Digital Transformation: Is the UK Food Industry Ready?

According to the Salesforce Research ‘Manufacturing Trends Report 2021’ which polled 750 manufacturing professionals from a variety of countries (including the UK), digital transformation is an important issue for many businesses. 86% of respondents in the UK declared it as critical or high, compared to the worldwide average of 81%.

The study also highlighted some important objectives for UK manufacturers in the near future, with the development of new service options (90%), new product creation (88%) and renegotiating partnerships (86%) ranking among the top priorities.

Every manufacturer can relate to the need for increased operational efficiency within its operations so that products can reach the consumer more quickly.

While there’s a clear appetite for digital transformation, many organisations have yet to take those first steps and implement changes, putting them well behind their competitors. Meanwhile, those that have already implemented IT systems should ask whether those legacy systems are still fit for purpose in this complex and rapidly changing world.

Furthermore, the adoption of state-of-the-art technology is insufficient on its own without a forward-thinking management approach combined with a culture of innovation within each manufacturer.

Data and AI

Fortunately, data and AI-powered analytics provide a tangible way for the food and beverage industry to adapt to change. By harnessing the power of data and implementing innovative AI solutions, manufacturers can gain a competitive edge.

By taking advantage of the vast amounts of data available to them, organisations can gain valuable insights into customer preferences, demand patterns, spending habits, and competitor behaviour. This will enable them to make more informed decisions and develop more targeted products that better meet customer needs. In addition, AI can simplify the process of testing and launching new products, streamline supply chain processes, and improve operational efficiency.

By leveraging the power of technology to drive innovation, manufacturers can achieve cost savings, reduce operational risk and remain ahead of industry trends. Furthermore, AI-driven analytics can help organisations foster a culture of collaboration and trust among stakeholders, leading to improved customer loyalty, higher engagement levels and better overall customer experience. AI can also be used to automate manual tasks such as data entry, freeing up resources for more strategic initiatives. Ultimately, through the use of AI-driven analytics, organisations can become more competitive in a rapidly changing marketplace.

Mining Richer Insights

Thanks to digital technology, we’re now able to gain deeper insights into customer behaviours and usage patterns. This greater understanding has opened up all kinds of possibilities to personalise and customise products and services, which in turn gives back an even richer flow of data.

Undoubtedly, at the heart of any digital transformation in a food and drink organisation is how this data can be best put to use. For example, once a company is able to identify what enters and leaves its factory at the most detailed level, it can then start to leverage operational efficiencies with far greater precision, such as reducing food waste, detecting potential contaminants, monitoring energy consumption, and even identifying maintenance issues.

It’s also critical that manufacturing teams are equipped with tools like AI-enabled analytics and price optimisation metrics to give real-time, personalised offers across numerous sales channels on a regular basis. Not only does this create a greater value for both vendor and consumer, but it also goes a long way towards increasing client loyalty.

Businesses that are able to provide frictionless digital experiences and can entice visitors to more personalised offers and competitive, value-based pricing, will have a significant advantage over the competition.

From CRM to CXM

CRM has proven to be a powerful tool for managing the wide spectrum of your customer interactions, particularly if you have a well-established IT infrastructure in place. CRM can be a good starting place, depending on your current systems.

Assuming a decent CRM system already exists, the next component to consider is the the adoption of a Customer Experience Management system (CXM). A CXM system allows a business to monitor any customer interaction, process or production run related to that customer in real-time (or as close to real-time as possible) rather than having to rely on historic data such as order history.

Instead of having to keep track of a client’s order history and static data like credits and other static information, CXM combines a variety of tools that actively support business processes by providing insights that are more ready for being utilised in decision-making.

How is the Future Looking?

The UK manufacturing sector is aware of the importance of digital transformation and faces a very bright future. Nevertheless, the sector recognises that cultural change remains a fundamental requirement for successful digitisation.

Businesses must be ready to change their approach to innovation and actively participate in the adoption of advanced technologies by creating a culture with people who are ready to embrace this transformation. After all, the true value of digitisation lies not in the technology itself, but in how those technologies are applied across a wide range of complex manufacturing and supply chain scenarios.

But be warned. Some manufacturers are already lagging behind and even the most proactive businesses will struggle to keep up to date if they are not able to fully embrace this digital transformation. On the other hand, what is evident is that those companies who have fully grasped the opportunities through the introduction of these new technologies will have a much stronger foothold in the food and beverage industry, well into the future.

Digital transformation in the food industry