In today’s rapidly evolving world, innovation is an essential strategy for every business to ensure that you can survive and thrive into the future. You only need to take a look at what companies like Uber and Airbnb have achieved to realise how quickly a well-established business model can be turned upside down by innovation.
The food industry is a highly regulated and competitive industry. There is immense focus on the rising costs of doing business and the impact that it will have upon businesses. But the reality is that the greatest cost to a business may be doing nothing.
Innovation simply means “to make changes in something established, by introducing new ideas, methods or products.”
In the context of the food industry, innovation is certainly a well-established principle that is readily adopted by many companies. However, the question is not whether a company adopts innovative thinking and strategies, but rather the extent to which they do so.
When you hear the term ‘innovation’ in a food business, thoughts jump immediately to product, packaging, and plant and machinery innovation. This is valid, given that these investments easily translate to a rate of return. However, these areas are just a part of the picture when it comes to innovation, which should encompass the food business as a whole for it to remain competitive and thrive through changing times and business climates.
Innovation should be seen as a whole of business strategy, where every single aspect of the business is considered and regularly challenged. It should provide you with a competitive edge as it delivers ongoing operational and strategic benefits.
Here are just a few other areas where innovation can deliver improved business outcomes:
Traceability and handling recalls
Traceability and product recalls are a glaring reality in the food industry. Better safety technology innovation and data capture methods are just a couple of ways that businesses can be better equipped to handle recalls. In addition, social media provides a new avenue for consumers to better and more quickly alert producers to product issues.
As the single largest input cost within most food businesses, improved inventory planning and waste management can have a significant impact upon the profitability of each product line, and the business as a whole. Integrated software that can accommodate the ability to both forecast future demand, as well as react to current order demand, helps to streamline the planning process and provide more timely decision making.
Supply chain integration
Given the significant impact that ingredient supply has on your ability to meet customer demands, end to end electronic integration through the supply chain can result in greater transparency between trading partners, allowing each party to better plan and meet the upstream demand.
The saying ‘information is power’ has never been more relevant than in today’s world. The vast amount of information that is captured on a daily basis can provide you with the insights you need to rapidly respond to, and mitigate, the impact of adverse changes. With powerful data analytics tools readily available, there is no excuse not to be on top of your data trends and your actual costs.
Through the use of integrated software, administrative processes within a business can be streamlined and/or automated, mitigating the need for manual data entry and freeing up labour time to focus on value adding tasks within the business.
Businesses are about people, and the results that a business achieves will be directly linked to the engagement of the staff and the ownership they take over their role in the business. The proliferation of staff engagement tools makes it easier than ever to capture and analyse feedback from every employee, and deliver a closer connection between management and employees.
These are just a few of operational areas where innovation can deliver tangible benefits to the business. The good news is that an increasing number of businesses are zeroing in on innovation as one of their strategic pillars of growth. The challenge is to ensure that this strategy adopts a whole of business approach that will maximise the benefits to the organisation and ensure future success.
In today’s world, there is no such thing as ‘status quo’. If you’re not moving forward, you are going backwards. The most successful, high performing businesses are those that adopt a strategy of continuous improvement across the entire enterprise, making innovation a core element of their organisational culture and day to day operations.
About the author
Lachlan Gray has 20 years’ experience delivering software solutions to Australian businesses. Graycorp is a local provider of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and business consulting services to the food industry.
With over 10 years’ experience working in the food industry and a local team of consultants, support and development staff, Graycorp specialise in helping growing food companies. Some of South Australia’s iconic food companies rely upon our solutions to run their businesses.