Pandemic fueled embrace of food & beverages will accelerate DT beyond basics in 2021
Perhaps one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic has been the food and beverage sector. It is also true that food is a basic human need; hence the industry has to quickly learn the art of survival in these challenging times to cater to that need. Ironically, technology is at the rescue, and Digital Transformation (DT) is a saviour that can not only help the food business to ride this time, but rather thrive, looking far ahead into a growth oriented future.
There is unforeseen disruption that has helped enterprises turn around their processes, increasing their competitive edge. The so-called Industry 4.0 is helping F&B maximize its prospects. The fourth industrial revolution is contributing to the success of all players in the F&B space – from food manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, to retailers and restaurants.
It’s IoT all the way!
The biggest challenge is the perishable nature of the F&B items. Time is of essence here, and so effective and quick supply chain is inherent to a successful food operation system. Advances in IoT are using smart technology and smart sensing along all lines of the food supply chain system. The data can be sent back to a control command center via digital channels and apps, to give RT insights into the shipping process. The B2B ecosystem of food manufacturers, transporters, and retailers can be based on transparency and mutual trust due to easy flow of data and information across digitally enabled operation management systems.
Temperature controlling sensors and humidity measuring devices can monitor the stored food items along the cold chain. This can go a long way in ensuring food safety especially in food packaging and delivery. Sensors can measure conditions at the source such as a drop in minimal supply levels at retail outlets, cold storage houses etc and send RT data back to the supply centers, such that lean inventory principles can be applied. The orders for fresh supply can be matched to demands in an optimal way, reducing wastage.
Automations in operation excellence can be achieved thru digital innovations. Processes can be streamlined with intelligent and automated workflows. The logistics performance of the food supply can improve due to efficient predictive maintenance due to deep learning. This can bring down costs due to breakdowns and repairs at warehouses and in transport trucks etc, thereby reducing food spoilage.
AI can help understand data that is now the center of food technology. Understanding customer needs, preferences and market trends with the use of machine learning can help businesses take calculated risks and make informed decisions with. Market reactions of new products launched for instance can be gauged quickly by using ML to process big data from digital ingestion points into programs that run on cloud computing power. These insights can be leveraged to make food items and beverages production more responsive to market expectations.
The food and beverage transition in the digital age is changing the customer experience. Personalization is now possible at every stage, be it in malls or at supermarkets, where operate on-order analytics can be used to increase customer loyalty. Even POS experiences can be made more pleasant when they are connected with data from the backend systems for smooth operations.
In case of a restaurant, a practical usage could be to have digital apps for quick online order, thereby scaling business by catering to a large customer base without having to invest in expensive physical seating space. Cloud kitchens and ghost kitchens are growing up fast due to digital penetration. The ecommerce boom for F&B has been primarily due to digital technology. Online stores have been able to grow their reach due to internet based aggregators that operate especially in F&B space.
Food businesses need to adopt a forward thinking strategy, such as investing in holistic end-to-end digital systems. One such solution is the Cloud ERP system. A comprehensive dashboard, enabled via a mobile or web app, can streamline all departments of a food business enterprise in real time. Management of manufacturing, controlling the quality of food, compliance to regulations of food safety guidelines, integration of vendor deployments, inventory control, and synchronized tracking & reporting, are all inherent benefits of an ERP powered organization.
What lies within, emanates without
A novel concept is the use of VR (Virtual Reality) and AR ( Augmented Reality) in the food & beverage sector. Employees can remotely navigate in warehouses using AR. Maintenance and monitoring can be done via experts by using AR and VR to virtually walk around food manufacturing plants. Training staff for food safety and equipment handling can be done very fast due to immersive AR/VR simulations. Digital marketing is creating new waves in leveraging VR to activate all senses of a customer during food exhibitions and even digital campaigns.
All in all, cloud computing capabilities can bring in a lot of semblance and order to the food business. Many organizations have been jumping on to the bandwagon with the help of expert systems. We, at Techminds, have been supporting F&B enterprises with customized software deployments across all facets of their operations.