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From Farm to Fork: How Automation Enhances the Food Supply Chain

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the global economy and the food industry. Despite the ongoing challenges, new opportunities have emerged for businesses to grow and innovate. As the labor market recovers, businesses have been able to recruit more workers to produce and distribute food products. To support this recovery, the USDA invested $4 billion in 2021 to strengthen the critical infrastructure of the food industry.

Online grocery and food retail is one of the most rapidly expanding segments of the eCommerce market. As more consumers opt for online food and grocery shopping, retailers need to enhance their digital presence, especially in times of crisis - such as a global pandemic. However, success requires that organizations align their team structure, processes, and technologies into a cohesive omnichannel strategy.

Automation is the solution to many of the problems that manufacturing environments face, particularly in the food and beverage industry. Food and beverage manufacturing facilities have to deal with various issues, such as labor shortages, efficiency improvement, and SKU diversification, to meet the changing market demands. It is not sufficient to rely on the traditional methods of production. It is time to embrace creativity and innovation to reach the next level of excellence and gain a competitive advantage in this crowded industry.

Automation can be a game-changer - as it has been for many leading brands, such as Kraft Heinz - and Daifuku can provide you with proven effective solutions to make it happen. Read on to learn how automation can transform your food and beverage manufacturing operations and deliver multiple benefits:

The Importance of Automation in Food and Beverage Manufacturing

So why is automation important?

Automation is a game-changer for any manufacturing industry, and food and beverage is no different. With automation, you can say goodbye to wasted resources and hello to “just-in-time” production. This means you can make exactly what you need, when you need it, and how you need it. Automation gives you the power to create high-quality products that meet your customers’ expectations and your own standards.

Here's a look at some of the key benefits of automation in such environments and why it's time to give serious consideration to such solutions (if you haven't already done so):

Streamline efficiency

Integrated automation solutions can help manufacturers streamline their operations, reducing lead times and increasing output. New products can be introduced more quickly and programming can be done offline without disrupting existing processes. In addition to streamlining efficiency, such solutions can also help promote a more sustainable manufacturing environment, by reducing waste as well as a facility's overall carbon footprint.

Optimized storage, floor space

Automation makes product storage and retrieval a breeze, helping to enhance any type of inventory management strategy. This can help optimize storage and also clear up floor space for other activities, leading to a more functional, highly effective plant.

Eliminate and reduce disruption risks

Manufacturing is facing a serious challenge: not enough workers. And it's not just any workers, but skilled ones who can handle the demands of food and beverage production. How can plant managers cope with this looming crisis? One word: automation.

Automation is not just a way to save time and money. It's also a way to enhance safety and quality. By automating some of the tasks that are prone to human error or require physical exertion, you can reduce the risks of accidents, injuries, and contamination. You can also free up your workers to focus on other aspects of the facility that need their attention and expertise. Automation is not a threat to your workforce. It's an opportunity to make the most of it.

It's easy to integrate solutions

We know change can be scary, especially when it comes to trying new and automated solutions for your operations. You might think it's too hard, too risky, or too expensive. But trust us, it's not. These solutions are made to work with your existing operations, whatever they are. And you're not alone in this journey. Daifuku is your partner in providing integrated solutions that suit your needs.

Enhanced food safety

An additional benefit to adopting automated solutions, notably in food and beverage environments, is that they can help enhance food safety throughout the supply chain. With nearly 300 food and beverage recalls occurring each year, any improvement that manufacturers can make regarding food safety can go a long way toward enhancing the overall product and growing trust with consumers.

How Automation Can Help Enhance Food Safety

As we noted in the above section, one of the key benefits of adopting automation and advanced technologies in food and beverage manufacturing facilities is how such solutions can enhance food safety. In food and beverage manufacturing, facilities are forced to manage what's become known as "the three D's" - dangerous, dirty and dull.

We already covered how automation can help promote a safer overall work environment by completing higher-risk tasks. But automation also helps generate data points throughout the supply chain that plant

managers can observe and assess in real time. If there are any concerns about contamination or other problems throughout the supply chain, processes can be stopped and corrected much faster compared to a conventional facility. It's this fully transparent and complete product visibility that can be a major boost for food safety. Furthermore, automated storage and retrieval solutions use food-safe lubricants and other components to ensure optimal safety.

Automation can also help with the temperature control of products. In many food and beverage manufacturing environments, centers are designed with various temperature zones according to the specific product that's being handled. With the right storage and picking solutions, managers can be sure that products stay in the appropriate temperature zones (add case study link). This can help reduce the risk of product spoilage and help protect the quality of the product.

The Kraft Heinz Story

Kraft Heinz is just one major global brand that is embracing end-to-end automation in its warehouse and manufacturing environments - and Daifuku is lending a major hand with the brand's investment. Specifically, Kraft Heinz is building a fully automated facility near its headquarters in DeKalb, Illinois, with the intent of driving even greater supply chain efficiencies and establishing its brand as even more of a global leader in the food and beverage market space.

Set to open its doors in 2025, a specific highlight of Kraft Heinz's new center will be a fully automated storage retrieval system. It can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and help enable the fully-automated selection of its products. Once established, Kraft Heinz will be able to drive further efficiencies throughout the supply chain to put products onto store shelves faster, thereby better serving its customers and driving further revenue and market growth.

It's worth noting that Kraft Heinz is also embracing other innovative technologies, like artificial intelligence, as part of this strategy to capture data and analytics that can help it more seamlessly adjust to changing market conditions.

Contact Daifuku Intralogistics America for More Information

Automation is the future of food and beverage manufacturing. According to a report in CFO Dive, more than a quarter of all warehouses are expected to incorporate some sort of automation by 2027, which is up from the 14 percent that indicated such intentions when they were polled a decade ago. As you can see from the Kraft Heinz example, automation isn't just intended for the traditional warehouse environment, but for everything it can do in food and beverage manufacturing as well. When done right, it can truly transform warehouse operations.

Contact us today for more information on automation in food and beverage manufacturing and how it can help transform your operations, as it's already done for many and as it's about to do for Kraft Heinz when its state-of-the-art automated facility opens its doors in 2025. As a leading, global manufacturer of material handling systems and systems integration, we can help take your food and beverage manufacturing to new heights.

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