If it isn’t already, ‘digital transformation of the packhouse’ will become a very familiar term over the coming years. It’s going to herald an exciting new era for an industry responsible for sustaining more people than ever before. It will also drive more opportunities for revenue streams with better use of data.
Digital transformation is going to bring extraordinary benefits to growers, producers and brands throughout the industry, as it has already for other sectors. While this won’t happen overnight, the change is absolutely necessary for an industry responsible for feeding 9.8 billion people by 2050.
Any business transformation project can seem dauntingly large and it can be difficult to know where to start. So, we’ve put together this article as a very high-level starting point to help. The simple answer to ‘where do I start?’, is ‘with your people’.
Successful digital transformation begins with creating a positive mindset throughout your business, to encourage everyone to welcome the idea of change. Here are your eight steps to preparing your packhouse for the digital evolution.
The first four steps focus on developing a practical facility audit and conducting research:
Step 1: Assign a dedicated digital transformation strategy team
A strong leadership team will be able to create a clear strategy for your digital transformation. It’s useful to have at least one board member on your strategy team, for buy-in and effective communication up and down the chain of command.
Select those with a good level of knowledge who can visualize how a digitalized packhouse might look. If you would feel more confident working with third-party experts, research them now at the earliest point. This approach can often get you the best outcome because you are working towards an ideal solution for your business, with expert insight, from the outset.
Step 2: Address data security issues as early as possible
A major barrier to digital transformation can be concerns over data security. Digitalized business operations are the way of the future and data security is a very important part of that. Far better to address these concerns early so that you can incorporate security protocols along the way.
Confidence in data security solutions grows with familiarity. Early identification and mitigation of cyber security risks educates your teams well ahead of implementation.
Step 3: Short-list options for cloud-based data management and analytics tools
More research, this time to find options for best-fit business intelligence tools. How does your business function? What information would most benefit your ongoing supply chain management and process optimization? How would you like to see it presented?
Step 4: Understand the data capture capabilities of your equipment
In order to utilize your data in a meaningful way, your equipment must carry the capability to become part of a connected network. Your sorters are going to be central to data capture, so you should start with ensuring these are equipped as necessary to send and receive data.
The second four steps focus on the kind of data you need to collect and how best to leverage that data:
Step 5: Document KPIs that reflect your business objectives
What information would most benefit your business? Identifying the intelligence that has most benefitted your business in the past is a great place to start. This could be data that has boosted profits, it could also be data the you’ve used to support sustainability initiatives or to reduce waste.
Step 6: Identify critical data gathering areas of your processes
Leading on from Step 5, identity the areas of your business where the most meaningful data should be gathered. This should inform you of where further data gathering tools could work in your favour. This step will help you identify key areas for investment in equipment such as smart sensors.
Step 7: Identify repetitive activities that could be automated
Redirecting the skills of your operators away from repetitive activities that could be automated is one of the best ways ito maximize the value of expertise in your business. Automation can bring many benefits of speed and accuracy. Your operators are then free to analyse your data and make tiny adjustments to the production line that could increase efficiency.
Step 8: Consider staff training to build knowledge and encourage adoption
Digital transformation, while it brings enormous benefits, can seem daunting to those on whom your business relies day to day. The more you involve, inform and educate your teams the more empowered they will feel. This approach will help them to visualize the positive outcomes of digital transformation rather than feel intimidated by it.
Ultimately, your new connected technologies will be placed in the hands of your human workforce. Your machines will generate your data, but it will still be people who interpret this information to the benefit of the business.
The more you consider the needs and motivations of your workforce, the more smoothly your digital transformation will roll out. Your digitally transformed packhouse will not only be highly profitable, it will also be a dynamic new work environment for your teams.