Innovating the food and beverage supply chain for the 'new normal'

Dematic Pty Ltd

Friday, 19 February, 2021

Innovating the food and beverage supply chain for the 'new normal'

The volatility of the COVID-19 crisis, along with its influence on consumer buying behaviour, has directly impacted the entire F&B supply chain.

The pandemic has highlighted many organisations’ susceptibility to a range of supply chain issues, including sources of material supply, inventory shortages, labour retention and movement limitations.

At the same time, Australia stands on the verge of a significant and rapid escalation of F&B distribution channels.

Australian retailers are improving their existing infrastructure to support new online grocery models. A number of different network models are also being deployed around the globe to support improved distribution to the consumer, including the biggest challenge of last-mile delivery.

As we continue to learn more about how these changes translate into daily challenges for the F&B supply chain, businesses need to turn their attention towards seizing the opportunities for business growth and improved productivity with the help of new automated solutions. The move towards high-speed, high-volume and complex operations has now reached its limits within the traditional supply chain environment, leaving more businesses left with no other choice but to consider a better means for fulfilling demands with automation.

The good news is, there are various automation technologies that can support F&B operations and reduce labour costs. Automated pallet storage and retrieval systems (ASRSs) provide high-density storage for pallets in a fully automated way and at high speed. With an ASRS, stock cannot be lost or forgotten, as the system provides complete and real-time visibility of overall inventory.

Another solution that helps to provide complete automation of transport and storage and retrieval processes and remove human error is automated guided vehicles (AGVs). AGVs are purpose built for any environment and ensure maximum workplace safety and accuracy, all while maintaining the flexibility levels of manual systems. Redeploying AGVs to different locations is also possible, and by using laser navigation, moving pathways can be easily modified.

These advanced automation technologies work to break the paradigm that a truly flexible solution is only possible when operating in a manual environment. While traditional automations provide for processes that exceed manual operations, they come at a cost of being somewhat inflexible to adjust to future changes. The latest generation of automation counters the limitations of previous technologies by being more flexible, and at the same time more powerful and modular, so it can better address the requirements of today and tomorrow’s F&B supply chain.

Image caption: ASRS crane in the automated storage system at Asahi Beverages in Queensland. Supplied by Dematic.

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