The Food and Beverage Industry: A Half Year Review
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has brought significant change to most industries in one form or another.
However, the food and beverage industry has found itself in its own unique situation, with a new set of challenges. Where some industries found demand grinding to a standstill, the demand for food and beverages boomed.
With the close of restaurants came more people flocking to the grocery stores, to prepare their own food at home. Food and beverage consumption is a critical necessity that everyone must have access too.
Although, it’s safe to say that demand didn’t pose a problem, there have been other challenges - and opportunities - for the industry.
Let’s look in more detail.
Taking the Heat with PPE
Mask mandates and PPE have (rightly) become compulsory in food and beverage plants. This is a safety precaution. However, in the spring and summer months PPE, face masks and shields can pose an additional safety risk to employees, due to the added heat they create.
In response, there has been an uptick in food and beverage plants introducing comfort cooling, cooling systems and air conditioners, to make the work environment tolerable. These applications are quickly available to meet OSHA regulatory standards, not just a nice to have.
Not only do these customized cooling solutions provide additional employee safety where needed, but they also help to combat humidity and condensation control for food and beverage processing in the plants.
Handling Overseas Supplier Problems
Many larger food and beverage plants have historically ordered some of their ingredients from overseas. When travel restrictions hit this process flow of product ingredients was no longer possible.
What we’ve seen is an influx of food and beverage plants reaching out to local suppliers to meet their sourcing needs, allowing a fully sufficient system within the United States where possible and avoiding a complete production disruption should another major crisis take place.
The next step in mitigating future disruptions for our food and beverage plants is having a contingency plan in place to handle any natural disasters from hurricanes to future pandemics. If disaster strikes again, you can be confident that expert vendors are immediately available in your own network and ready to react. This will greatly limit the possibility of a disruption in production.
The Ramp Up of Automation
Before the pandemic there was new technology coming out that was ramping up automation of food & beverage production. Covid has only increased that need due to less chance of plant disruptions instead of a system completely dependent on employee labor. This is an area we anticipate continued growth and technology.
Automation presents additional benefits to the industry. Productivity boosters such as improved line efficiency, maximized ingredient usage and enhanced food safety to name a few.
Increased product demand and potential workforce shortages that are taking place today make it clear that automation won’t just be a trend but is here to stay.
A Shift in Allocation, Not Quantity
The pandemic has meant that food and beverage plants that supplied to restaurants and the hospitality industry have been forced to make processing changes and reallocate production toward individual consumer sizes. There was a sudden increase in shift toward grocery stores, schools and other vital resources during the pandemic that continued to support our food supply chain.I
Plants had to act fast to make this shift happen, working tirelessly to understand the new processes and demands for new revenue streams.
Sustainability is Still Key
Many other industries have put their sustainability initiatives on hold this year, due to a distinct lack of resources to keep in line with their goals.
However, with more people shopping in grocery stores - and looking after their health - there’s been a sharp focus on consumers caring about the supply chain of their food. This has led to the food and beverage industry keeping sustainability goals at the forefront of their priorities alongside the product demand increase.
And as always, the elimination of single-use plastic is still a major priority, testing new materials that can be naturally broken down.
Maintenance is More Important Than Ever
We know that food and beverage plants have been running non-stop to keep up with the increasing demand. But as a result, equipment has also been running non-stop, at a higher frequency than it would normally.
This has meant that unplanned outages and subsequent breakdowns are more common, which affect production and revenue loss - which you simply can’t afford!
More and more plants have been realizing that temporary rental equipment is the solution to this problem. They are able to install new equipment without switching off their critical utilities and service existing equipment without loss of production.
A lesson we’ve all learned this year is that no one knows exactly what’s around the corner. We have learned that having a solid contingency plan in place is the only way to be prepared for a potential disaster. Knowing the right supplier to call for temporary rental equipment is key to success.
The food and beverage industry is never going to suffer from a lack of demand. However, as we all have experienced there is a surge in demand with no clear let up in sight.
The lesson is clear: those who prepare will flourish when the unexpected happens.