How to Improve Your Food and Beverage Supply Chain Challenges

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By Peggy Fonrose - April 22, 2022

There's no doubt that global affairs of the past two years have impacted every manufacturing industry. The global pandemic slowed or shut down critical supply chains and resources. The resultant labor shortages left some factories either shuttered or stalled to significantly reduced levels of production.


And although the economy shows signs of recovery, the pandemic has deeply impacted the entire manufacturing industry. For many, inventories are at an all-time low, making it difficult to handle consumer demand. In this report from the blog, Susan Helper and Evan Soltas make these troubling statements:


“The situation has been especially difficult for businesses with complex supply chains, as their production is vulnerable to disruption due to shortages of inputs from other businesses.”


“[Figure 1 in the linked article] shows that while retailers had 43 days of inventory in February 2020, today they have just 33 days. ... These low inventories have caused cascading issues in industrial supply chains.”

How Food and Beverage Supply Chain Challenges Were Exposed

Food and beverage supply chain challenges may have had the most significant effect. The nature of the products processed—perishable and highly regulated—made accurately sourcing suitable and precisely defined ingredients a logistical nightmare. The term "food fraud" forced its way into our collective consciousness.


In reality, COVID-19 didn't cause many of these manufacturing and supply chain challenges. The issues were already there—the pandemic merely spotlighted them, intensifying many pre-existing challenges and conditions.


Consequently, it became impossible to hide our heads in the sand anymore. Addressing every step of the manufacturing process was, and still is, of paramount importance.


Complex Paths: Why We Experience Food Supply Chain Issues

Supply chains may have once been simple paths, but they have become increasingly convoluted thanks to the jungle of ingredient and machinery parts acquisition. We addressed some of these supply chain disruption issues in a previous article.


The specter of conflict on a near-global proportion also looms. Anytime nation has risen against nation, supply chains have been impacted. From a shortage of supplies to the rerouting or repurposing of material to disruptions in the supply chain path, challenges and modifications are inevitable.


Add to that scenario the continual transformation of the manufacturing and food processing landscape from manual labor to mechanization and, ultimately, digitally controlled automation becomes a must-have. The manufacturing process evolved from hand-crafted products—painstakingly fashioned one item at a time—to hundreds if not thousands of pieces created at near-lightspeed.


However, not every manufacturer has adopted smart manufacturing practices. Many still rely on manual data collection and analysis, from the shop floor to offshore sources. 


That's not to say that data gained manually is unusable. But it is outdated, almost from the time it's collected. Out-of-date information can decrease profitability. By moving to digital data acquisition, manufacturers—including food and beverage processors—can experience a significant uptick in revenue.

Manual Practices Are Making Food Supply Chain Problems Worse

Unfortunately, food and beverage manufacturers are trailing their hard goods peers when it comes to adopting automated solutions. For many food and beverage companies, tracking ingredients from source to shipping is still accomplished by manual recordkeeping on paper forms.


It's not just ingredients, either. For example, if you manufacture canned vegetables, you need cans! If your sourcing is outdated and you don't identify alternate sources, your business will find itself deadlocked.


As seen in this infographic, twenty-five percent of food and beverage manufacturers said they were lacking the ability to use data to make [sourcing] decisions. When compared to their digitally connected competitors, they found themselves at a distinct disadvantage.


Digital acquisition and use of data is not a game of rock, paper, scissors. It is a vital part of staying competitive in all aspects of a food and beverage manufacturer's existence.


Perhaps it's time to ditch old-fashioned pencil-and-paper thinking. In that same industry report, one of the obstacles for growth in 2022 showed up for the very first time: technology paralysis.


But the impact of tech paralysis goes far beyond supply chain management. Companies that adopt comprehensive digital strategies for production line management win as well.


World-Class Efficiency: More Important Than Ever Before

Let's be honest ... waste happens. There's no getting around that reality. Frugal automobile mogul and moving assembly line inventor Henry Ford knew that fact and used it to his advantage.


As an outdoor enthusiast, Ford spent a lot of time around a campfire. Early Ford motor cars were made of wood. To make a long story short, the waste from manufacturing the Model T was repurposed into charcoal—Kingsford Charcoal, to be exact.


Not only did Ford reduce waste and increased profits, but he also helped promote the camping industry by including a bag of his “waste product” with each car sold.


Genius, right?

However, as a food and beverage manufacturer, you may not have that same opportunity of turning trash into cash. You need to create as much good product as possible. And with the threats to your supply chain, resourceful use of the ingredients on hand is paramount.


“Good enough” is simply not good enough. To be competitive, you must continuously improve your production. For preventive and predictive maintenance of factory machinery, the days of the “listener” are gone.


Remember the listeners?

They were the old-timers who were probably born with tools in their hands. They could hear a problem coming long before it happened. Writing it down on a paper log sheet, they outlined the work needed during planned downtime.


That's not an efficient process in today's fast-paced lean manufacturing world. If you're going to stay on top of production, you need good data ... and you need it now.


You've likely felt the pinch of disrupted supply chains. It's harder to get ingredients and equipment parts in a timely manner. For the food and beverage processing industry, sourcing both is important to business profitability. 


Use Smart Factory Technology to Maximize Production Output

Just like Henry Ford, you need to maximize your production line output and minimize waste. To do that, you need a data dashboard view into your production processes. You must know what's happening, why it's happening, and when it's happening in real time. Only then can you tweak your process in pursuit of world-class efficiency. Using Worximity's Tile+ tracking software and Tilelytics analytics software solutions, you can track machine issues in real time and make decisions based on historical data.  


Wasting ingredients or product is going to happen, but you need to keep waste as minimal as possible. One broken belt, one failed bearing, one “smoked” motor, and your operation could literally grind to a halt. Some of the product may be salvageable, but you shouldn’t count on it. 


And the impact isn't just on your factory's productivity. It can affect your customers' experience with you.


As you're well aware, many name brands source their products from third-party manufacturers like you. If they can't count on their supplier, they'll source from someone they can count on. Often, that lost business is lost forever.


Can you really afford that?


Supply chain challenges are only some of the challenges impacting the food and beverage industry. Gathering and using real-time data by employing IIoT best practices is a must-have skill in today's lean manufacturing environment.


Learn how to leverage IIoT technology in your food and beverage facility by downloading our free guide IIoT Implementation Guide today, and be the digital champion at your company.


Download The Guide

Worximity provides simple realtime technologies to solve food processor pains such as downtime, rejects, waste, overtime; helping them gain profit velocity by improving throughput, yield and OEE.

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