Food sector will have a substantial diet of change to digest
14 Jan 2019
If every process firm in the UK food and drink sector qualified as a so-called ‘top quartile performer’ then we might have more rather than less to worry about for the future.
The view ahead – insofar as any of us can actually discern one – is of course uncertain and far from rosy from that landmark date of 29 March 2019. Clearly, trading conditions in the short to medium term will be challenging.
Put starkly, more profit will need to be created and in the absence of commercial expansion, it must be found by reducing cost and inefficiency.
The ‘good’ (if that is not overegging things) news is that opportunities remain to do so in several areas.
The first and usually most controversial is labour. Reduce the number of people that are required on a line and with it you cut the margins of human error, increase productivity, lessen safety incidents and diminish costly investments such as lighting.
An implosion in the sector’s substantial foreign workforce however has created a deficit of people that cannot be replaced. Greater automation is the way forward rather than an option to be considered.
Digitalisation and the development of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has demonstrated already that the gains from automation can be exponential.
Intelligent machines and systems, furthermore, extract information in the form of data and more important aid the distillation of this into usable knowledge that feeds back into the promotion of efficiencies.
The result is a more holistic approach that integrates operations within a factory but also along the supply chain.
It is here perhaps that some of the most interesting and surprising gains will be realised, taking concepts such as sourcing, accountability, product integrity and sustainability to new levels of sophistication.