The food industry is going through one of its most challenging moments, but, fortunately, we are living simultaneously the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, commonly known as Industry 4.0, which represents a unique opportunity for companies to redesign their processes and thus take advantage of new technologies to respond efficiently to new challenges. Internet of things (IOT), predictive maintenance, smart sensors, in cloud, big data and artificial intelligence are just some of the facets of this digital hurricane, which are available to companies.
But is it really that simple to redefine processes and put these new technologies at the service of Industry?
Num recent IDC study on the food sector (pre-Covid-19), it is clear that 40% of companies are hostage to fragmented information systems, and technologically obsolete, in which specific developments proliferate, external applications with a low level of integration, and, as a consequence, outdated, redundant and difficult to interpret data.
Technology is just a vertex of a triangle in which People, Processes and Technology must be aligned. When this does not happen, the difficulty in obtaining complete and timely business data and indicators, prevents decisions and quick responses from being taken, generating inefficiencies along the entire value chain. Ultimately, it will be the consumers penalizing the company, due to the lack of capacity to respond to its demands for transparency and sustainability.
When business processes are not supported by consistent information systems and technologies, the adoption of new technologies can even have effects contrary to those desired, generating chaos and even more inefficiency.
What is changing with Covid-19?
This pandemic is anticipating many changes that were already underway and others that were still in an embryonic phase and that took on new meaning in the face of an unprecedented health crisis in our generation. In fact, history seems to show that major global events, such as wars and pandemics, do not create new trends, but deepen and accelerate existing ones - Industry 4.0 is a paradigmatic case.
The impact caused by Covid-19 exposed the weaknesses of the business models of some companies and the information systems and technologies that support them, forcing them to make a technological leap of 10 years, if they want to survive in the new socio-economic context that will emerge of this crisis.
The arguments of the Food Industry 4.0
The best prepared companies will be those that have an Intelligent Information System, capable of processing, analyzing and acting on large volumes of data generated by IOT, in real time. With IOT, the multiplicity of devices and equipment permanently connected, from the factory floor even the distribution and sales points will allow the immediate collection of data as diverse as consumption preferences or occupation of productive resources, which, in the end, will be able to support more timely and informed decisions.
In this system, the ERP will be a fundamental instrument management of business processes and creation of transparency in the supply chain, ensuring total quality control and food traceability. In a logic of continuous improvement, these systems will be permanently changing, with a view to a superior user experience, tuning the supported processes.
The robotization and automation of repetitive processes, with low added value, will allow free resources for other tasks and processes, where the human factor is indispensable to create value for the company.
Other applications will take advantage of the data and processes supported by the ERP, such as Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), operational planning systems or predictive maintenance, supported by technologies that make production planning and management flexible.
In the processes of strategic decision-making, the application of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics on the data obtained will allow to obtain more assertive predictions about consumer behavior, discover opportunities and mitigate risks. The ability to anticipate becomes a unique competitive advantage in the company, which can act more proactively than reactively, reallocating its resources and efforts in a more incisive and confident way.
The level of maturity and technological adoption is highly variable from company to company, so there is no single recipe for placing new technologies at the service of the company's interests.
Each company must carry out a rigorous assessment of the current state of its information systems and technologies, namely its scalability and ease of integration with new technologies and business applications.
The results of this assessment, combined with the company's strategic priorities, will serve to indicate your path.
This content was produced in collaboration with SAGE.