As consumers around the world have gradually learned to live with Covid-19 and the measures put in place to control it, the food industry has found itself facing a host of new challenges and opportunities.
The drive to deliver
Perhaps the biggest impact has been the huge increase in demand for food delivery services, with consumers unable or reluctant to visit their local shops during the pandemic. In order to stay afloat, businesses which didn’t previously offer delivery have been forced to do so, by rapidly redirecting their resources, and reconfiguring their operations to enable this new way of working.
Meanwhile, those food companies already offering a delivery service have seen demand increase dramatically, both in frequency and size, sparking a need for new, effective solutions to cope with the additional workload.
How can the food industry be improved by RPA?
Through automating repetitive tasks, robotic process automation (RPA) has the potential to drive significant efficiency savings for food businesses as they strive to ramp up their delivery services.
Food production process
Timely orders for product supply
Inventory management is a huge issue for food delivery businesses, which must ensure that stock levels match customer demand at all times. RPA is the ideal solution for streamlining logistics, with the ability to constantly check stock levels and automatically place orders when required. Robots can even be deployed to monitor expiry dates, sending an appropriate notification when products are no longer fit for use. Fast to implement, RPA brings huge savings by eliminating human error, reducing delays and freeing up staff for more value-add work.
Monitoring storage conditions
Alongside managing product availability and supply, RPA can also be used for quality control and managing storage conditions, which are vital for maintaining the shelf-life of products. A robot-controlled sensor system can completely replace manual checks in warehouses, optimising temperature, humidity and other factors for different types of products, reducing the impact of human error and preventing the premature spoiling of products.
Distribution of orders and route management
A shortage of third-party delivery services means that many food companies have absorbed this into their own operational processes. However, managing distribution is fraught with challenges, not least due to the difficulty in planning delivery routes in the most time-efficient manner.
RPA can dramatically simplify delivery logistics by automatically determining the optimal route and number of orders per courier. This ensures that customers receive their order within a specified time slot, while maximising revenues and minimising costs for the food supplier.
Customer delivery notification
Customer service is another key challenge, with customers today expecting deliveries to arrive punctually, to fit in with their schedule. If not managed effectively, customer service teams become inundated with calls from dissatisfied customers, sucking up resources and potentially causing reputational damage, if not handled effectively. RPA can help businesses to overcome this issue by automatically calculating delivery times based on the planned route, and then sending a notification to the customer to ensure they will be at home to receive the delivery. This brings huge advantages for food companies and customers, reducing downtime for couriers, mitigating delivery errors and reducing demand for customer service teams.
Just one of many opportunities
Streamlining delivery services is just one example of how RPA can bring improvements to the food industry and there are many more manual, repetitive tasks which are ideal for robotic transformation. As a result, with Covid-19 and its consequences set to stay, RPA can play a vital role in ensuring the food sector becomes stronger and more prosperous despite current challenges.
Investments in RPA, especially in the Food & Beverage industry, are creating smarter and more efficient processes with tighter inventory controls which yields greater liquidity for businesses. Howard Dorman F&B Practice Leader, Mazars
For more information or to discuss how RPA can help your business, please get in touch with us below.
This article was written by Ali-Sultan Kirgizbaev, Head of Mazars Labs.