What’s Next In The Food Industry’s Road To Recovery?
Wednesday, September 16th, 2020
The global crisis is challenging the industry to rethink its daily operations and conventional ways of work in order to innovate and survive. In an interview with Asia Pacific Food Industry, Andrew Dalziel, Vice President, Industry and Solution Strategy, Infor, evaluates the industry’s journey to recovery.
Andrew Dalziel, VP Industry and Solution Strategy
How has the pandemic accelerated digital adoption in the F&B industry?
The F&B sector is one of the most diverse industries, but also one that has struggled with digital adoption. Deeply rooted in human connections delivered through service front liners, and a strong heritage in traditional processes designed to maintain quality, digital transformation hasn’t exactly been top-of-mind for many industry players. However, the global crisis has brought massive disruption across all segments of the F&B value chain, challenging the industry to rethink its daily operations and conventional ways of work in order to survive.
Particularly in the crisis, digitisation seems to have been a differentiator for players. From the ability for some employees to work from anywhere, customers to place orders online using e-commerce, to flexibly diversifying supply chains, technology has provided a way out for an industry hampered by lockdowns and safe distancing.
And as the crisis progresses, it becomes glaringly evident that early adopters of technology have found themselves better positioned to pivot operations and recover faster from disruptions. The foresight to build operational flexibility into their business through strategic investments in technology have empowered these businesses not just to survive, but to thrive amid the uncertain landscape.
Across the board, businesses are now quickly realising that technology can be a strategic differentiator at all layers of the organisation. And this isn’t just the case in times of crisis, but in navigating and innovating amid a changing business landscape as well.
What are the challenges faced by the industry amid the pandemic?
Every segment of the food ecosystem has been impacted by an onslaught of challenges in the crisis. For starters, manufacturing and assembly plant closures ultimately threw the global supply chain into disarray. Governments and food manufacturers alike have now been forced to re-evaluate their sources of supply, diversify and localise their value chains and operations, ramp up domestic production, opt for suppliers closer to home, and expand or relocate their factories as necessary.
As for distributers and retailers — lockdowns, movement restrictions and safe-distancing measures have called for a rethinking and restructuring of operations. For organisations whose essential processes rely a great deal on manual labor and effort, ensuring business continuity was, and continues to be, a critical challenge. Today, these businesses need to look to automating and digitising all their operations and services, as well as upskilling their workforce with the appropriate training to manage these new ways of working.
Beyond the crisis, new opportunities abound. For instance, food e-commerce and delivery services are now seeing increased traction in the market. Consumer preferences are shifting as well, with many now opting for healthier alternatives amid calls for food traceability and more stringent regulations. So how can organisations keep up with these demands, capture trends and make the most of new opportunities in a changing F&B landscape? Driving continual innovation is essential — and can help companies pivot to explore new revenue streams in the market.
How is end-to-end visibility supply chain critical in overcoming these challenges?
Having end-to-end supply chain connectivity and visibility equips businesses with real-time insight and understanding of their entire operations. This then prepares them for any possible disruption from more volatile demand, changing consumer buying patterns and the need to switch or add suppliers to meet demand. With data processing, automation, and advanced analytics, users can predict and identify changes in the market, enabling businesses to anticipate the potential impact on their operations. Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled network connectivity then facilitates the updating of these data variables in real-time, so different segments of the organisation (and its stakeholders) can reconfigure and respond quickly, mitigating any risk and minimising damage.
With technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), users can also program and automate the appropriate responses — such that if a similar disruption were to occur again, the system could immediately suggest the recommended fix. These solutions can also perform demand-forecasting, which empowers organisations to discover new opportunities for growth and innovation, that will keep them ahead of the curve.
Why is the economic downturn the best time for the industry to rethink and rebuild resiliency?
The current crisis has exposed vulnerabilities across the F&B value chain and demonstrated that the industry can no longer resist transformation. Everything, from sourcing, production, and distribution strategies, to liquidity, compliance and the like, will need to be rethought and strengthened as the sector seeks to fully reopen in a new normal. This is a good opportunity for the industry to hit the ‘reset’ button; to rethink its foundations and to build resilience and agility into all segments of its supply chain and broader ecosystem.
Solutions such as Infor CloudSuites gives food manufacturers the agility to respond quickly to changing trends and demands, while ensuring the highest product quality and compliance. Investing in a new solution may require businesses to re-engineer processes and workflows, and there is never a time better than in a downturn to refocus on innovation and emerge even stronger. With a cloud service supporting their critical business processes, companies can focus on delivering products and value to their customers, rather than on maintaining and keeping IT systems running.
The world is still grappling with the impact of the pandemic, and no one can say with full certainty what the future will look like for the F&B industry. However, organisations who take the bold step to digitally transform their business now and focus on building agility, visibility, flexibility and efficiency into their operations, will find themselves equipped to capitalise on any opportunity that come their way, now or in the future.
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