From farm to fork, and the rising need for the digitalization of the food and beverage industry

Food and beverage producers’ success in the digital future depends on making smart investments today.

The modern market knows what they want—and they want it now. An Innova Consumer Survey 2020 revealed
that six in 10 global consumers want to learn more about what they put on their plates and in their stomachs.
Where was this sourced from? How will this affect my health? Is this ethically and sustainably produced? For food and beverage producers, this creates an urgent need to become more agile and responsive to market demands.

The food and beverage industry is overdue for operational and efficiency improvements. A recent Gartner study reveals that 87% of food and beverage organizations are seriously lagging in analytics and business intelligence capabilities.

“This is where digitalization comes in. It allows manufacturers to improve operations and achieve higher end-to-end product traceability through better access to data. This is especially important to countries with highly competitive markets, as well as rapidly growing populations and production capabilities, like the Philippines,” said Tony Kang, Business Vice President, Secure Power Division at Schneider Electric Philippines.

Food and beverage producers’ success in the digital future depends on making smart investments today. That’s why companies need to invest in Industry 4.0 technologies and practices, such as industrial edge computing and Internet of Things (IoT) systems that allow them to converge IT and operational technology (OT) systems, automate the supply chain and production systems, and increase visibility across the production process by capturing and analyzing data to drive operational improvements.

Upgrading outdated solutions

Traditionally, food and beverage manufacturing has relied on silo-based infrastructures. That means running
standalone solutions deployed in different areas of the plant that don’t communicate with each other. These are
outdated systems that are not capable of keeping up with the demands of both the current environment and
modern market.

“Agility and adaptability are crucial. Food and beverage producers need to centralize industrial automation
systems supported by edge computing networks that place processing and analysis closer to users for real-time tasks. These investments will help them gain visibility across the entirety of their operations, and can significantly help improve quality control, avoid contamination, and prevent downtime,” stated Kang.

For instance, remote monitoring platforms that issue alerts when a machine shows signs of malfunction enables plant operators to take quick action to avoid downtime. Data that is collected and stored for later review also reveals insights into operations that can be used for predictive maintenance, which is more cost-effective and efficient than calendar-based maintenance schedules.

Driving automation and digitization, and other industry trends

Time is of the essence, and this is especially true for the food and beverage industry. In fact, one of the biggest
trends driving automation and digitization is the need for speed. Increasingly, producers must pivot automatically to address market demands for new individualized products.

Popular food and beverage companies have modernized production facilities to gain the flexibility to make product changes without having to shut down production lines for changeovers. For example, a peanut butter or spread manufacturer can let customers order personalized jars with their names on them. Soda companies can make quick changes in production to accommodate an extensive menu of drink flavors.

“Another major trend involves food safety and traceability, giving producers a full view into the supply chain and production. The ability to track everything from the ingredients’ suppliers to production, down to delivery is crucial and gives producers the agility and adaptability they need,” explained Kang. “In addition, traceability also improve the relationship with the consumer. Buyers want information about their products, and food manufacturers providing them with the transparency they demand builds their trust.”

Boosting profitability in a thin margin industry

The need to improve profitability is also driving Industry 4.0 investments in food and beverage. The industry’s
notoriously thin margins have only increased the incentive for companies to modernize and adopt new
technologies to increase efficiency and productivity. Supply chain and production improvements can have a
substantial impact on the bottom line, so there is a major emphasis on avoiding mistakes and downtime.

“The food and beverage industry is a highly competitive one, and the Philippine industry is no exception. With the rapid growth in population and production capabilities seen throughout recent years, there is a need to invest in the digitalization of the entire value chain to stay on top of operations, catch new trends, and ensure
competitiveness,” said Kang. “Moving forward, digitalization would establish how the Philippine food and beverage industry will perform and compete with other industry players in the region.”

Staying ahead of the competition and succeeding in the digital future requires making a strong commitment today to Industry 4.0.

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