The Food and Beverage (F&B) industry has long been innovative and fast-moving: The fast-moving consumer goods title might be a better moniker. F&B enterprises continually strive to stay ahead of the competition while having to meet regulatory demands such as:
- Food safety.
- Ever-changing consumer preferences (or should we say,“peccadillos”?).
- Expanding global demand from increasing population.
Not unlike counterparts in other manufacturing sectors, F&B makers are under pressure to reduce costs and maximize throughput, perhaps more so than other verticals. To meet these demands the industry is poised for Digital Transformation across the (very) extended supply chain—from farm to fork.
In the race for Digital Transformation, they’ll make use of IIoT Platform technologies like Connectivity, Cloud, Big Data Analytics, and associated analytics to offer new capabilities specific to each customer. These makers of foodstuffs will become providers of services or value, as they realize the ability to harmonize people, processes and technology, both internally and external to the enterprise, for the benefit of the customer.
Digital Cereal in Action
If we take the example of a cereal producer, there are always new product introductions for variations and flavors, from new healthy choices to kid-friendly flavors and unique packaging.
Now, imagine if this food company could use digital information to:
- Predict the ramp up, supply, and associated pricing of grains from farmers.
- Rapidly scale up from R&D pilot runs to full manufacturing, containment, and compliance.
- Better predict consumer impact and demand to manage price or take market share in specific consumer segments.
In addition to these benefits, at the same time, the company could use this information to know where to advertise and promote, better linking its planning, marketing, R&D, manufacturing,and consumers for improved safety, quality, and customer experience.
This Digital Transformation is, in fact, happening at one of the world’s leading and most socially responsible cereal producers — General Mills, a company that also serves as a preeminent member of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC). This Automation World article describes how General Mills is using IoT to improve visibility from farm to factory. In this emerging implementation, certificates of analysis from farmed ingredients will proactively adjust Manufacturing Execution System (MES) recipe and manufacturing equipment setups to match incoming ingredient properties such as moisture, weight, and flavor.
Visibility: Consumer to Marketing and Farm to Manufacturing to Fork
F&B companies are notoriously good at marketing. The Internet of Things (IoT) brings a new level of information to the marketers as they connect to consumers and study the social media reaction to their products. With today’s technologies companies can test market products and get vastly more accurate information about preferences from the Internet prior to committing to new strategies and product plans.
Looking back toward the farm, IoT technology will allow much closer interaction with farms and farmers, ensuring that F&B producers have full visibility into their supply chain right back to expected yields and qualities from farm fields—all leading to better predictions of supply and pricing. Manufacturers also expect the complete genealogy and traceability of the ingredient supply, warehousing, manufacturing, shipping, and consumer delivery chain—to know every element along the way in order to better address food safety.
Why Is This Important?
The most recent LNS Research survey of over 80 F&B companies harvested the top industry trends that are impacting manufacturers. All of these trends and associated challenges can be better addressed using Digital Information.