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Sapphire’s Sarah Walker asks how food manufacturers can make the most of technology to guarantee vital cost savings

As if the raft of increasingly stringent regulations and ever-changing demands of customers and suppliers were not enough to deal with, many food businesses have seen recent hikes in the cost of their ingredients in the wake of Brexit, putting extra pressure on an already over-stretched sector. Even global brands aren’t immune, with the recent announcement that Jamie Oliver is to close six restaurants, a move partly attributed to the Brexit vote and the high cost of ingredients - just one example of how far businesses have to go to stay profitable.

When it comes to food manufacturers, when costs rise and margins are pummelled, they must dig ever deeper for cost savings, which at first glance might seem impossible to find. But the good news for the industry is that there is still a great deal of undiscovered value to be found in technology, with a whole host of potential benefits to be reaped that could mean the difference between success and failure.

As companies grow, manual processes which once proved sufficient for managing every aspect of the business can soon struggle to keep up, making it impossible to maintain complete visibility over not only production, but finances and the wider supply chain too. A move away from these manual processes, with the amalgamation of disparate systems, spreadsheets and databases into one streamlined solution, provides the comprehensive, granular level of detail that’s required by food manufacturers in order to get a firm grasp of the business. Such are the levels of complexity at play in the industry that the breaking down of silos of information held by individual departments or hidden in bespoke spreadsheets is vital if food manufacturers are to put in place a slicker, more process-oriented approach to business, saving both time and money.

The move towards a system which consolidates information across the entire business and provides a 360° real time view of operations, will help inform intelligent, timely decision-making, increase business agility and boost profitability. The insight afforded by such technology is invaluable to businesses, ensuring complete visibility, which means the ability to spot any potential problems long before they have a negative impact on the bottom line.

The fact that these systems are integrated, collaborative solutions working for the business as a whole doesn’t mean they skimp on process-specific functionality. The best solutions boast particular capabilities to ensure real efficiencies for food manufacturers, simplifying often complex tasks and bringing automation to labour-intensive processes. For example, the advanced recipe and ingredient management functionality that some solutions offer can calculate how much of a lower grade ingredient will be needed to maintain the flavour and quality of a particular product. The precision in managing recipes that such technology can bring helps to reduce over consumption and enables businesses to save money when it comes to ingredients, without affecting quality.

The same can be said for inventory optimisation, where materials requirement planning functionality is linked seamlessly to production to provide automated replenishment and order forecasting, optimising dynamic stock levels. Similarly, when it comes to batch data control, the right systems will provide greater control over shelf lives and expiry dates. This, in conjunction with improved quality control capabilities, will not only strengthen legal compliance but will reduce waste costs considerably too.

With a strong emphasis on sales reporting and profitability analysis, the right technology will keep track of precise costs on a real time basis, enabling any necessary strategy changes to be made as and when required. It’s this type of up-to-the minute, holistic information which will differentiate forward-thinking businesses from their less tech-savvy peers. In an increasingly turbulent global market place, food manufacturers need the agility and flexibility to keep pace with the ever-changing pressures they face on a daily basis. The right technology will help food manufacturers to increase efficiencies while reducing costs, helping to steady the ship in the choppiest of waters.

What to look for in a solution for the food industry

1. You need a solution that caters for the specific needs of the industry, one which can match up to the distinct challenges you face on a daily basis.
2. Biggest is not always best, go with the right fit for your business, which might not necessarily be the same solution that other food manufacturers employ.
3. Try to find a partner with experience in the industry and make full use of their expertise and knowledge.
4. Where are you currently lacking? Draw up a list of areas where you think technology might be able to help before looking for a solution.
5. To ensure optimum user buy-in, the system must be intuitive and relatively easy-to-use.

Visit our website for more information, or visit us on stand N830 at Pro2Pac in March.

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