Ready for the “big reset”? How digital transformation can ensure the sustainability of food manufacturing


Keith Chambers is vice president of operations management software for Aveva, a global industrial software company serving the food and other industries.

Few foods offer the transport effects of extra virgin olive oil. Wherever you are, a simple splash on a piece of bread can instantly transport you to sunny Mediterranean climates, ancient olive groves and numerous tables, surrounded by friends and fluid conversation. But millions of people around the world would not be able to benefit from this experience if a whole chain of manufacturing processes did not work perfectly and in perfect harmony.

At Farchioni, one of Italy’s main producers of extra virgin olive oil, 32 million bottles of olive oil are produced and packaged each year. About a quarter is exported all over the world, a far cry from the two farmers who started their activities in a single factory in Umbria in 1780.

To achieve this type of scale, the company adopted the principles of Industry 4.0 by automating traditional manufacturing processes through digital transformation. Food and beverage manufacturing increasingly relies on modern technologies such as intelligent data capture and analysis, inventory and operations management, value optimization and personalized training. With calibrated manufacturing processes under optimal conditions, companies can maximize production while maintaining quality, reducing waste and benefiting the environment.

For Farchioni, adopting these technologies ensures that every bottle in a 3000 quintal batch of olive oil looks, smells and tastes the same.

Develop the digital thread

As Farchioni shows, implementing digital technology in a factory can bring benefits that improve efficiency and productivity while increasing the quality of end products. But is that enough to ensure success in today’s market, where the impact of COVID-19 remains a pervasive reality?

Perhaps more important in today’s marketplace, digital operations management technologies provide CPG manufacturers with the ability to respond to changing market and supply conditions. The industry has complex supply chains that can span continents. Their sensitivity to climate and other environmental issues can cause the cost and availability of ingredients to fluctuate dramatically. Since the coronavirus outbreak, closures and work restrictions have amplified these disruptions, while changing lifestyles and consumer incomes have caused profound changes in how and where we buy our food. .

Keith Chambers

Authorization granted by Aveva

For example, in February 2020 – for the first time since record keeping – U.S. consumers spent more at food establishments than at retail grocery stores. Six months later, a massive $ 6.5 billion spending shifted from foodservices to retail channels, completely disrupting supply chains. It was in factories where these two ends of the supply chain crossed, and where workers simultaneously had to deal with supply shortages, the rapid onboarding of new suppliers, and sudden fluctuations in prices. demand and fundamental packaging changes to meet the shift from foodservice to retail. This came as stringent new workplace and remote work safety regulations pushed up production labor costs in the United States by up to 20%.

Digital manufacturing technologies can create resilience and agility in the value chain and create sustainable and scalable industrial operations with rapid responses to changing market dynamics.

Fundamentally, value chain optimization is a digital thread that connects the consumer to the factory and back, enabling manufacturers to increase their revenues and improve their profitability through sustainable practices that meet their commitments to customers. customers, employees and communities.

This digital thread runs from the moment demand is first detected in the supply chain to developing a realistic sales and operations plan that takes into account both the business priorities of the department. customer and growth. It takes into account operational imperatives such as production costs and the availability of materials, labor and equipment.

These two often conflicting drivers must be reconciled in an optimized production schedule that balances these competing goals – in a plan that must be executed at the lowest possible cost. Manufacturing runtime systems typically handle this work, using digital tools for mobility, collaboration, and knowledge sharing to ensure maximum productivity.

But people and technology are just two parts of a transformation plan. The third, the process, is where digital technology can have a major additional impact. As factories become more and more agile, the pace of change is accelerating. To keep pace, continuous improvement must accelerate. Advanced analytics and AI can provide continuous optimization of shop floor processes and provide operators with key information to further improve their productivity.

Finally, it is important that all stakeholders (from the customer to the supply chain planner to the plant operator) have visibility into the execution of the plan. An agile factory must be able to react quickly to the unexpected. Therefore, if major equipment fails, it is important that plans can be re-optimized quickly and impacts on customers are communicated.

A resilience plan

Whether it is an olive oil producer or a candy bar manufacturer, performing digital manufacturing that optimizes the value chain has several important advantages. These include improved manufacturing agility and resilience; on time and in full delivery; increased productivity and performance; quality improvement ; transparency and traceability; and reduced non-compliance.

Despite technological advances in processing and ingredients, most factories continue to collect and sort data manually. Digitizing this process helps optimize performance while supporting revenue growth and sustainability. With this approach, manufacturers can standardize systems across factories to take advantage of supply chain-wide improvements.

Over the past year, we have witnessed developments that could have taken decades to materialize in a matter of months. These events have led the World Economic Forum to describe a “big reset” in manufacturing activity. With uncertain business prospects likely to persist for the foreseeable future, advanced technological solutions can help manufacturers remain resilient and responsive. Now is the time to hit the “Reset” button.

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