Amid continuing threats to our food supply, food businesses should understand how tech tools can help improve all facets of their operations—from increasing sustainability to ensuring their suppliers are committed to safety and quality. In the coming year, more operators will rely on technology to save money, reduce waste, improve training, boost accuracy, and make more informed business decisions.
The good news is that tech solutions have become more affordable and accessible for food businesses of all sizes. Therefore, digital solutions will become more widely used in the coming year, as food businesses ditch their manual systems and/or disjointed tech stacks that don’t provide holistic views of their enterprise in favor of modern, integrated, intuitive tools.
Following are some of the key challenges that necessitate a shift to new technologies.
The Need for Sustainable Food Production
Climate change is putting food production at risk. Extreme weather is destroying traditionally grown crops and, moving forward, there will be a renewed effort around sustainable food production, including efforts such as vertical farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics.
The food industry must leverage technology to address multiple issues, from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to changing the way we grow food. Faster innovation is essential to make farming more sustainable, create new infrastructure, reduce our dependence on foreign food supplies, increase the transparency all along the supply chain, and reduce risk from farm to table.
Quality and Accuracy are King
Integrated software can boost accuracy, which will elevate a variety of critical metrics, including revenue, safety, quality and customer loyalty. Tech tools help you plan better, track inventory, monitor customer preference, and anticipate upcoming needs by tracking key metrics across your enterprise. Remember, if you don’t measure accuracy, you can’t improve it. Additionally, if there are accuracy problems, these tools can help you identify if you have one problematic employee or if there are more widespread problems at a specific location (or locations). Based on this data, you can take corrective actions, including increasing training and adjusting processes.
Training Will Change
Historically, food businesses trained employees by explaining how things should be done, then expected staff to do exactly what they learned. But what if you thought about training differently? What if you used tech tools to provide critical information in bite-sized chunks to boost employees’ understanding? What if you sent information right to their phones so they always have resources at their fingertips? Then, you could use automated reminders to ensure they don’t forget a crucial safety check during a busy shift.
One important change that’s expected to trend in the coming year is building collaborative cultures versus punitive ones. It’s important that employees feel encouraged to ask questions, seek feedback, and be empowered to take ownership of safety and quality efforts. Train, practice, demonstrate, and reinforce to boost employee confidence and retention, using tech tools to reinforce these lessons.
The Supply Chain Will Become More Transparent
It’s critical to implement safety and quality protocols for your business, but that alone is not enough. Every food business must also inspect safety, quality, and traceability all along their supply chain, as well. Thanks to more affordable, accessible tech tools, this is now possible for brands of all sizes and budgets, and you can get started without a big investment. Focus on what the regulations require and use digital solutions to seamlessly manage your vendors’ safety and QA certifications. Today’s solutions allow you to organize and track this important information in a centralized location for quick, easy access.
Food Businesses Will Audit Differently
Remote brand protection grew in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, as companies needed alternative ways to protect their locations/facilities when travel restrictions prohibited them from physically reaching them for audits or inspections. Now that the pandemic is over, expect food businesses to continue auditing differently.
Maybe it’s unrealistic to reach all your locations regularly, or it’s cost prohibitive to send in-person auditors to numerous locations multiple times per year. Tech solutions can save quality teams as much as 70% of their current program budgets, which is a huge win at a time when every dollar counts.
Increasingly, food businesses will ditch the paper checklists for more efficient, accurate, transparent, and frequent auditing, including self-assessments. Digital solutions will help ensure that every safety and quality check is done regularly (and properly). The days of relying solely on annual third-party inspections are over. Now, food businesses are embracing a combination of third-party and remote inspections plus frequent self-inspections to maximize safety and minimize risks.
It can feel overwhelming to try and manage all aspects of your organization’s safety and quality programs while also navigating the ongoing problems that are putting our food production at risk. Food businesses will have to work hard to keep the lights on and deliver products (and promises) to customers. Tech solutions will make all aspects of your business operations easier, faster, and more accurate, while also boosting safety and quality.