July 9, 2020

Why data maturity and flexible resourcing is crucial for food and drink manufacturers to keep a competitive edge

With businesses under unprecedented pressure due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, Lindsay Lucas, Managing Director at Software Solved, outlines the benefits data analysis and collection can have in the food and drinks manufacturing sector.  

According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) the food and drink industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, contributing £28.2bn to the economy annually, employing 400,000 people and playing a key part in the nation’s £110bn ‘farm to fork’ food chain, which requires the use of massive amounts data to ensure that the UK’s supply chain is maintained. 

Data analysis in food and drink manufacturing provides a way to understand which elements will have the greatest effect on a product during manufacturing and predict the impact of these factors on quality and taste.

Data insights can be used in real-time to adjust manufacturing processes to account for deviations while maintaining a consistent quality output. Data analysis can also be used to evaluate the impact of factors such as storage and transportation on the quality of packaged foods and beverages.

For many food and drink manufacturers the reality is that data has been collected and stored in multiple disparate systems over the years making it difficult for organisations to understand what data they hold, which bits are important and how to access it.

More often than not, manual data processing is used to sort through information. This not only creates a culture of uncertainly around data accuracy, but also makes data analysis particularly challenging. This is especially true in times of crisis, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Therefore, being able to understand what data your organisation holds and how to use it in order to modernise processes and systems in order to keep a competitive edge in the food and drinks market is critical.

Why unlocking the value of your data is crucial

Data maturity and flexible resourcing can be used to denote how advanced a company is in organising and managing its food and drink production processes in a number of key areas, such as: assessing the current production maturity levels accomplished by the organisation in each area of the production cycle and understanding where production levels need to be in order to set new targets to help guide the long-term strategy of productivity and improvement.

Scalability is also important in times of high-production demand, especially as recent events have led to a stockpiling situation. Data is key to understanding what capacity you have in terms of adjusting your formula and sourcing strategy, ingredient delivery methods, the amount of mixing equipment you will need, the impact that larger quantities will have on heating and cooling, the effect on personal safety and compliance regulations, whether additional cleaning methods are required and overall yield loss.   

This allows businesses to be much more transparent about their entire operation, which, in turn, breeds greater customer loyalty. Importantly, Data Maturity also offers many new solutions regarding efficiency and performance but allowing organisations to unlock their data. Businesses can handle an ingredient or item shortage, for example, when they see it coming, using insights they’ve gathered from data analytics. Data analytics can also help to identify new trends and with data at their fingertips this gives food and drink manufacturers the power to react to an increase in demand.

The role of a third-party data and software solution providers

Understanding where your organisation is on the data maturity scale is key. Third-party data and software solution providers will look at the level of support that is required to help you to first access your data and then begin to provide actionable insights from it, allowing the data to be utilised effectively.

Moving to a flexible resourcing model also can allow organisations to both increase their team size and add a more diverse set of skills, experience and knowledge. It also means that businesses need not worry about staff retention or having to recruit directly.

Having access to these additional resources and skills ensures that systems and best practices are adopted. A flexible resourcing model also provides organisations with a set number of days per week to use when they need support on key projects. 

In what areas can data maturity and flexible resourcing help?

Manage issues and stay compliant

In the highly regulated food and drink sector, it’s crucial to manage and control recipes and formulas to ensure safety and maintain the highest possible quality standard. Yet inevitably, issues may sometimes arise due to human error or system malfunctions. Understanding data through Data Maturity can help manufacturers to stay compliant whilst dealing with these issues therefore minimising risk to profitability and schedule disruption.

Reduce waste

The UK Government is clamping down on the volume of waste produced by the food and drink industry annually, especially with the introduction of its new Resources and Waste Strategy in September 2018. With waste and environmental issues at the forefront of the consumer consciousness, it’s essential that the manufacturing industry responds accordingly. Utilising data and using specialist third-party providers who can help to monitor products used during any production schedule, helps to minimise waste whilst still providing quality assurance.

Improve efficiencies

Heightened levels of efficiencies are another step towards achieving world class lean manufacturing standards. In order to do so, manufacturers must first examine their existing workflow and production rates. Data maturity can help food and drink manufacturers to understand what improvements can be made in the production process, allowing them to implement measures that   can help to reduce any system downtime by balancing maintenance workloads, which in turn will improve employee morale and boost performance.

Safety and security

Greater transparency means improved security and health for all. Companies can track contaminated foods or meats from their source all the way to businesses that currently have them in storage, eliminating the risk of spreading foodborne illness and diseases. The entire supply chain can access this data. If there are problems, manufacturers can modify their operations to prevent a recurrence. More importantly, the retailer can use the data to decide whether to accept or reject a shipment.

With data visibility increased at every level, manufacturers have the ability to check on current production movements across the whole operation. Plant managers can see how their individual plant was doing that day and corporate quality managers could get a bigger picture across value streams. 

Inarguably, outdated approaches to unlocking data will no longer suffice. The data maturity model can enable manufacturers and food and beverage companies to strive to deliver quality products at a profit to benefit the entire supply chain and most importantly, their customers.

Software Solved specialise in award-winning data and software solutions for a range of clients across the Insurance, retail and logistics sectors.