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Industry 4.0 and Food Manufacturing

Industry 4.0 has the potential to increase the productivity and profitability of the food system. However, looking ahead there are a number of risks and opportunities.
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Industry 4.0 has the potential to increase the productivity and profitability of the food system. However, looking ahead there are a number of risks and opportunities.

Industry 4.0 – Opportunities and Risks

WRAP is an organisation which works with the companies in the food and drink industry to create economic and environmental value from reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions and tackling issues around water scarcity across the supply chain. They recently published a report, Food Futures from business as usual to business unusual exploring how we can develop a food system fit for the future. As part of this report, WRAP explore industry 4.0 in food manufacturing along with leading figures in the food supply chain.

The report identified a number of opportunities and risks associated with industry 4.0 and food manufacturing which we will explore in this article.

Opportunities

Digital technologies presents a number of opportunities to the food manufacturing sector. These include:

  • Improved Efficiency: Custom ordering, batch production, smart machines and logistics networks allow the food manufacturer to function to their full potential and produce high quality food as demanded
  • Reduced Food Waste: Accurate forecasting and optimal processing conditions help to minimise losses from food production
  • Personalised Products: Customisation and ordering systems can create competitive differentiation and high value food products.
  • New Opportunities: A reduction in manual labour requirements would result in increased time to focus on innovation and new products and services.

Challenges

Although digital technologies offers food manufacturers with a means to increase production efficiency and profitability, there are a number of challenges:

  • Infrastructure Investment: New factory designs and new computer systems will require investment by food manufacturers
  • Skills Gap: The workforce activities will change from manual labour to skilled engineers managing the factory equipment.
  • Production Breakdown: Smart factories can be entirely self-sufficient. However, if there is a breakdown in communication across the machines, there is potential for production to stop.
  • Security Risk: The sharing of information both internally and externally among different machines could expose the food manufacturer to sabotage by external parties if there is not adequate security in place.
  • Increased Competition: Self-sufficient smart factories could open up opportunities for new entrants and increased competition in the sector

Exercise – Smart Factories

Please share your thoughts on smart factories.

  • Can you think of any more advantages or disadvantages of smart factories?
  • Do you think the benefits outweigh the risks?
  • What do you think food manufacturing in the future will look like?
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