Industry 4.0

From Farm to Fork: Leveraging Industry 4.0 for Smart Manufacturing in Food & Beverage


The food and beverage industry has been relatively slow when it comes to digital transformation. However, rising consumer demands for healthier and more sustainable food, evolving regulations around food safety, and the debilitating effects of disruptions to supply and production chains, have meant that food and beverage manufacturers are now forced to pick up the pace of digitalisation.

Industry 4.0 is the digital transformation process that helps manufacturers manage and optimize all aspects of their manufacturing and supply chain, using real-time data and insights to ensure “near-perfect production” with minimal downtime, waste, and inefficiency. 

Manufacturers are increasingly embracing these Industry 4.0 technologies to build resilience and agility in the value chain and future-proof their operations, so they can swiftly respond to changing market dynamics. The result is a “smart factory”—a centre of innovation that seamlessly connects customers, suppliers, distributors and partners, by leveraging Industry 4.0 technologies such as cyber-physical systems, cloud computing, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and machine learning (ML) to increase efficiencies across the board.

We recently brought together global F&B and Industry 4.0 experts, Andrew BuckleF&B Industry Strategist, Infor and John Broadbent, Industry 4.0 Specialist, Fortude, to understand how the right data can empower food and beverage enterprises looking to optimize the supply chain, swiftly and more efficiently. The fireside chat was moderated by Geoff Hird, Managing Director and Publisher at Westwick-Farrow Media.

Key Takeaways

  • With the rising challenges such as uncertainty, inflation, labour-related issues, and the increased cost of producing in the F&B Industry, manufacturers must explore avenues to do more with less.
  • Digital transformation offers the opportunity to capture, collect and store information, which in turn can run through emerging systems such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (ML/AI) to make well-informed decisions for the business. 
  • Food and beverage manufacturers do not need to implement digital transformation for the entire business all at once. The organisation’s leadership must first commit to evaluating which parts of the business will benefit from digital transformation the most, and identify the different opportunities that come with it. 
  • If we look at the digital transformation solutions that were deployed 10 years ago, compared to now, the time to market is much shorter, and the business processes embedded are much more relevant and not a one-size-fits-all. This is a step in the right direction.
  • The present legacy technology that exists, can’t go into a detailed breakdown of costs and that leads to much manual processing, often via another layer of spreadsheets.
  • With modern technologies, food and beverage manufacturers can optimise their production execution system by tracking and tracing the production of goods throughout the process, allowing them to report back to the ERP on the actual consumption of materials, which in turn, leads to a reduction in waste and production cost.
  • The emergence the environmentally-conscious customer means that companies now feel compelled to integrate sustainability in their business models. For example, the looming threat of global warming  and the resulting rise in demand for plant-based goods, means that many meat producers are shifting their focus and investing in the right technology and systems to claim early-adopter advantage in the market. Industry 4.0 approaches give these manufacturers the opportunity to identify what resources are being used and where it’s being used – allowing them to do more with less.
  • Circular economies will not be driven by governments but by the industry and consumers. Manufacturers have the social, environmental, and sustainable responsibility to make sure that they are minimising input resources, and wasting as little as possible on the way out.
  • Catering to the consumer demand for transparency, while maintaining food safety and ensuring regulatory compliance is a ajor challenge for food and beverage manufacturers, regardless of size. For most manufacturers, their existing technology systems and business processes are unable to support the level of supply chain transparency and traceability required by today’s consumers. Industry 4.0 technologies can transform traceability and food safety management significantly and give them consumers the transparency and value they desire.
  • As consumer demand shifts towards direct consumer models such as online purchasing, Industry 4.0 approaches allow manufacturers to meet this demand through new value-added solutions that are tailored to their preferences.

Forging Ahead

The evolution of Industry 4.0 offers food and beverage manufacturers a reset button, enabling them to optimize their value chain and build a sustainable, agile business. Using paper-based systems and spreadsheets to run mission-critical functions is simply not a choice anymore, as it cannot deliver the same level of granular, real-time production data required to make informed business decisions. Full-fledged track-and-trace capabilities that bring visibility, transparency and insights is now the order of the day.

Meet the Experts

John Broadbent

Industry 4.0 Specialist, Fortude

Andy Buckle

F&B Industry Strategist, Infor

Geoff Hird

Managing Director, WF Media ( Moderator)

John is an Industry 4.0/DTx thought leader with decades of experience helping manufacturers of all sizes transform profitability, longevity, sustainability, and culture through smart factory technologies. He also has experience mentoring and coaching manufacturing leadership. John was recently appointed Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania.

Andy is an experienced food & beverage, retail, and supply chain professional with over 30 years’ experience working in global companies and international consulting and solution providers. He has extensive global experience in business transformation programs and process change programs for both food & beverage and retailers to deliver clear business benefits.
With over 30 years business media experience, Geoff is focused on delivering business outcomes for clients in the industrial/tech/healthcare/science/food sectors. The team of experts at WF Media work hard at bringing quality suppliers and quality buyers together via media and event platforms. Geoff has a particular interest in digital transformation and how it can grow the industries that WF Media serves.