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Why Digital Transformation in the Food Industry Is Imperative and Urgent

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Why Digital Transformation in the Food Industry Is Imperative and Urgent

Mar 15, 2022

Jack Payne
A conceptualization of digital transformation with glowing blue icons on a dark blue field.

So much has changed in the food and beverage world in a relatively short timeframe. Consumers’ preferences have shifted with the rise of plant-based and health-first foods. Government regulations have become stricter to better protect public health and ensure total compliance.

The COVID-19 pandemic put our supply chains to the test—and in many instances, delays and shortages occurred, making clear the weaknesses in our current models. Meanwhile, innovative technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) devices and the blockchain have emerged and are already being applied by food and beverage businesses.

All of these new considerations make simply conducting your day-to-day operations that much more complex. But with the rate of change likely to increase going forward as our societies become more connected and technologically advanced, your organization must “get with the times” or be left behind.

So, how can you best prepare your company for the future? Digital transformation—or the use of modern cross-functional software solutions to improve efficiency and effectiveness across all functions and departments—is the answer.

Read on to learn why digital transformation in the food industry is so critically important for long-term success and why now is the time to jumpstart the process at your business.

Why Is Digital Transformation Critical for Success in the Food Industry?

With a strong foundation—such as a food industry-specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) system—your organization can start unlocking the valuable benefits of digital transformation. These include more holistic improvements, like better visibility of important information and enhanced interdepartmental collaboration, as well as these key operational advantages.

More Accurate and Immediate Data Collection

The core principle of digital transformation is to replace outdated and analog processes with modern, fully integrated technology. Doing so immediately reduces or eliminates the inaccuracies, delays and lost data associated with manual processes.

For example, ERP platforms designed for food and beverage companies can integrate with smart sensors, scales, meters and thermometers to automatically conduct the readings that help you monitor product quality and process efficiency. Better still, the process isn’t subject to the imperfections of manual record-keeping—human error is removed from the equation, so bad handwriting or a slip of memory won’t spoil the integrity of your data.

What’s more, these integrations also speed up the process to a remarkable degree, importing the results to your central database in real time so that you can act based on the most up-to-date facts and figures. That level of agility and assuredness is what you need for the dynamic food and beverage marketplace.

Safer Products and Procedures

The aforementioned pandemic has pushed health and safety to top-of-mind, and both shoppers and regulatory agencies have uncompromisingly high standards for product safety. At the same time, food and beverage facilities are busy and potentially hazardous workplaces if the right measures aren’t in place to protect your staff.

Luckily, the right digital transformation strategy can help you streamline and automate food safety procedures—giving you peace of mind and watertight compliance while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of your operations.

Selecting a food ERP as the basis for your digital transformation will unlock features such as expiration management tools, automated compliance checks and end-to-end-traceability functions that facilitate the isolation of contaminations and speed up the recall process. All of these will help ensure that everything coming off your lines is completely fit for consumption.

An advanced system like Aptean Food & Beverage ERP can also help keep your personnel safe with alerts for dangerous deviations in processes and automatically scheduled safety audits.

Greater Efficiency and Profitability

We’ve already pointed out how vital good data is for decision-making, and that is taken a step further when you select digital transformation technologies that include analytical tools or strategic planning functionalities. These features allow you to look critically at your operations and identify opportunities for improvement—helping maintain a healthy bottom line and fueling future growth.

By looking at the efficiency and profitability results that a purpose-built ERP system can collect, you’ll be able to identify issues in your current processes that are holding you back from peak performance. These platforms also make financial data easily accessible and highly visible, informing your decisions about which product lines to focus on and which might be best scrapped.

Meanwhile, an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) solution can help you determine what’s holding you back from optimal operation—whether it’s excess waste in production, equipment malfunctions or a fundamental flaw in your procedures—so it can be rectified. Or, if you’re running your own transportation fleet, advanced route optimization software enables you to not only improve the efficiency of your day-to-day delivery operations, but also model “what-if” scenarios to ensure you’re always making the most profitable decisions.

For example, you could easily model the impact of moving your warehouse to a new location or supplying a new customer outside of our usual geographic range. With this functionality, you’re able to accurately calculate cost-to-serve for new customers and thoroughly test ideas for growth before implementation—helping you drive the most revenue and profit.

For proof of the impact of digital transformation on profitability, you can look to the results of IDC’s Global Food and Beverage Industry Trends and Strategic Insights whitepaper commissioned by Aptean, which showed that food and beverage businesses with more mature modernization initiatives saw greater increases in both revenue and profits on average.

Why Is Now the Time to Accelerate Your Digital Transformation?

Having the right technology on your side is the best way to prepare for the future and stay ahead of the curve as further changes occur in the food and beverage world. Plus, you’ll need to be fully equipped to get the edge on the competition as the industry continues its steady growth.

Of course, digital transformation journeys are not overnight revolutions, but that makes getting started now all the more crucial. The following are the top motivations for stepping up your modernization efforts as soon as possible.  

Becoming More Resilient to Disruptions

When stay-at-home orders were issued and transportation delays occurred at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis, food and beverage businesses scrambled to get the materials they needed and fulfill orders amidst the uncertainty. Today, those issues aren’t as much of a concern, but worker shortages and demand volatility continue to leave many organizations on unstable footing.

Using a food ERP platform as the foundation of your digital transformation strategy helps mitigate these challenges, with fully configurable supply chain management features for streamlined pivots in times of transition and process automations to make up for employee unavailability. What’s more, demand planning tools serve to create a firm understanding of what to expect in the seasons to come, and deploying your solution via the cloud provides even greater flexibility.

Another powerful technology that can help your business mitigate disruptions is enterprise asset management (EAM) software. These systems are dedicated to your equipment and their maintenance, allowing users to place and monitor work orders and manage inventory of spare parts that may be needed in repairs.

Keeping Up with the Pace of the Market

Seizing upon openings in the market and developing new offerings in line with current consumer trends are great ways to get a leg up on other brands in your segment. In order to move quickly on these opportunities, though, you need the right tools at hand.

ERP software built for the food and beverage industry has you covered here too. The robust demand analytics that these systems provide let you keep an eye on developing shifts in preferences, while the recipe and formula management features empower your research and development teams to run with a novel idea that will delight and excite customers.

Taking Advantage of the Latest Technology

We mentioned AI, IoT and blockchain previously, and those are just a few of the advancements that are starting to impact the food and beverage industry. In the future, robotics, autonomous vehicles, satellite imaging and other developments will become more prominent, with more businesses incorporating them into their facilities and operations.

Getting an ERP in place that offers integrations with these emergent technologies is crucial if you want your company to be able to leverage the most cutting-edge tools available. Aptean Food & Beverage ERP has an added advantage as far as this goes, with our Microsoft Dynamics 365 framework making updates simple and syncing up with new devices a breeze.

Finding a Partner You Can Trust

Want one final reason to gear up your digital transformation strategy? By conducting your due diligence and finding a solution provider that knows food and beverage inside-out, your organization can gain a valuable ally. Not only can this partner help guide the implementation of your selected technologies, but they can also offer ongoing support down the road.

Here at Aptean, we’re proud to offer best-in-class business systems that allow our clients to overcome their toughest challenges. From the core ERP solution to the supplementary systems that will drive additional benefits throughout your operation, we have your entire digital transformation roadmap covered. 

Aptean’s food ERP is packed with features that any food and beverage business would find useful, like robust financial tools, as well as sector-specific functions to help specialized businesses account for catch weight, allergens, consignment tracking and more. What’s more, our full suite of complementary solutions—including OEE, EAM, Routing & Scheduling, Business Intelligence and more—power even greater improvement.

Additionally, when your company selects one of our offerings, you can count on our experienced teams’ advice and expertise throughout deployment, from creating a roadmap and timeline to troubleshooting and rolling out extra modules you may need. We also offer the sort of flexible cloud-based deployments described above, and with dedicated IT teams and redundant offsite servers, we can boast system uptime of 99.9% or better.

With that kind of stability, you’ll be on much firmer footing facing any new surprises that the years to come have in store.

Ready to kick off your digital transformation in the food industry? Contact us today, or request a personalized demo.

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