Ensuring a Sustainable Food Future from Farm To Fork

Sept. 15, 2022
Infor’s Mikael Bengtsson joins us on the podcast to talk about how they’re helping food and beverage processors leverage data, increase profitability, and support business growth.

Are you looking for a solution that can help give you a sustainable advantage in the supply chain? Then look no further than Infor.  With us on the podcast is Mikael Bengtsson Industry Principal for Infor Food and Beverage. We’re talking about how this global leader in cloud software is helping food and beverage processors leverage data, increase profitability, and support business growth.  

Join us as we talk about how Infor can help companies utilize data to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning, thereby optimizing their operations. We talk about current trends as well as how processors can better manage their sustainability efforts.  We also address the process by which products move from farm to fork and how that relates to the supply chain and sustainability.


Food Processing: Welcome to the special bonus episode of the Food for Thought podcast. Mikael, can you tell me about in and your role within the business?

As a global leader in business cloud software specialized by industry. Infor develops complete solutions for the food & beverage industry. Infor’s mission-critical enterprise applications and services are designed to deliver sustainable operational advantages with security and faster time to value. To learn more, visit www.infor.com.

Mikael Bengtsson: Infor is a global leader in business cloud software. We build industry-specific software, and food and beverage is one of our core industries. We have more than 1,100 food and beverage customers around the world. We provide everything from the core ERP planning—both for the supply and demand side—and scheduling production, scheduling product lifecycle management, warehouse management, and much more. We also focus a lot of innovation on how we can support customers so they can be more in the forefront. For instance, we can help them utilize big data and apply artificial intelligence and machine learning on top of that big data, which optimizes their operations.

We like to explore challenges within the food and beverage industry and how they can be turned into opportunities. Something I want to focus on is how companies can get a sustainable advantage by optimizing operations or product innovation in the supply chain. At Infor, we like to think about new ways to leverage the data not only from the sustainability perspective, but also how to increase profitability and just support business growth in general. And with that also with automation and efficiency counts freeing up resources, so they can work on the growth and the new instead of being stuck with the legacy.

FP: What are some of the major trends or movements shaping the world of food and beverage manufacturing today?

MB: The rapidly changing world is putting pressure on food and beverage manufacturers, which was already a competitive industry. The food industry’s leaders are efficient in the manufacturing process as well as handling supply chain disruptions. Not only are they leading in delivering safe and traceable food, but they’re also focusing on sustainability – both as a waste perspective and a profitability perspective. These food industry leaders are also great at innovating using industry 4.0 technology. They’re connecting and analyzing a lot of data, then applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to look for opportunities to optimize, drive efficiency, improve quality and food safety.

We’re also seeing innovation in products themselves. And with that, showing transparency toward consumers as well as communicating and dialoging with consumers. There is a growing pressure from consumers, media retailers, regulators, and sometimes even owners or investors to talk about sustainability; everybody wants see the evidence of that. But that's not easy if you don't have the data to support that both within your own manufacturing or operations, and then also across the supply chain.

Many organizations don't have the data, nor do they have the systems for it. And that can hurt companies when they’re pressured to provide information or evidence on their sustainability programs to the different stakeholders. Quite often, there’s no data available to prove sustainability when it comes to reducing waste of food or water, energy or other waste. We think it's very important for companies to have that visibility and to have those systems to provide the data not only within their own manufacturing, but across the whole supply chain. Many organizations are constrained and lack the connected systems and the digital information.

FP: There's a lot of talk about sustainability in the food and beverage industry. What should food and beverage businesses be conscious of and how can they better manage their sustainability efforts?

MB: There are some challenges in the world, right? The global population is growing rapidly. On top of that, we have a climate change that can jeopardize harvest and thereby the food production. We also have a lot of food waste in the world. Consumers want more information about the food they purchase. This calls for a transformation within food and beverage, both within the manufacturing and also in the supply chain. There is a huge opportunity to reduce waste, and obviously that's the right thing to do for the world, but it also has a direct impact on the company's bottom line.

On top of that, we have the brand reputation to consider. You can either use sustainability initiatives to your advantage and be ahead of the game, or it can become a risk for you, potentially hurting the brand because you are not focusing on it. Consumers are not only more conscious today, they’re also much more connected and influenced compared to just a few years ago.

A database is key in sustainability initiatives. You want to have the data to identify opportunities, address them, measure your progress, and then also be able to report on that. To do that, we believe it's about having a modern ERP platform as a foundation or a backbone to enable a digital transformation.

We believe that backbone is the foundation to increase the operational efficiency and also reduce waste, especially when there are very small margins within food and beverage. It's a very competitive industry altogether and it’s important to be efficient. Obviously, all this focus in sustainability and excelling in that that doesn't have happen overnight; it needs to happen little by little.

FP: What is the process by which a product moves from farm to fork and how does the supply chain relate to sustainability?

MB: First you have farm transportation, which goes to processing or manufacturing and packaging, and then through the distribution centers, the logistics retailers, and further to the consumer or food service sometimes. Today we see an increased removal of the retailer with a direct-to-consumer eCommerce. And that's very interesting itself, because that creates a direct link between the manufacturer, the processor and the consumer. Why I think that's interesting is because it's not only a new sales channel and likely better margins, but it also provides a wealth of data that can be collected and then understand the consumer. The manufacturer can see what are the consumer is looking for; what are their preferences? That can then be tied to product development.

Also important is building consumer trust, but to achieve that, you need the full digital supply chain; that that is the foundation for providing safe and sustainable food. The better visibility everybody has from farm to fork in that supply chain, the more prepared everybody can be to plan and adjust through changes that are happening in the varying demand and supply. That is something that is very complex, though. If you start looking at the demand, that in itself can be seasonal; or, there are changing consumer preferences.

There is a lot of complexity on the demand side, and then on supply chain, we see issues in transportation, a poor harvest perhaps, or other dynamics that we've seen all the past few years.

There’s a lot of complexity that needs to be handled and that starts with the transparency in the supply chain. From a both sustainability perspective and food safety perspective, it's key that the whole supply chain is transparent, it's optimized, and it's running smoothly. That could be sharing quality measurements on ingredient or product level that can be used, for example. Those measurements can be simple measurements like temperature or humidity, but that can be used and collect that data and then analyze it and perhaps impact the shelf life for those kinds of products that are sensitive to shelf life and optimize the shelf life based on those, those parameters. There is a lot of opportunity with that, and that can obviously improve food safety, but it's also an opportunity to reduce waste and thereby driving sustainability.

FP: How can food and beverage manufacturers increase transparency today and how do Infor’s solutions aid in sustainable practices of food and beverage businesses?

MB: I talked about that having a platform or core ERP that can provide the backbone and be the platform for collecting the data. That's what we can provide – that modern and pre-configured platform for food and beverage industry. And with that, we can ensure the transition to a sustainable supply chain. Farm to Fork starts within the own manufacturing from the processor's perspective, but then it goes up and down the supply chain. With the right platform, we can facilitate the transparency and digital supply chain and digital within the manufacturing.

We promote and provide that modern cloud solution that is pre-configured for the food and beverage industry. It’s pre-configured, but it's also flexible and smart. And if you have that, you can enable fast and targeted responses if there is a food safety issue, or you can support sustainability efforts or integrate up and down the supply chain or apply innovation on top of your operation. We talked about analyzing the big data and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning for innovation. That in itself can lower the environmental footprint, but also lower the cost of the whole operation and manufacturing.

On top of that backbone, we also have very advanced demand planning, supply planning, and production scheduling solutions, and they also create that visibility and have the different parties along that chain to work together and optimize service levels against the lowest cost. 

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