History is filled with examples of how new inventions have revolutionized manufacturing industries. For instance, food and beverage industry analysts often talk about three waves of technology-driven revolution. The first of these waves occurred in the 1980s, when manufacturing resource planning systems arrived to automate order processing and bill paying. Before this era, products were entirely mechanical and business processes were manual. The second part of the food manufacturing revolution arrived with the explosion of the Internet in the 1990s. The Internet allowed different enterprise functions to be more closely coordinated and interconnected with the outside world—suppliers and customers could be reached across the world, allowing companies to integrate their supply chains on a global scale.
And today, the food manufacturing industry is riding the third wave of the Industrial Internet and the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors, processors, software, and Internet connectivity are now part of the actual manufactured product, as well as an integral part of its production. Add this capability to the introduction of cloud computing, where data is stored on servers around the globe and accessed from any Internet-capable computing device, and you now have a world in which product performance, location, maintenance, and status data are stored and analyzed in the cloud. These cloud-based solutions are not only more powerful, nimble, and reliable but also less expensive and more mobile-ready, allowing instant access to big data insights from anywhere at any time.
Although the food industry may appear established and built-out, there are always lessons to be learned from other industries that can propel food manufacturers forward. Leveraging technology and key learnings from other industries and deploying them in the food production space need to continue to be prevalent. With that in mind, here are some examples of how the food manufacturing industry is improving thanks to technology originated from other industries.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the automobile was only attainable to the very wealthy. Enter Henry Ford who changed the industry by developing an assembly line that increased the efficiency of manufacturing and decreased its cost. Prior to the introduction of the assembly line, cars were individually crafted by teams of skilled workmen—a slow and expensive procedure. The assembly line reversed the process and instead of workers going to the car, the car came to the worker, automating the same task over and over again.
Automation technology has long been a staple of food production, and as it is used more and more in the food production industry, the cost to install Industrial Internet workflows is decreasing, making the technology more accessible for manufacturers. This technology can help improve efficiencies across a plant by merging worker responsibilities, and increasing speed of production while reducing product deficiencies.
Another benefit that automation technology brought to both workers in the car assembly lines and now food production is added safety. There are several hazardous jobs within a manufacturing plant, such as manually moving heavy materials to load them into processing machines and operating certain equipment, which can cause serious injury if workers aren’t careful. Automation technology and digitizing the work process can help ensure the right process is followed and the right steps happen in the correct order. That way, necessary steps to ensure employee safety are not inadvertently bypassed, and employees are free to monitor machines and keep the workflow processes moving forward.
In the 1950s, televisions became more affordable and quickly rose as the entertainment of choice across homes in America. As television sales skyrocketed, suddenly families were gathering around the TV set for dinner, and soon came the advent of pre-packaged, frozen, TV dinners. Not only did television change how Americans consumed their food, it also brought about a change in how Americans thought about food.