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The ripple effect: tackling food and drink supply chain challenges through asset management

To say food supply chains are under pressure is an understatement. Rising production costs, geopolitical instability, changing legislations and energy and fuel price increases are making it harder than ever for food and beverage companies to maintain profitable supply networks. 

Add constantly changing consumer preferences to this situation and it’s easy to see why supply chain confidence is at its lowest level since records began, according to Food Standards Agency data.  

Many food manufacturers have responded to these pressures by investing in new supply chain initiatives, but what about the rest of the business? Can operational improvements in other areas – like asset management – help to increase supply chain resilience? It’s an idea worth exploring… 

Can internal efficiencies offset supply chain challenges? 

Fears about outside pressures can take up a lot of brain space, but there’s little that food manufacturers can do to change the external environment. Beyond switching suppliers and reformulating products, they just have to ride the storm (knowing others are in the same boat). 

What food manufacturers can do is mitigate the impact of supply chain setbacks by increasing internal efficiencies. And many are choosing to do this through technology.  

Automation has played a critical role in enabling food industry leaders to increase production efficiency, accuracy and speed in the face of supplier challenges. 93% of UK food and beverage companies are in the process of digital transformation, and automation enables them to strengthen critical operational areas, such as:

  • Demand forecasting and capacity planning 
  • Inventory management 
  • Procurement strategies 
  • Supplier relationship management 
  • Customer relationship management 
  • Production scheduling 
  • Quality control 
  • Workforce management 
  • Distribution and logistics 

However, there are still business areas that aren’t yet fully automated – including maintenance and asset management. Investing in these areas can enhance supply chain stability and give food manufacturers a competitive edge in a challenging climate.

How can better asset management improve supply chain resilience? 

Maintenance is sometimes the ‘forgotten child’ in digital transformation, as many manufacturers feel the investment needed to digitise asset management outweighs the benefit. 

However, robust maintenance operations are critical to building a reliable, efficient production setup to weather supply chain storms.

Many food manufacturers are turning to CMMS software to digitalise maintenance workflows. Automating asset management using CMMS technology helps engineers achieve:   

  • Greater efficiency: well-maintained machinery works more effectively with fewer breakdowns, ensuring a steady flow of products through the supply chain. It’s also more energy efficient.

    There are examples of manufacturers in other industries improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) that food and beverage companies could also achieve. For example, Ibstock Brick increased OEE by 10% in five months by onboarding ShireSystem CMMS software.
  • Extended equipment lifespan: well-maintained machinery also lasts longer, helping to relieve the burden of replacing critical assets.

    Many food companies find CMMS software helps them move away from a run-to-fail model towards planned preventative maintenance, extending their equipment lifespan. It’s also cost-effective to maintain machinery rather than continuously replacing broken parts.
  • Easier component inventory management: a high rate of breakdowns and unplanned maintenance can also strain equipment inventory. It’s hard to predict what components will be required in any given week.

    Digital inventory management can help food manufacturers set (and stick to) tighter maintenance budgets, as component requirements can be aligned with scheduled servicing and upgrade activities. Some of the best CMMS software for food manufacturers includes an inventory management module to control and maintain stock levels to prevent under- or over-ordering. 
  • Safer working practices: the last thing food brands need in a challenging market is a negative PR story or vital staff on sick leave. Accidents in the workplace cost UK companies over £13 billion each year, but CMMS software can help improve safety protocols.

    Choosing CMMS software with a Permit to Work can be especially beneficial to accident prevention, as it standardises safety protocol in high-risk situations.

    Read more: 5 reasons you need a digital Permit to Work system
  • Improved quality and compliance: besides general manufacturing regulations, food companies are subject to additional industry health and safety legislation. CMMS software ensures that maintenance procedures meet sector protocol so goods are compliant and meet strict quality requirements.

    Quality control is essential to supply chain stability, as a spoilt batch of products can place additional demands on material inventory – which isn’t ideal when ingredients are already in short supply.
  • Connected operations: many food manufacturers have already invested in technologies integrating supplier data with production requirements, such as ERP software and supply chain management solutions.

    Adding CMMS software into the mix helps maintenance teams support production demands effectively. For example, if delays in certain ingredients result in a production line being out of action, engineers can use that downtime to carry out planned maintenance work. This prevents them from needing to shut down machinery at a future point when it could be in use.

Which CMMS software should food manufacturers use? 

We’ve established that improving asset management can have a ripple effect on food production, which helps to offset supply chain pressures. But which CMMS software is the best option for food manufacturers? 

Many food industry leaders use ShireSystem by Elecosoft to digitalise their asset management capabilities. 

We’ve already mentioned how companies in other industries, such as Ibstock Brick, use ShireSystem to increase their OEE. Food companies such as Cambs Farm Growers, Broxburn Bottlers and Sundown Products are using our CMMS software, too. 

ShireSystem is a good fit for food manufacturers, as it supports digital inventory management, provides performance analytics, and can ensure that equipment maintenance processes are compliant with food safety regulations.

These features help food and beverage brands reduce machine downtime, increase insights, and apply diagnostic learnings across production lines, making the food manufacturing process more reliable and profitable. 

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