The food industry is faced with more and more challengers in the form of start-ups. These start-ups are becoming a real challenge for existing companies, especially with the arrival of the Intelligent Cloud. The opportunities presented by insights and predictive intelligence are giving these challengers a serious head-start on the established order. Of course, it is not yet too late for the seasoned players, provided their willingness to be open to technological novelties and the challenges that come along. In which case the culture change immediately becomes the biggest effort that these companies have to make.
Written by: William van Zweeden
There are two types of companies that are easily distinguishable withing the food industry. First off, the incumbents, namely those companies that have been around for years (e.g. family-owned businesses). These companies generally prefer to stick to what they know. For example, they want to have their servers on-premise and also store them in-house. They want to know exactly where the data is stored, often placing servers safeguarded out of harm’s way, under one’s desk... Sheltered.
Secondly, what we see more and more in the industry, especially nowadays with the economy picking up, is that a number of challengers are entering the food market. Those challengers much more often operate from the philosophy of scalable business models and grow as quickly as possible. To get back to the previous example, it is in their case irrelevant where the data is stored as long as everything is running smoothly. These companies are not afraid to just “give it a try”. Ready, steady, and go!
Embracing new technologies in the food industry
Start-ups are the first ones to embrace new technologies. A promising example is the rise of the Microsoft Intelligent Cloud, which ensures that new technologies such as machine learning, algorithms and cognitive services suddenly become available to everyone. These types of developments are worth a fortune, especially in the food industry. For example, they enable you not only to look at historical and current data, but also to make predictions for the future. This is however only possible in the cloud, because that is where all the data comes together while delivering enough computing power for a scalable and affordable implementation. At this level is where technology is available for smaller companies, and therefore also available to challengers. It is now surrounding every subject. We’ve just tipped over Pandora’s box, so to say. As a result, ERP is increasingly becoming a commodity product, something you need in order to record and administer your data. The insights gained by allowing ERP to enter into the Intelligent Cloud and the predictive intelligence that can be activated with it effectively makes for auctionable data. And that's where you really struck gold.
Translating data with the Intelligence Cloud
We are already busy with starting up a number of initiatives. For example, one of our customers keeps track of the weather conditions in Peru, the country of mango and avocado farmers, by means of sensors (another example of Internet of Things (IoT)). These sensors automatically generate data and thus no longer have to be manually entered and maintained. Data such as the temperature and precipitation is linked to the travel time and the conditions in the containers. Using this data it can then be determined how mature the product is at the moment the ship arrives in Rotterdam. And that is extremely valuable data, because it knows whether the fruits can be sent to the customer, or whether they need to mature more quickly in a ripening cell. This translation of data is possible thanks to the Intelligent Cloud.
Reforming existing food processes
I truly believe that companies using the right kind of technology will gain a definite competitive advantage. It is therefore certainly good to start looking for ways to remodulate processes. Challenge your company and test whenever the same processes you’ve used since forever are still in place today. Would you be able to run your business in a different way? If the answer is 'yes', then you have taken the first step. The willingness to step forward, also considering the implications of cultural change and the thoughts on your existing processes, is essential for the future of your food company.
What distinguishes good companies from excellent companies is that they are light, fast and precise. This means that you are agile, have great adaptability, take on new opportunities and actually be willing to reach new heights. The world is going to change and it is happening faster and faster. The more flexible you organize the organization, the better you can respond to change. And also the better and faster you can respond to market changes, government requirements and, above all, technological innovations.