Navigating a very complex industry

Transparency, sustainability, regulations, customer demands and the labor shortage all add up to make your job very demanding. Can automation come to the rescue?

Joyce Fassl, editor-in-chief, ProFood World
Joyce Fassl, editor-in-chief, ProFood World

When I was thinking about the specific topic I would cover in this month’s editorial letter to our readers, an avalanche of ideas came tumbling down. This reminded me of how complex our industry has become since I joined it several decades ago.

About 20 years ago, sustainability entered the fray for food and beverage manufacturers’ attention. It shows no sign of abatement and, in fact, seems to be receiving even more attention recently due to the push toward corporate transparency.

Complex supply chains are nothing new, but corporate transparency programs can make them even more complicated. With the rising interest in cannabis-related products, for example, navigating international, national and state regulations can become a distribution nightmare.

With the manufacturing labor shortage now in crisis mode, a recent poll says 90 percent of companies are looking into artificial intelligence to address the labor gap. Autonomous robots have now arrived on some plant floors to stem the tide.

A demo at the Rockwell Automation Fair in November featured an augmented reality program that can show plant floor workers where a machine problem is, how to safely access the machine, the tools needed to fix the problem, and how to use the tools.

While many automation advances like these will come to the rescue of an industry that becomes more complex by the minute, here’s hoping they can be implemented sooner rather than later. 

The digital transformation era has arrived, and food and beverage manufacturers must embrace it or risk being left behind

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