The Top IT Strategies for Food Production and Packaging Companies
Information technology (IT) is a critical factor in the success of virtually every type of business or industry in the 21st century. While all companies exhibit some similarities in the kind of IT solutions they employ, specific challenges can often affect an entire industry. Companies operating in those industries require tailored IT environments designed to address these challenges.
Food production and packaging companies are prime examples of an industry with distinct IT requirements. We are going to look at some of the challenges in food production and packaging and how they can be effectively addressed with the right IT solutions.
Challenges Faced by the Food Industry
Modern society depends heavily on the food industry. Most of us don’t or can’t grow our own food. Disruptions in production, packaging or delivery can cause serious problems for consumers. A vivid recent example can be seen in the many shortages in grocery stores at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these issues have still not been successfully resolved. There are still plenty of empty shelves in many markets.
The pandemic was an unexpected event that stressed the food industry in unique ways. But there are less dramatic challenges that face the industry every day. In many cases, technology can help minimize these potential problems.
Supply chain visibility
The global supply chains on which the food industry depends are becoming increasingly complex. A small problem with a supplier can manifest itself as late deliveries and unhappy consumers. Repeated issues will result in the customer, usually a retailer, searching for a new provider. Surging consumer demand can also wreak havoc on a company’s supply chain by forcing them to reroute deliveries or cut back on supply.
Gaining visibility into its supply chain enables a company to more effectively address any unexpected issues that come up. The ability to predict and exploit customer trends allows management to adjust various aspects of their supply chain to take advantage of new market realities.
Resolving these problems calls for companies in the food industry to invest in technological solutions that can track and monitor every aspect of their supply chain. Companies also need to employ cutting-edge analytics to better understand customer sentiment and identify new consumer trends.
The tools to monitor the supply chain and analyze customer sentiment are readily available from cloud service providers (CSPs). Companies in the food industry can augment their current IT capabilities and introduce new solutions by engaging a cloud vendor.
Meeting new regulations and industry standards
New regulations are being introduced to improve food safety across all segments of society. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is intended to change the focus of the industry to preventing food-borne illnesses rather than responding to outbreaks after they occur. The Act contains multiple rules designed to define the actions that must be taken at each stage of the global supply chain to ensure food safety.
The rules cover diverse aspects of food production such as the quality of agricultural water, sanitary transportation of food, and strategies to protect the food chain from malicious behavior. All companies in the food industry are expected to comply with the rules outlined in the FSMA.
Compliance requires companies to implement a product and facility plan, perform risk assessments and establish preventive controls. It also demands monitoring and verifications as well as documentation for all activities taken related to FSMA compliance. Meeting these standards requires an optimized IT infrastructure that can be implemented with in-house or cloud resources.
Labor shortages and rising costs
Labor shortages and the rising costs of experienced and skilled employees are two related problems that plague the food production industry. Without an adequate and trained workforce, production quotas cannot be met. In some cases, food may spoil and be unfit for use due to the lack of workers to process it. This results in lost revenue and wasted food that could have gone to feed hungry people.
The answer to labor shortages in many industries, including food producers, is to deploy automation solutions wherever possible. This often includes implementing Internet of Things (IoT) technology where remote devices are used to perform a variety of activities. These devices are controlled through communication with centralized IT applications and systems.
IoT solutions can be implemented in traditional data centers, but are also available from CSPs such as Amazon Web Services. A cloud solution lets the food producer devote its resources toward improving the business while the technical experts at the CSP optimize its IoT infrastructure.
Addressing product recalls
Product recalls are all too familiar in the food industry. The news regularly carries stories of specific products that consumers should avoid due to contamination that occurred at some point in the supply chain. Companies need the ability to quickly identify the particular products that need to be recalled and get them off the shelves to limit the effects on public health and safety.
Doing this requires fine-grained knowledge and control over the supply chain. It also demands an in-depth understanding of product inventory and where the affected items have been distributed. An optimized and modernized IT environment is necessary to reliably and promptly handle product recalls.
Expert Help to Improve the IT Environment
Companies in the food industry have plenty on their plates just to keep the world fed. They may not have the in-house expertise to implement or manage the systems required to address the challenges faced by the industry. Fortunately, there is a way to enlist the expert help they need.
- Performing vulnerability assessments and audits of the IT environment;
- Implementing monitoring, alerting, and documentation solutions;
- Managing backup and disaster recovery procedures;
- Evaluating your current infrastructure and assisting in cloud migration when warranted.
Prescient can provide managed services for the ongoing support of your IT environment or consult on specific projects. You can start by asking for an assessment to evaluate your infrastructure and see how Prescient can help optimize it so you can concentrate on your business.