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Digital transformation: where now for food processing firms?

While Vietnam has seen accelerated economic growth in a post-pandemic landscape, the country’s manufacturing industry is looking to strengthen its infrastructure and make businesses more resilient to global headwinds.
Keith Thornhill, Siemens head of food & beverage

As Siemens head of food and beverage Keith Thornhill notes, industry 5.0 is fast becoming the latest trend and buzzword, but most businesses are still playing catch up with industry 4.0 adoption.

 

This is down to a number of factors, but most recently manufacturers across the industry are recovering from the pandemic and re-connecting the dots in developing methods for interconnecting new technologies improving efficiencies and productivity to meet new challenges. There is still much work to be done, he says.

 

“This just means that our industry needs to buckle up and accelerate the adoption of technology and lay the foundation before considering latest technologies like 5G,” Thornhill continued.

 

“As we take a closer look at digitalisation, one thing is clear: the central role of connectivity. Whether you are a large manufacturer or a small business, connectivity remains at the centre of technology transformation. And the core of this digitalisation is how Edge or Cloud can help operators gather data on their operations to gain like 5G, wearables and augmented reality (AR).”

Two sides to the coin

 

Either way, both sides of the innovation coin remain focused on leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data.

“Today’s factories, whatever their size, are becoming huge data centres with great potential for collecting valuable insights on any area of factory operations, from production through-puts to machine usage, availability and set-up,” Thornhill continued. “And with this, manufacturers are (gradually) increasingly understanding the need to process this production data on an even larger scale.”

 

“Recent research by Siemens in the UK and Ireland found that 81% of food and beverage manufacturers are exploring more ways of capturing, managing and analysing production line data. But despite high uptake and good intentions, just 38% of manufacturers agreed that they had ‘somewhat’ achieved data maturity.

 

“The research also showed that manufacturers have clear strategic priorities, with over half focusing on delivering quality, 44% focused on cost reduction and 37% focused on agility.”

 

As Thornhill described it, the key to achieving these strategic goals is to take a holistic approach to digitalisation, connecting real-time data from across the factory floor and presenting it accessibly so that progress can be measured and managed.

 

“As the industry slowly adapts industry 4.0 it cannot ignore industry 5.0. The former allows machines in the workplace to get smarter and more connected, the latter is aimed at merging the cognitive computing capabilities with human intelligence and resourcefulness in collaborative operations,” he concluded.

“Technology like 5G could become the enabler and a boost to digitalisation, however, the industry still needs to start with laying the basic foundations in their factory floors.”

 

Standardised approach

While businesses at the forefront of the digital revolution are constantly marching forward with the latest advances in digital technology in the factory, there are still many companies who have yet to put the first foot on the ladder of digital transformation.

 

For those that have, the question now is whether the systems that they have installed in the past are now fit for purpose in this rapidly evolving landscape. One such example was Swedish brewer Åbro Bryggeri, who approached CloudSuite Food & Beverage to help replace its aging ERP system.

 

“We have developed our ERP system in-house for many years, and saw that the competence to maintain the solution risked disappearing and that operating costs would increase,” said Björn Ainemo, chief financial officer at Åbro Brewery.

 

“So we started looking for a new suitable standard solution on the market that we could grow with, and Infor stood out because the solution was configured for our industry and suited many of the tasks we wanted to solve. With Infor, we also get more B2B functions we do not have today in a complete solution instead of independent digital islands.”

 

Rather than rely on disparate systems that will one day no longer receive support from the few people who still understand how they work within the business, Åbro Bryggeri have implemented what they hoped was a future proofed solution for their needs.