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Manufacturers in automotive, high tech and life sciences have made tremendous inroads with digitization and automation. The U.S. Food Sector is starting to catch up gradually, but throughout the world, you are still likely to see many food producers using manual processes. The industry is realizing that the food supply chain can benefit from recent technology.

Consumers Drive the Direction of the Market

In a recent article in Raconteur, industry experts discuss how issues in today’s global consumer food and beverage marketplace are putting pressure on manufacturers to embrace modern technology and processes. Consumers today are more demanding in all aspects of the buying experience. From price and quality through to customizations, consumers are dictating the path of the industry.

There’s agreement that elements of the global food supply chain are not agile enough to respond to the current needs of the marketplace. However, in an industry that has low margins, opportunity to invest in new technologies at times is limited. Many experts agree that food manufacturing will see a huge technology innovation over the next five to 10 years as the market continues to change and pressures on supply chains and logistics continue to grow. Manufacturers will have to evolve for survival.

Currently, the major investments have been in tracking and tracing food through the manufacturing process. Government regulations have led this initiative with stricter rules and laws. The industry is also getting pressure from consumers who want to know the origin of the products they consume as well as the path they took to get to their door. Many manufacturers are now seeing that pressures from the customers carry more weight than those of the regulators.

Food Manufacturers Need to Embrace New Technologies

Many advanced technologies are on the forefront of impacting the food manufacturing world. Blockchain is being explored to assist in the tracking of food origins. From soil management to livestock raising, blockchain can be used for a true field to fork experience. IoT is also being explored in the areas of smart labeling where RFID can be used to track food movement, locations, temperatures and chemical properties. Fresh food supply chains are becoming shorter and faster in a bid to retain product life. Innovations now abound, including intelligent packaging with biosensors indicating freshness. The aim is to reduce waste and provide usable data.

Many companies are interested in Industry 4.0 and starting to analyze how other industries such as automotive are using this technology. There is a big opportunity to improve efficiency and quality in global food manufacturing. Machine learning will enable food and beverage manufacturers to incorporate demand in real time.

Consumers are demanding high-quality, healthy, inexpensive food that can be delivered quickly. These traits don’t always align, but in order to compete successfully, manufacturers will have to find ways to accommodate in the future. Food manufacturers will be forced to innovate due to the volume of orders, increased product variations and rapid product development and distribution. The supply chain is becoming more complex and the winning companies will be those that simplify it.

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