Our approach to supply chain optimisation for F&B businesses

 There is always a lot of talk about the manufacturing industry and what’s going on out there in the market, but as a digital operations consultancy that helps customer organisations to improve business agility, we rarely share our own insights and observations.

With the state of the manufacturing industry here in Australia, we do have concerns about how quickly (or otherwise) manufacturing organisations - particularly in food and beverage - are moving towards digitisation. Today, we interviewed our Food and Beverage (F&B) principal, Gareth Williams, to find out what Nukon is doing in this space, and why it is so important.

Q: What is IoT doing to the food and beverage industry today?

A: F&B manufacturing, while slower than other industries to transform, is now in the midst of its fourth revolution. The Internet of Things is enabling data connections like never before, which is, in a nutshell, helping manufacturers to locate things - assets, materials, transport vehicles, product - wherever they are at any single point in time.

For many years the layers of Information Technology and Operational Technology haven’t connected, so this kind of sensing and sense-making was just not possible. In some traditional manufacturing organisations today, they still don’t. Unfortunately, these firms are still manually documenting the data that comes from sensors on the shop floor into handwritten excel spreadsheets printouts - so by the time they’ve detected or identified quality failures, trying to track back to specific units becomes difficult and time consuming, causing excessive wastage of product.

Hardware and software is readily available to collect, store and analyse data that has helped many manufacturing companies become more agile, flexible and productive. In an industry as competitive as food and beverage, manufacturers really can’t afford not to digitise and improve their operations.

Q: Why is IoT impacting this industry in particular?

A: Food and beverage manufacturing is an extremely competitive industry - on a global scale. Profit in this industry is driven by efficiency across the entire supply chain, and efficiency comes from accuracy. Agile matching of supply to fluctuating demand at lightning speed, producing the right amount of high-quality product in less time and moving it to where it needs to go seamlessly is the goal.

However, for this reason, there are also a huge number of moving parts. Available assets, machinery, trucks, materials, production processes, packaging and the list goes on. In between each moving part and each process is the potential for a black hole of inefficiency, especially if devices don’t speak to each other.

Enter IoT. IoT can connect machines and devices that were previously detached - bring data together from disparate sources and paint a real-time picture of where everything is for speedy response and decision-making. This makes accurate traceability of things throughout the entire supply chain possible. This is why we see IoT vastly improving inventory, asset management and stock utilisation too.

IoT really just helps you get more out of less, which is what every F&B manufacturer needs.

Q: What makes Nukon a strong partner in these projects?

A: Good question. I think there are a few things that make us a little different from the rest.

Firstly, we have vast Food and Beverage Manufacturing experience on the team.

Nukon is a firm of consultants who have all worked in manufacturing for long, successful careers. Some have an IT background and others have an OT or operational background, and the blend means we know what to look for when solving problems for the customer.

Secondly, we offer end-to-end solutions. Not just planning - but planning, execution and support.

Because our capability spans IT and OT, we can see data connections right up, down and across a business that will forge results. We can also assist and develop strategy, the execution and then we offer 24/7 support of any solution we put in place - not many players out there can manage an end-to-end solution. This makes our customers feel safer about the steps they are taking.

Lastly, we also work using agile methodologies. Which takes the risk out of the program.

We’ll look for ways to score a quick win - try not to over-capitalise on spend, but rather find an opportunity for a Minimum Viable Product with a small price tag and a big impact. This helps the customer because it lowers the risk of the project and enables testing and tweaking throughout based on results. In turn, this results in a greater impact, which gains confidence from the business.

Q: Do you have an example of work where these differentiators have come into play?

A: Yes, I mean, I was thinking of all of these in relation to the work we did with this global manufacturer. We actually kicked off three pilot programs with this organisation - called The Connected Worker, Truck Tracking and Paperless Quality System & Raw Materials Tracking.

Our industry experience helped us to identify the programs that would have the highest impact, and what solutions to use with their current stack in order to get the right data.

The comprehensiveness of our solution meant that we could understand the current state, see what infrastructure was needed and ensure IT and operations were working together on the outcome. Any shortfall in any of these areas would spell a project fail.

And our agility helped to ensure the pilots were delivered quickly and produced data to inform our next steps. As the customer’s Operations Manager stated, ‘Our … pilots are really about giving our people access to the right data at the right time in order to make fast, accurate decisions.”

Q: What should CIOs who are considering moving in this direction do first?

A: Just reach out and have a chat with us. We offer no-obligation workshops, which will help you identify a problem we can solve in a short space of time and with minimum investment. If you want to proceed, great, and if not, nothing lost.

We do worry that those who don’t make a move soon will get left behind, and there are some really great manufacturers out there that could do with some advancing. So if you suspect this can help your Food and Beverage business, take the first step and just have a chat with us.


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Topics: Manufacturing, Improve Performance