Change of Course in the Food Sector:The Future at a Glance

December 4, 2020 | General, Lean Management, Sustainability

Change of Course in the Food Sector: The Future at a Glance

CO2 emissions, food waste and high raw material prices – a necessary change of course is coming to the food industry. 

A precise forecast is not possible

Social trends such as urban gardening and technologies that make use of artificial intelligence will influence the European food sector of tomorrow.

In addition, an interplay of various factors such as food policies, consumer habits, agriculture, international trade, and raw material availability will shape the food industry. A precise picture of the future cannot be derived from this, however.

Looking into the future with scenarios

As part of a new study by the European research project FOX*, three future scenarios with different main actors were created for the year 2035; these are supposed to enable future-oriented action.

In the first scenario, policy is the essential driver of change and social welfare states will work centrally to ensure national food security. In the second scenario, the focus is on society and consumers, who enjoy a green, healthy lifestyle. In the third scenario, CO2 considerations and retailers dominate trade and consumer behavior. In all three scenarios, the food system tends toward greater sustainability. Link to study.                                                                       

Under the leadership of the Food & Beverage Lean Professional Axel Davila, Staufen AG helped create the scenarios and formulate the study. The expert discussion focused specifically on the topic “how does food production have to be designed in the future to guarantee an optimal value stream?”

The art of thinking Lean

All three scenarios have in common that the entire process will change – from the seeds sown to the consumer. The effect of this will be pressure to act for all companies along the value chain.

Here, the food industry can make use of other highly optimized industries’ learning curve: today, a Lean management approach is a matter of course.

However, a trap also lurks here: if, for example, you examine only the processing of food, then based on the production characteristics of the food industry, you will encounter the 2nd Lean characteristic “flow” in nearly ideal form. This is frequently the reason why hardly any attention is paid to the 1st Lean characteristic “freedom from disturbances“: systems do not run 100% of the time at 100% capacity and they do not deliver 100% quality. It’s not just that valuable capacity is being wasted, raw materials are too.

Even today, an answer can be found in other industries: a combination of manufacturing analytics and total productive maintenance ensures that process causes are determined and correlations made. Accordingly, the right amount of maintenance of system (parts) can be defined to make the best use of the systems (and raw materials).

If you expand the view to include the entire value chain, you can learn a lot more from other industries: the cooperation of all actors as partners.

STAUFEN’s food expert Axel Davila is convinced: “To ensure food supply for all people in the future, we need to examine the entire farm to fork process and improve the so-called “flow efficiency”. The singular examination and improvement of individual process steps such as manufacturing and transport is not sufficient since the goal there is pure “resource efficiency”.

Axel Davila Lage, Principal STAUFEN.AG

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