Food manufacturing companies are now, more than ever, under pressure to transform their processes to quickly respond to rapidly changing world events. As we noted in a recent article, many food and CPG companies are seeing a counter-intuitive trend related to current events. While the overall economy has softened significantly, some food and CPG brands are actually seeing unprecedented demand for their products. For instance, H&S Bakery in Baltimore is a mid-sized baking goods provider, and is quickly ramping up production to keep shelves stocked in the Greater Baltimore area.
News of this spike in demand has blanketed food industry journals. However, in the case of recent events, there’s a story within this story.
CPG and Food brands are realizing that not only can they increase production to satisfy consumer demand, but the savvy ones are also realizing that they can do more to respond to changes in consumer perception and behavior. Consumers currently are anxious and looking for solutions to solve a specific set of problems. CPG and food brands that respond with packaging that addresses these concerns can build their brands with consumers and create long-term loyalty.
Much like the Tylenol scare in the 1980s, which changed over the counter medicine container strategy to this day, Tylenol achieved newfound consumer loyalty by quickly and forcefully responding to the events at the time. Savvy brands today are responding not just to increased demand, but also to consumer concerns in near real time.
Like the term is used for software companies, we call the ability of CPG and food companies to rapidly respond to market conditions being 'Agile'.
The packaging below is a rapid response to both driving factors. Not only does the product packaging demonstrate a response to consumers wanting to buy a specific type of product in volume, but the package labeling clearly conveys how the product can address consumer concerns.
It’s likely that this brand will remain in consumers minds as a solution to a newfound concern for much longer than the current crisis.
But how can Food and CPG brands quickly pivot and roll out new products and packaging as world events evolve? In the example above, a new packaging architecture was quickly conceived and designed. A packaging line somewhere was reconfigured to produce the new configuration and the line was quickly dialed in to produce acceptable quality output at scale.
Packaging is a crucial step in most food manufacturing operations, as it is the last step in the process. The market pressures listed above concentrate pressure on packaging lines to rapidly adapt while still meeting production goals.
The good news is that the packaging operation enables us to assess production yield and throughput of the overall operation by analyzing the quantity and state of products being packaged. We ensure at this step that the quality of both the product and the package are good for shipment to retailers and customers, and that the quantity being packaged is meeting new production goals.
It is also crucial to have a functional and efficient packaging process to ensure overall production efficiency and avoid having a bottleneck at the end of the production line which would impact the entire system, particularly at times like these.
The packaging area tells us what our yields are, can be an indicator of quality issues and production upsets and unplanned outages in the rest of the process can reveal themselves in packaging line data. This is important when operations are performing a quick pivot in their product mix or quickly launching new products.
Food products and CPG companies are learning today that they need to become like software companies, and think in terms of being ‘agile’. New softwares to improve agility are now within the reach of even smaller CPG and food products companies.
A system of software to improve packaging line agility looks like this:
Packaging line simulation modeling: Some packaging line operators are using software to simulate changes in packaging line equipment and arrangements in order to more quickly iterate lines to the optimum productivity. With the rapid changes that are occurring in food and CPG manufacturing now, and the need to quickly adjust to consumer demands, simulation software can help food manufacturers to become more ‘agile’ in their operations.
Packaging Line Smart Factory Analytics Software: Packaging line simulation software is not a perfect analog for the actual production line. Once new packaging architectures are being produced, packaging line troubleshooting and optimization begins. To be truly agile, packaging lines need to measure and adapt in tight feedback loops.
Only Smart Factory Analytics allows these rapid optimization cycles.
These technologies aim to improve the company’s manufacturing and packaging capability, efficiency and effectiveness as well as their brand image with customers. With these technologies, food and CPG manufacturers can improve their response times to rapidly changing market conditions.
An important nuance to this model (simulation - measure - improve) is that while simulation software can help to validate whether changes in a packaging line, such as adding more workers, will deliver on the intended rapid increase in throughput required, effective simulation requires the input of reliable manufacturing data for the base condition and then accurate measurement of productivity data afterward to validate the model.
This means that you actually need to have Smart Factory Analytics software in place to provide the simulation model with accurate baseline data in order to effectively simulate an existing packaging line.
All Roads Lead to Manufacturing Software
In order for manufacturers to get full advantage from implementing new technologies and improve their agility and ability to quickly respond to market conditions, software solutions are needed. Smart Factory Analytics technologies are the low hanging fruit for IIoT technology implementations. Software like Worximity are easy and cost-effective to implement and can provide rapid ROI as well as the ability to map operations to newfound market conditions.
Implementing a solution like Worximity can help you to establish baseline data for input into simulations. With a Smart Factory Analytics solution you can measure improvements in throughput or declines in downtime as you implement automation or make other changes to your packaging lines.
The latest packaging systems innovations allow manufacturers to step up their packaging process agility and efficiencies while reducing costs. However, it is the ability to visualize, understand, and act upon production and packaging data, through the use of software, which will allow manufacturers to become agile.
This won’t be the last market upset condition that we see. Food and CPG products companies must invest in the ability to become agile.
It’s at times like these that consumers expect the brands that they purchase to be responsive and they can be impatient for that response. It’s also times like these that engender consumer loyalty with brands that are responsive.
Food and CPG companies have learned a new reason to invest in software, but the baseline reason is still there, and that is that Smart Factory Analytics software like Worximity delivers fast and compelling ROI even in normal times.
The implementation of Smart Factory Analytics is the foundation upon which you can build your packaging operations improvement strategies upon.
Interested in improving your packaging operations agility? Reach out and let's connect and discuss a positive future for your business.