Food manufacturers could now directly reach consumers through television and advertising, and promotion became pivotal to the marketing of the American food supply. Television remains the most widely used advertising medium for food manufacturers because it can reach large audiences and instill brand name recognition. Much television advertising is also aimed toward people who do not read newspapers, such as children.
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Television allowed food manufacturers to directly influence consumers and the industry quickly learned that whenever consumer tastes and preferences shifted, food manufactures must respond to the demand. In 2013, for example, consumers placed a high-value on healthier food alternatives. To respond to the demand, food manufacturers were forced to find innovative ways to create healthier products or risk losing sales to competitors. This included everything from changing formulas in their products to achieve a healthier output, refitting equipment and factory lines, and heading back to the test kitchen to create new recipes that gave consumers both higher nutritional values and more flavorful taste.
The IoT continues to permeate the minds of today’s technology decision makers in all areas of business. With the recent estimates of the IoT and Industrial Internet financial impact being in the trillions of dollars, the big data they produce is getting exponentially larger in volume and data analytics is becoming increasingly important and complex.
Automation technology has helped food manufacturers leverage the data they collect differently. Organizations can now analyze the output of Industrial Internet data into actionable information to help food manufacturers gain better plant insights and improve processes. For instance, using big data and advanced analytics, manufacturers are able to view product quality and delivery accuracy in real time, making trade-offs on which suppliers receive the most time-sensitive orders. Qualifying metrics now becomes the priority over measuring product delivery schedule performance alone.
Using sensors on all machinery in a food production plant also provides operations managers with immediate data and visibility into how each piece of equipment is operating. Having advanced analytics of the machine data captured shows quality, performance, and training variances by each machine and its operators. This is invaluable in streamlining workflows in a food manufacturing plant, and is becoming increasingly commonplace.
For instance, I recently worked on a team with a customer to put in place a workflow system to leverage and capture big data to improve overall efficiency. Management knows that data is king, but data is really only as good as the processes that are in place to use it. On the flipside, if a food manufacturer doesn’t have a standard process in place for getting connected, getting insights, or optimizing data—its data will just sit without a purpose.
Throughout the years, retailers have utilized technology to become more nimble, tracking inventory better, and adopting real-time supply chain methods that keep the right items in stock at the right price. Some retailers are even bumping it up a notch, using multiple technologies to detect and record everything from traffic patterns on their shop floor to optimizing shoppers’ mobile devices on store WiFi in order to track behavior and send relevant coupons their way.
Retailers now leverage the copious amounts of data produced by these technology interactions to improve and personalize customers’ in-store experiences. Using sensors to track customers’ paths through a store, for example, can help managers improve store layout and merchandise placement strategies. In addition, online marketplaces like Amazon, which are not confined to inventory within the four-walls of traditional stores, can use similar merchandise strategies to “suggest” a larger variety of items to its customers.
The customization of consumer products in the retail industry has also led to services such as Amazon Fresh, where shoppers order their groceries online and have them directly delivered to their residence, taking out the need to visit a brick-and-mortar supermarket completely. Food manufacturers are mimicking this personalized approach and providing workers with the ability to customize food production to match in-place infrastructure. One supplier customer was able to eliminate its end customer’s inventory carrying costs and, on average, 10 percent of the inventory held onsite. Ultimately, this allows food manufacturers to maintain a just-in-time strategy that increases efficiency and decreases waste by receiving goods only as they are needed in the production process, thereby reducing inventory costs.
The use of 3D printers has the potential to revolutionize the way food is manufactured within the next 10 to 20 years, impacting everything from how military personnel get food on the battlefield to how long it takes to get a meal from the computer to your table, according to the IFT15 Symposium: Where Science Feeds Innovation.