The Food and Beverage sector had gone through two major transformations in human history. The First Agricultural Revolution kicked it off twelve thousand years ago. This transformed our human societies from hunting and gathering with almost 100% of our available manpower to farming. Some two hundred fifty years ago, a sudden major change in the economy marked by the general introduction of power-driven machinery brought the First Industrial Revolution. As one of the earliest industries being industrialized, Food and Beverage industry developed many policies, regulations, methods and systems across the globe. On one hand, these rules help to shape the Food and Beverage industry like the one that we know it today; on the other hand, these rules had also limited the further advancement of Food and Beverage industry in the digital world today. After the rapid development in digital technologies in the past fifty years, the Food & Beverage sector is about to undergo another major transformation. Here are a few clear trends that are shaping the future of the Food and Beverage industry.
The dominance of manpower vs “digital power” are switching places
The normal line of sight in the F&B industry workplace is packed with people. We used to claim that the F&B industry is very labour intensive. The manpower used to be the dominant power driving F&B industry. Machines are used to be tools that assist people in achieving efficiency in isolated production processing points. The industrialization started with building more centralized F&B facilities with fewer processes being made by manual labour. Nowadays, smart machines with digital power are slowly, but surely becoming the dominant power in the F&B industry.
“After the rapid development in digital technologies in the past fifty years, the Food & Beverage sector is about to undergo another major transformation”
The game changer started with the application of Artificial Intelligence technology. Although the intelligent level of machines is relatively low for now, the development trend is unarguably clear. The networking ability of most computers and machines through the rapid development of integrated circuits in the semiconductor industry is making smart machines and IoT more powerful than ever. The old days of powerful PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) are no longer good enough. Once isolated and independently operating machines are now connected through the network. They are not only communicating with one and other intelligently but also are coordinating different tasks and even collaborating to make decisions. In addition, Machine Learning as a new subject is also gaining speed in its development.
Truly Full-Integration of F&B Value Chain
Over the past few decades, we have heard enough of Food Supply Chain Management, Farm to Table Theory, and Seed to Mouth Concept. With the rapid advancement of communication industry and Internet of Things, finally, we have the infrastructure to reshape the “Truly Full-Integration of F&B Value Chain”. Decades of experience with F&B processes automation has reached the tipping point of making a connection with every single point mechanically possible in F&B facilities. On top of that, with the adoption of IPv6 standard, billions and billions of devices, equipment and moving parts could have its own IP address. By the time that the F&B industry went through the third industrial revolution, many equipment suppliers had equipped their respective individual equipment with PLC ability. Industry wide adaptation of ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) systems for business process management tried to optimize back-office functions of the F&B business. Unfortunately, a large number of ERP system providers and lack of standardization of the system implementation limited the potential growth of the F&B industry in the digital age. Luckily, the newly created Industrial 4.0 standard might have a shot to standardize them.
Real-Time Big Data
While machines are gathering their operational data, commercial computers have been busy with accumulating very useful food and beverage consumer data. Meanwhile, historical data is already at our fingertip helping us setting up any possible business models. The speed of accumulated data has been accelerated at an alarming pace. With data from both demand and supply sides combined with the seemingly endless computing power, we can construct forecasting mode, planning mode, preventative mode, and even predictive mode. We could also conduct all possible “what if” scenarios and run actual simulations with a real business case to concord with its complexity and variety of real-life situations in a virtual world environment. With the increasing computing power, big data had entered its game differentiating from its traditional assisting role into the dominant one. Having evolved from simply applying historical data to predict the future behaviour and purchasing model, we are now eager to use the real-time data. The real-time mode has been made possible by the application of Big Data and Cloud Computing Services with Cyber-Physical System technologies. Internet of Things has also been helping with filling all little gaps that are used to be difficult for F&B to fill by applying Drones and Autonomous Guided Vehicles technologies. The ground-breaking mode is the availability of computer to process real time data connecting with real consumer demands. The F&B industry found the new model of producing customized products for the individual consumer with their real-time demand. Real time production for individual consumer combing with real-time delivery ability to any desired consumption location will be the future for the F&B industry. In addition, Blockchain technology provides truly secured data channels for all relevant parties including government agencies and financial institutions. All certified parties will have the necessary access to relevant information without violating data privacy rules.
In summary, everything is ready. The gigantic leap forward is inevitable. In fact, the age of real-time, autonomous, and full-integration of F&B through quantum revolution has finally appeared in front of us.