This fall, Food Engineering conducted a survey around the state of food manufacturing in 2014. In line with looking forward at 2015, the survey reveals insight on what trends food manufacturers believe will affect their industry in the next five years.
The top 5 were:
Shifting consumer demands – As consumer attention increasingly grows toward regulation of the food industry, manufacturers must be quick on their feet to stay ahead of the spillback. Consumer attention on removing mysterious ingredients off food labels, as one example, “reflects a shift from ‘democratization to activism’ by consumers,” according to Ali Dibadji, a packaged food and beverage analyst, and NBC News. The increased knowledge of and attention surrounding the ingredients in packaged food will continue to change food manufacturing in the near future, as will pushes for organic and locally-sourced food.
Automation/robotics – As 2020 comes closer various industries will see the explosion of new technologies become commonplace at work. Food manufacturers are not an exception. Wearables will populate shop floors and allow for increased connectivity and process automation. According to Mark Crawford of Area Development Online, “Technological advances have made robots more ‘aware’ of their surroundings, using 360-degree sensors that allow them to operate safely, and with more dexterity, near human workers on the production line.” Investing in these technologies will result in streamlined, low cost operations that are increasingly important to meeting consumer demands in the world of lean manufacturing.
Lean manufacturing – Lean manufacturing enables food manufacturers to stabilize through automation even when consumer demands tend to shift rapidly. The principles of lean include minimizing costs, reducing downtime, increasing productivity and eliminating waste – essentially turning the shop floor into as much of a streamlined, self-sustainable operation as possible. Global Manufacturing even cites lean manufacturing as “the single most important concept in the manufacturing industry” indicating how important it is for food manufacturers to pay attention to the increasingly favorable strategy entering 2015.
Expanding product lines, SKUs, variety – In keeping with lean and efficient manufacturing practices, managing expanding product lines and SKUs continues to be an issue facing food manufacturers. Although increased stock units in-house create additional storage costs, food manufacturers can’t escape the pressure of meeting wholesalers’ demands. Combine that force with the need to move inventory in-and-out, and food manufacturers will see a great deal of change in the near future in response to these conflicting pressures.
Economic factors & cost cutting – Although the economy is slowly crawling its way out of the Great Recession (dare we jinx it?), food manufacturers are navigating an industry of steep competition.The specialized nature of this industry is due not only to the geographic restriction of where manufacturers can propitiously derive raw resources from, but also to the fact that food manufacturers must comply with tight regulations to uphold safety measures. These characteristics result in food manufacturers delicately dancing between managing high costs and finding areas to cut inefficiencies, so as not to add complexities to an already complicated endeavor. A quick tip to simplifying the inefficiencies in 2015? Go paperless across purchase orders, invoices, settlements and financing letters.
All in all, food manufacturers know they will have to face plenty of coming change to meet the pressures facing the industry in the next five years. Will your food manufacturing company be ready? Share your tips for thriving in the years ahead with us.
Steve Leavitt, GM of U.S. Cloud Solutions for Exact