Today, the rapid development and deployment of technology have accelerated the food systems and have led to various advancements in food tech. Amongst the plethora of technological advancements that are seen in today's businesses, semi-automation is one of the primary changes that is adopted by many companies, especially by the food sector. Various food ventures are now diving into tech solutions to automate or semi-automate their systems so as to make significant process improvements which lead to efficiencies in day-to-day operations, quality output and overall help in building a profitable business.
There has been a notable increase in the new demographics of consumers who are looking for ready-to-eat, freshly cooked food. They prefer food safety and convenient delivery services from the comfort of wherever they are. The rising demands of such food services have affected the adoptability and pace at which automation, specifically semi-automation, is applied in the food industry.
Semi-Automation In The Food Industry
In the present times, advanced semi-automation solutions are leveraged for diverse purposes and are being applied at multiple stages throughout the food production and delivery system. When systems and processes are automated, it can lead to a more productive labour force, product quality improvement, customer experiences, and better profitability for the business.
A recent report by Meticulous Market Research highlights a similar trend and states that the global food automation market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.5 percent from 2020 to hit the $29.4 billion mark by the end of 2027. The changing lifestyles of consumers coupled with the rise in automated solutions adoption will boost the growth of the sector. It also shares that the APAC region, specifically India will be the emerging market for the segment. The report also points out based on the mode of automation, semi-automation occupied the largest share in the food industry in the year 2020 and will continue to pick up pace in the times ahead as well. The study also states that adopting this route enables the players to improve their operational processes along with retaining the human operator required for manual inspection.
Semi-Automation: Need Of The Hour
Not that long ago, Semi-automation which was once considered an option for the manufacturers is now quickly emerging to be an essential part of the F&B sector, food delivery services as well as many virtual restaurants. Until a few years ago, home-cooked food was the primary choice of consumers, and eating outside or ordering in was reserved for only special occasions. The market size for the type of food which was consumed outside home was quite limited.
The consumers' food needs were simpler and the restaurants and food service providers were able to provide a satisfactory experience for their customers with human assistance. However, as times progressed, consumers started exploring options outside homecooked meals and were inclined towards trying outside food. Virtual or not, the demand for food services and tech-driven deliveries gave birth to new markets. Businesses ever since then have been going through major layers of transformations.
With the surging demand for 'outside food', more food companies are embracing semi-automation
both at hardware and software levels with a certain realization that manual labor won't be able to suffice the rising and diversifying demands at both factory as well as business stages.
Some good bits about adopting Semi-automation Are:
Tech Automation For Improving Customer Experience
Online ordering has various stages in its cycle, right from discovering the menu, menu recommendation, and selection, placing orders, as well as managing purchases. Tech automation in enhancing online ordering can benefit by offering an enhanced customer experience. Marketing automation can actually help get the data that further help in understanding customers closely, generating customer profiles and preferences, offering personalized services catering to the needs of the customers, and eventually carving the path for customer loyalty and retention.
It can also fetch real-time feedback with tech like Chat Bots that help gather feedback about meal services and help businesses gather consumer insights about their services. This real-time feedback can also be used to improve the quality of food and services. Tech automation not only takes care of identification, recommendation, and serving the customer but also of post-sales customer service, as well as feedback collection process.
Better Traceability, Larger Profits
Semi-automation can increase traceability in the entire value chain. When tech-enabled and automated, the data can be procured, right from the stage of raw material sourcing to the supplier details. All the data gathered at multiple stages can be traced, analyzed, and segregated so as to build a predictive system. This could help the business enhance aspects of their systems, related to production, operations, and marketing and even after sales phase. The entire process of implementing automation processes helps in fixing expense leaks and in the end leads to cost reduction and drives greater profitability.
Efficient And Flexible Production
While fully automated productions remain the upcoming reality, Semi-automation can still provide huge benefits at the kitchen level by simplifying the entire food production process and making it less time consuming, ultimately improving labor efforts, as well as production per batch. Since a general workflow of a process is well defined, various operations can be manipulated to optimize the output of the production.
Control Over Consistency And Quality Of The Product
Delivery and logistics services are using combinations of AI driven tech to self-check the entire journey and reduce the hazards to a great extent
Less complex, semi-automated processes can help maintain the quality and consistency of the products/food along with some human assistance. Food businesses often require versatile menu choices to produce for their customers. By simply semi-automating parts of the cooking process, including ingredients, methods of storage, recipes, ways of packaging, businesses can achieve great levels of consistency that are difficult to achieve with human staffed kitchens.
Reducing Food Wastage
Food wastage is one of the major concern areas in the food industry and automation tackles this issue with software designed to track parameters between food waste quantification and food waste reduction. In a low complex kitchen set up, simple tech intervention and automating procedures can lead to lowering wastage.
Increasing Scalability Factor
Kitchen automation with tech can also reduce the dependency on manpower. The intensive need for manpower is one of the primary reasons why restaurants and services in the F&B sector don't flourish quickly as the set up cost goes higher with the first sight of profitability. Semi-automated backends provide easy road maps for a business to set up anywhere with minimal labor and area.
Delivery & Logistics Automation After The Pandemic
Freshly cooked food comes with an early expiration period and there is a new need for social distancing and sanitized handling of food packs which has led to increased demand for contactless deliveries. This means that now the food has to not only reach on time but also the deliveries need to be made partially autonomous, wherein using human personnel is only reserved for the last mile delivery. Delivery and logistics services are using combinations of AI-driven tech to self-check the entire journey and reduce the hazards to a great extent.
It can be said that food ventures will use technology to facilitate autonomous, unmanned systems to redefine businesses from the inside out with a dual focus to explore new ways of changing customer experiences!