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New report: Automation beyond food and beverage industry trends

The food and beverage industry has entered an era of great transformation, perhaps one of the most impactful and wide-reaching in its long history. An era of digital transformation.

Automated and AI-driven technologies are changing the very foundation of how food and beverage products are formulated, manufactured, and distributed, bringing new opportunities for innovation and growth to the foreground—as well as formidable new risks, including the risk of falling behind.

What’s the key to managing that risk? Knowing what your peers are doing, and translating that knowledge into a proactive action plan that’s designed to put your business ahead. The Horizons: Digital Age of Food Manufacturing report is here to help by analyzing and sharing 2024 industry data.

How is the food and beverage industry leveraging AI, automation and Industry 4.0?

Over 300 food and beverage manufacturers answered our Horizons survey. Here’s what they told us:

  • 48% of all capital spending is focused on automation projects.
  • 70% see productivity as the top benefit of automation.
  • 78% are leveraging automation to stay ahead of labor shortages.

Dive into the context behind these and dozens of other peer-driven insights on AI, automation and digitalization strategies for food manufacturing in the new 2024 Horizons: Digital Age of Food Manufacturing report.

CRB’s experts set out to understand which food and beverage industry trends and digital technologies are gaining traction, making a difference in productivity and which are still facing internal challenges. Where are investments being made? Are food manufacturers really turning to AI and cobots? We asked, and the industry answered. With survey respondents divided between large companies earning more than $100 million in annual operating revenue and smaller companies earning well below this threshold, the findings span across the industry.

Survey data revealed that 37% of respondents already feature technology integrations and predictive, real-time analytics within their plants. We also found that productivity is getting a lot of attention as the primary benefit of automation and Industry 4.0. 

Horizons: Digital Age of Food Manufacturing

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One theme that takes shape is that digitalization projects are more than an industry trend. “Manufacturers are taking the digital age of food production seriously; they’re giving digitalization projects the same weight and level of priority as more traditional capital projects,” points out Monte Vander Velde, Project Manager and Dennis Collins, Architectural Regional Discipline Leader. 

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2024 Industry data that looks beyond the trends

How are your food and beverage peers responding to pressing industry questions on AI, automation and capital spending? And how do your strategies align? We dig into the insights behind the report’s data on these manufacturing topics:

We’ve done fine with basic manufacturing automation so far. Why change now, when the ROI on new technologies seems unclear?

How are companies rationalizing their initial investment in automation when the ROI can be unclear? Many are thinking not only in terms of short-term wins with productivity, but with an eye on long-term digital maturity. The value of data is really unlocked after an initial phase of investment is made.

We need to increase productivity. What digital tools and technologies are other food and beverage manufacturers using to meet their throughput goals?

From the Internet of Things to digital twins, cobots, and augmented reality, your peers and competitors are budgeting and moving forward with digitalization projects. Find out which projects they’re prioritizing to meet productivity targets, which ones they have already implemented—and which ones are all hype with little measurable impact.

We need to respond more quickly to new food and beverage industry trends and shifts in market demand. How can automation help respond to market trends and move faster?

Digitalization tools and technologies unlock a lot of opportunities for improved processes, but you need to know where to start. Learn more about how other snack, baking, sauces and beverage manufacturers are harnessing digitalization and automation initiatives to expand capacity, predict and respond to market changes, reduce shutdowns for clean-in-place cycles, identify issues before they impact batches in a chapter dedicated to operations and process efficiencies. 

Our stakeholders want to see more progress on our ESG targets. Can automation tools help us make progress?

How are your peers and competitors leveraging digital technology to meet ambitious Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets, and what strategies are they relying on to close the gap between policy and implementation? For starters, they’re looking to outside support. The industry is not just leaning on support from consultants, though, food manufacturers are getting a lot of financial help with their projects, too. 

We need better technology to attract top-tier workers. At the same time, we don’t want to replace our workforce with machines. Where’s that line, and how do we navigate it?

Your peers are using automation and advanced technologies as part of their approach to improving culture, raising wages, and retaining workers. There is a role for digitalization in addressing food manufacturing’s labor challenges, but it may not be the role you think.

We’re already stretching our capital dollar to the limit. How can we justify spending on automation projects?

Spending on automation is now critical to business survival. Based on our survey data, food manufacturers big and small see it as much more than a trend and are implementing and investing in digitalization projects accordingly. It’s still a question of how you justify that spending—it’s a question of choosing the automation projects that will deliver the most bang for your buck. See how your peers are navigating that decision and what projects they’re planning for. 

I’m having trouble moving my automation and digitalization projects forward. How can I show that these are not just food and beverage trends to gain buy-in from leadership? 

An understanding of where you sit among the industry can be powerful, as can be the risk of falling behind. This data and our SMEs are here to help support you with this, too. Read how and where your competitors are investing to streamline operations and achieve their business goals.

The Horizons: Digital Age of Food Manufacturing report digs into these topics, trends, challenges and more. Get the full report here.

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Bottom line: what does the Horizons: Digital Age of Food Manufacturing report cover?

  • Insight from over 300 food and beverage manufacturers who answered our 65-question survey, including plant engineers, logistics and supply chain managers, process engineers, and executive-level leaders.
  • A look beyond the trends. In-depth, expert-driven analysis of what your peers are spending on digitalization projects, how they’re turning that investment into operational gains, and what these macro trends could mean for your own pathway to digitalization.
  • Access to the full Horizons report series, including quarterly analyses on current market conditions and procurement lead times as well as big-picture advice that you can put to work right away.

Through this comprehensive food and beverage industry report, we can understand where the industry currently sits, where we are going, and the investment strategies that will take us there. We’re looking beyond the food and beverage industry trends for the revolutionary tools making an impact. “We offer this report as a searchlight amid that confusion, illuminating the path ahead by exploring Industry 4.0 not as a catch-all term but as a concrete objective enabled by realistic, incremental steps. This is no general conversation—this is a close and specific examination of the digital era,” shares Jason Robertson, Vice President of Food and Beverage at CRB.

Questions about the report? Reach out to our experts.

Download your free copy of Horizons: Digital Age of Food Manufacturing report and dig into fresh industry data, peer-driven insights and expert analysis right away.

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