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.