Food Manufacturers Still Need Supply Chain Efficiencies

Food Manufacturers Still Need Supply Chain Efficiencies

How can artisan drinks and food manufacturers benefit from warehouse management software?

Gluten free, dairy free, vegan. Craft beers, artisanal cakes and organic meats. We have become a nation of foodies and the food and drink industry is now the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, at 17% of the total.

It is also relatively recession proof and contributing well over £28.2bn to the country’s economy annually.


How Efficient and Automated is your Warehouse?

Along with our interest in eating delicious food comes a growing interest in knowing where that food has come from.

Can every lot of finished goods produced be traced right back down to the sources of raw ingredients? Are they really allergen free? The UK’s ‘farm to fork’ food chain is estimated to be worth £110 billion and technology including warehouse management systems (WMS) play a central part in providing this awareness.


Food and Drink is an SME Industry

Interestingly, the vast majority of the 6,800 food manufacturing businesses in the UK are actually SMEs with under 250 employees. Many of these are artisan businesses producing food and drink with skill and care using quality ingredients in categories including:

  • Bakery & patisserie
  • Beverages
  • Confectionery
  • Dairy
  • Fish & seafood
  • Fruit & vegetables
  • Herbs & spices
  • Oils & vinegars
  • Free from foods
  • Vegetarian & vegan

They are often family owned businesses and have evolved over many years to a point where now, they are growing very rapidly, perhaps with the injection of additional investment from a funding partner or merger with a larger organisation.

Productivity is an important metric for food manufacturers and something that smaller, artisanal producers are increasingly focused on:

  • 76% of businesses surveyed by the Food and Drink Federation as part of their annual study stated that they actively measure productivity (using a range of different metrics)
  • 93% of those, stated that they had seen improved productivity over the last three years


Improvements for Food Manufacturers

Over 40% of food manufacturers still need to introduce supply chain efficiencies.  Interestingly only 57% were looking to introduce supply chain efficiencies, which suggests many artisan food and drinks companies are still relying on paper processes in their warehouses.

Common problems that fast growing artisan companies encounter include:

  • Relying on time consuming and unwieldy spreadsheets to store operational data
  • Rapid growth in the number of SKUs as more products are developed to satisfy growing demand
  • Frequent, costly picking mistakes which are affecting customer satisfaction levels
  • Inability to identify where stocks are located or efficiently manage replenishment processes which is affecting inventory controls

Introducing a WMS to automate and improve efficiencies can have a huge positive impact on smaller, artisanal food and drinks manufacturers.


Enabling Efficient Stock Management

Efficient stock rotation in the warehouse is a key factor for food manufacturers who need to ensure this happens both with raw materials and finished products.

It is also important for packaging materials – they also have a limited shelf life to maintain the highest possible food quality.


Grow Without Growing Your Headcount

Using WMS, all stock management processes can be automated – from when raw materials arrive in the warehouse to be stored for production through to the putaway of finished goods and final despatch onto retailers.

Food containing allergens can be stored safety and operatives are alerted of the best locations to use.

All data is available in real time, so warehouse management have a single view of operations at any time and can make the best possible use of their resources.

Prevalent stock picking errors can be eliminated and this helps companies to grow without the need to increase headcount. It also means that more orders can be picked more accurately within a shorter space of time, which helps to better control peaks and troughs in demand and long term labour costs.

If you are a food or drinks manufacturer and are struggling to fulfil the day’s order pool, how would a warehouse management system help grow your business?