4.0 Growth on the horizon for F&B industry

Evolution for food manufacturers

The breakneck speed of new technological advancements has empowered traditional food engineers and research and development teams – in fact, reputable sources indicate that the food and beverage manufacturing industry is projected to grow at a rate of more than 10 percent over the course of the next twelve months.

Greater digitization – more innovative process solutions like product lifecycle management (PLM) and master data management – are creating smarter processing and higher performance for food producers. Control, transparency and traceability have emerged as crucial elements, and are possible to achieve in a comprehensive way, due to the availability of more centralized process systems.

Industry 4.0, defined as the current trend toward automation and data exchange – including IoT, cloud storage and computing and cognitive computing – has and will continue to revolutionize food manufacturing.

There can be no question that placing the technological advances of Industry 4.0 at the forefront of the digital agenda in all manufacturing industries, including the food and beverage industry, is a wise move.

From raw materials to processing, packaging and marketing, food producers are embracing this technology with surprisingly stellar results.  Cyber-physical systems connect with software process solutions, and manufacturers can communicate across all channels with suppliers and retailers – sometimes even with end-use consumers.


Transparency and traceability within the manufacturing and labeling process present immense benefits to consumers.  The capability to trace goods literally from the farm to the table with a mobile device has become a routine request from millennials in the marketplace – and ERP systems combined with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags make it possible.

End-to-end product data management (PDM) solutions offer manufacturers the ability to increase production and eliminate data entry errors while providing transparency throughout the supply chain via data sharing on collaborative platforms.

Sustainability and a smaller eco-footprint are also important trends in the marketplace, which is addressed via quality maintenance and resource management at the factory level.

 4.0 for F&B

When implemented by food and beverage manufacturers, Industry 4.0 operates on two basic pillars:

  • Information and process/product transparency
  • Decentralized decision-making

Food manufacturers who embrace 4.0 find their organizations are better equipped to control their processes – leading to accelerated time to market, improved global regulatory compliance, clean product labels with accurate, efficient ingredient management and more technologically responsive solutions to deliver maximum customer value at the lowest cost per unit.

Process transparency extends to IoT infrastructure that affords production managers the connectivity and mobility to quickly aggerate data from multiple sources and make effective production decisions -from the factory floor, on a mobile device.

Managing, sharing and protecting data

Industry 4.0 directly impacts regulatory compliance for manufacturers who participate in the global marketplace.  Central product data sharing, like raw ingredients specifications and compliance-related information is required; 4.0 technology supports platforms that make the essential information available to shareholders throughout the supply chain.

Product data management is critical for global food and beverage manufacturers; SaaS and Cloud PLM infrastructure options for global supply chains in cyberspace are quickly becoming a key asset for manufacturers who operate across international borders and must comply with regulations while protecting proprietary data.

Data management is the sum of all parts, and for each part, Industry 4.0 technology is exceptionally promising.

Contamination and recalls

According to the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is an average of 27 recalls in the United States every month; these recalls range from undeclared or mislabeled ingredients to broken metal shards, microbial contaminations and pathogenic bacteria.

Traceability is a complicated imperative; food manufacturers must have specific processes in place to identify batches and swiftly react with the institution of a recall.  Machinery breaks – that is a simple fact; it is vital that manufactures have both master data management, lab information systems and sensor technology to address foreign objects and mark each batch with singular, unique production identification markers.  Sophisticated, integrated software process solutions and sensor technologies, like active RFID, allow efficient systematic data tracking throughout the batch progression and supply chain.

Consumer-friendly devices and applications

Consumers often research their product purchases on their smart phones and mobile devices.  In order to motivate them to purchase their products, manufacturers and retailers should enable point-of-sale (POS) solutions that integrate with customers’ mobile devices.

An emerging technology is intelligent labeling. The combination of wireless labeling, software applications and cloud platforms lets consumers scan product labels with their smart phones to ensure the product’s authenticity or to obtain information regarding ratings, customer loyalty programs or product videos. It only requires a Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled device. The data that these intelligent labels provide manufacturers contains demographic information, location, likes, social shares and real-time reviews.

Forward-thinking organizations are also testing strategies like extended shelf-life products to minimize food and packaging waste.

4.0 challenges

New business models require new strategies – this is a difficult concept for food producers who still rely on spreadsheets and manual data entry  – but food and beverage manufacturers must lean in, invest and embrace the technology in order to thrive in the global marketplace.

It is crucial for c-suites to understand their business case and rethink their processes to maximize outcomes and profitability.  Examining the company culture and helping your entire organization understand and embrace innovative process solutions that connect all departments is difficult – but doable.

4.0 benefits

Technological advancement benefits begin with digitalization; software process solutions specifically designed for recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers that provide the ability to adjust quickly and actively manage consumer-driven rapid changes for food products while increasing traceability and transparency in the supply chain – and eliminating risks associated with regulatory compliance – are the first step.

Quality control, lab processes and specification data must be simplified and communicated vertically and horizontally to ensure the organization has streamlined operations and can achieve sustainable growth and increased ROI.

Understanding, finding the right blend of technology and human collaboration and adapting to innovations enhances productivity and provides greater continuity for functions across all channels.

Food for thought

The food and beverage industry generates 1.8 trillion dollars per year worldwide – placing Industry 4.0 at the forefront of the digital agenda in recipe-based manufacturing. Rapidly changing trends and consumer behaviors, global regulatory compliance and legal requirements as well as increasing specializations deliver unremitting challenges for food manufacturers. Even though the automation of factories and processes may, in many organizations, be already put into practice, structured integration into a holistic data concept is often missing. Digital networking of all processes can provide innovative solutions.

What Industry 4.0 really means for the food and beverage industry – identifying opportunities and implementing specific measures for best practices – is that your greatest strength lies in employing your data to achieve a strategic, competitive advantage.

Submission by Severin J. Weiss 

CEO, SpecPage

 Severin Weiss is widely recognized as a global expert in integrated software process solutions for recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers.  He founded SpecPage in 2006.

SpecPage is a multinational privately held computer software manufacturer, software supplier and IT service provider, specializing in Product Lifecycle Management, (PLM), Product Data Management, (PDM), Global Data Synchronization, (GDSN), Laboratory Management (LIMS), Enterprise Systems Management, (ERP), Environment Health Site Assessment/Materials Safety Data Sheet, (EHSA/MSDS) Regulatory Solutions for Food and Recipe Development, (RSFRD), and Global Regulatory Compliance, (GRC). 

The company is headquartered primarily in Switzerland and the U.S., with offices in Sweden, Germany, France, Italy, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Singapore, China and Taiwan.    




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