

Interesting trivia –
‘The Coca-Cola Company is rolling out a touchless fountain experience that can be used with a smartphone for contactless pouring. Heineken, on the other hand, has turned to virtual tech to launch a new product—a cardboard topper for multipack beer that will eliminate plastic from millions of cans. With travel restrictions hindering the mobility of engineers, the company leveraged virtual technology to install the new machinery needed at its Manchester-based factory.’

AI-based technologies are already helping food manufacturers manage workforce-related risks better by predicting, monitoring and testing workers’ health and safety. Be it food manufacturing, distribution or provisioning, these tools are enabling manufacturers to keep their operations running. In fact, such solutions may be able to add an extra layer of protection that goes beyond mandatory governmental regulations in case of a second COVID-19 wave.

At Columbus, our Food, Beverage and Process Industry experts bring to the table decades of experience with ERP implementations and Microsoft Dynamics 365 managed services and our own ColumbusFood ERP. Over the last three decades, we have worked with hundreds of manufacturers and distributors to deliver and manage solutions for their unique requirements and processes.

Learn more about what we do for the Food, Beverage & Process industry here or write to us at us-marketing@columbusglobal.com and someone from our team will revert at the earliest.

Topics

Discuss this post

Recommended posts

As we begin 2024, it's no longer a question of whether to adopt AI-driven tools and strategies. These days, forward-thinking business leaders are actively considering how to adopt and implement AI successfully, in order to minimize risks and maximize the strategic rewards.
Some of the most exciting capabilities of current ERP systems — the ones with the potential to put ambitious new business goals within your reach — are the ones that leverage the impressive recent advances in artificial intelligence. Experienced leaders know that to reap the rewards of new technology, you need to be clear-eyed and fully aware of the potential rewards and opportunities, as well as the pitfalls that need to be avoided. What do you need to know to take full advantage of the fusion of ERP and AI, without running into unexpected obstacles and dangers? Ultimately, there's no substitute for careful planning, forethought, and guidance from ERP experts. How Do ERP and AI Work Together to Benefit Business? One of the most important ways that AI boosts the capabilities of ERP systems is by helping companies recognize patterns and make predictions. With AI-powered ERP software, you can forecast everything from sales and cashflow to supply chain disruptions and the need for preventive maintenance of equipment. This pattern detection plays out in all kinds of valuable ways. With visibility into open purchase orders, for instance, AI can spot when a supplier with multiple orders is late with one of them, assess the implications for the other orders, and call that to your attention so you can communicate with the supplier as needed. You may be able to resolve the situation easily with a two-minute email, where previously it might not have come to your attention until it was too late. It's especially helpful to have AI monitoring things like potential shipping disruptions. Whether it's a ship blocking the Suez Canal or ports closing due to the outbreak of war, it can make a huge difference to have a system that keeps track of shipping details and alerts you to possible delays an extra day—or even an extra week—in advance. How AI Boosts Workplace Productivity Another of AI’s real superpowers is its ability to help team members spend less time on tedious drudge work and more time on higher-level tasks. AI is tremendously effective at bypassing writer's block, for example. It can expedite critical tasks like summarizing business meetings, generating sales or purchase agreements, and writing business correspondence along with other business documents. Consider the new Microsoft Copilot, which is integrated with Dynamics 365. It combines the power of language models with your business data—including all your Microsoft 365 apps, documents, and conversations. It can help you: • Write documents in Word by generating text and suggesting edits • Analyze and visualize data quickly in Excel • Bring ideas to life impactfully in PowerPoint • Create efficient communications in Outlook … and much more. How AI Helps Elevate Customer Service AI can take customer service to a higher level by helping customers get the information and help they need in a timelier manner. It can also ensure that customers get their deliveries faster by solving or preventing supply chain and logistics issues. Automatic certain customer service tasks with AI means less waiting and happier customers. What Key Trends Are Driving the Adoption of AI in ERP systems? One of the most potent factors fueling interest in AI right now is the success of tools like OpenAI's ChatGPT, DALL-E, Midjourney, and Adobe Firefly. These tools have democratized AI by making it widely accessible in an easy-to-use format. In just the last couple years, the average person’s eyes have really been opened to AI’s possibilities. But contrary to what most people think, AI didn't just burst on the scene overnight— it’s been under the hood of many business software programs for years, slowly developing its capabilities and enabling more sophisticated tools. Microsoft in particular has been at the forefront of this. Remember Clippy in MS Office? That was an early example of an AI-powered assistant. Cortana was another step along the path. ERPs have been drawing on the power of AI for years now to analyze patterns and trends and make better forecasts and predictions. Microsoft's Dynamics 365 has been a leader in this effort as well. These days, Microsoft's Power Apps are a great example of how Microsoft helps companies harness the power of AI to boost and extend their abilities. With Power Automate, for example, you can easily make use of robotic process automation (RPA) and digital process automation (DPA) to automate recurring tasks and create automated workflows using low-code drag and drop tools. With Power Automate, you can even explain a problem in English and have it create a solution for you. So instead of needing to know how to write a SQL query, you can just say something like, “Hey, I want a list of all customers that spent at least $100,000 worth of product from us in the past, including something from this particular product line, but haven't bought from us in the last six months" — and Power Automate will know how to build that query and then either display it in a Power BI view, use it to feed a mass mailing, or do other useful things with it. Which makes it possible to get what you need out of systems without having to understand all the bits and bytes involved. Likewise, the power of predictive analytics, and the machine learning and forecasting tools that are built into ERPs like D365, mean you don't need to be a data scientist to analyze and visualize data in new and powerful ways — helping you see the road ahead so that you can run your business in a proactive (rather than reactive) way. Setting Guardrails: Navigating Potential Risks With power comes responsibility, of course, and a need to be clear-eyed about the possible downsides and pitfalls of leveraging AI within an ERP system. Navigating these issues successfully comes down to making sure you have the right guardrails in place and that they aren't circumvented. One of the most critical issues is to make sure that your data is tagged correctly by setting up good IT governance. What data should only be used within the walls of the company? What should be limited to people with specific levels of access? For example, consider a publicly traded company. If their financial results are inadvertently released before their 10-K is published, the SEC could punish them for it. AI could accidentally leak that kind of data if the right guardrails aren't in place to prevent it. Making sure data is correctly tagged can be a complicated process, and a lot of companies, especially smaller ones, may not have the necessary skills in house. That's an area where a partner like Columbus can step in and help. Copyright and intellectual property is another area where strong guardrails need to be set up. The Writer's Guild strike recently drew attention to this issue. For businesses, the question is: How do you make sure that your data and intellectual property aren't appropriated and leveraged without your permission? This is another reason why data needs to be carefully tagged and protected before it's released. There's a major change management component to this issue as well. It's vital to make sure that employees are aware of the risks and understand the proper procedures to safeguard data, as well as which tools are appropriate to use and which aren't. Policies also need to be created to make sure that employees don't circumvent the guardrails, intentionally or unintentionally. Making sure team members are trained in a consistent and ongoing way is crucial. How Can Enterprise Businesses Prepare for a Future Shaped by AI and ERP? With all of the above in mind, you can’t let the risks of new technology dissuade you from moving forward. Your competitors will be taking advantage of these tools, and you can't afford to be left behind. The key is to implement these tools in a disciplined and measured way, staying cognizant of the rewards and possibilities, as well as the potential pitfalls. This is another area where having an experienced partner like Columbus by your side can help you steer the ship successfully. Want to learn more about how Columbus can help your organization harness the full capabilities of AI? Get in touch with us today.
Right now, companies in the food and beverage industry have a lot on their plate. A key question how to meet all demands and at the same time reach all your business goals? Unifying your technology platform, business strategy and operations is necessary to stay ahead of your competitors. Companies have to keep up with increasing consumer demand for products that are healthy, ethical and environmentally friendly while at the same time meeting regulatory standards and minimizing food waste. And, of course, they still have to do the usual work of keeping margins high, preparing for emergencies, ensuring product quality, staying innovative and minimizing risk at every stage of production.
Like other industries, food & and beverage companies must initiate strategy planning and change management at the very start of bringing their business systems to the cloud. That’s the best way to avoid additional costs, effort, and business interruption. And the trick is to define value with a people mindset.
If you're a Chief Information Officer, the data says you already get it. You understand the value, rewards and competitive necessity of digital transformation — and the transition to a modern cloud-based ERP.
right-arrow share search phone phone-filled menu filter envelope envelope-filled close checkmark caret-down arrow-up arrow-right arrow-left arrow-down