The beverage industry is in a period of technological transformation. Beverage manufacturers are adopting new technologies at an unprecedented rate, as consumer demand and supply chain pressures expose the shortcomings of older systems and processes. While many of these trends are promising, some are more impactful than others. With that in mind, here are five technologies that will have the biggest impact on the beverage industry.
While automation isn’t necessarily new, it’s reaching new heights. As robotic systems become more accessible and versatile, and talent becomes harder to come by, automation is becoming a big part of the beverage industry.
There are currently more than 4 million vacancies in the food and beverage industry, which could add another 370,000 by 2031. With fewer young workers entering manufacturing, beverage facilities are turning to robotics to maintain productivity. The more automated a facility is, the more work it can accomplish despite having fewer employees, offsetting labor shortages.
Automation isn’t just for physical workflows, either. Robotic process automation is gaining adoption in the background, where it can be used to increase productivity and reduce errors.
Another influential technology in the beverage industry is artificial intelligence (AI). As beverage workflows become more digital, they generate more data. AI algorithms can analyze this data and turn it into actionable insights, helping beverage manufacturers predict and adapt to impending changes and optimize their operations.
Common industry thinking holds that companies can only simultaneously optimize two of three key variables—time, cost, and quality. However, it is often difficult for humans to determine which are the most valuable areas of business improvement. AI can help leaders make these decisions by analyzing workflow data to reveal weaknesses and highlight changes that are likely to have the most impact.
AI can also help predict future changes, including changing consumer needs. Armed with this insight, beverage producers can make adjustments to minimize losses and take advantage of new trends early. As the technology becomes more ubiquitous, those who don’t embrace AI analysis could quickly fall behind competitors.
internet of things
If AI adoption increases, the Internet of Things (IoT) can help beverage companies take full advantage of these algorithms. IoT devices provide wireless connectivity to previously unconnected machines, giving AI models more data points to analyze, increasing their accuracy. This connection and data collection can also increase transparency.
One of the most impactful use cases for IoT sensors is in the supply chain. Connected tracking devices can provide real-time updates on shipment location, temperature, vibration and other factors. If anything falls outside acceptable parameters or timelines, they can alert relevant stakeholders so they can make adjustments to ensure safe, timely shipments.
IoT devices can also improve machine health by alerting workers that maintenance is required. This data-driven, needs-based approach prevents costly failures while minimizing downtime from unnecessary maintenance.
While many of the most impactful technologies in the beverage industry are present in manufacturing facilities, some focus on earlier workflows. Biotechnologies such as gene editing can optimize farming operations that produce the ingredients beverage companies need.
Some bioengineered crops require less water to grow or are insect resistant, minimizing the need for pesticides. These upgrades reduce ongoing expenses on the farm and make beverage ingredients cheaper for production facilities. Other bioengineering processes can make certain ingredients healthier or have a lower environmental impact, both of which are attractive to consumers.
Emerging biotech solutions allow beverage companies to use specially designed enzymes to better detect milk contamination and spoilage. With these biomarkers in place, companies can ensure they are not releasing inferior products to the market and contamination issues can be tracked for long-term improvement.
Another technology that is increasingly affecting beverage companies today is renewable energy. As climate concerns become more prominent, consumer preferences lean toward companies and products that are sustainable, even if it means paying more for the product. Switching to renewable energy helps energy-intensive beverage plants adapt to this demand and protect the environment.
Since renewable energy sources like solar and wind are technologies rather than fuel sources, they will only become cheaper and more efficient over time. As such, switching to these technologies is becoming an increasingly viable option for companies. They can also lower energy costs in the long run if facilities start generating their own electricity instead of buying it from the grid.
Additionally, growing climate urgency may lead to increased regulation of industrial energy. Switching to renewable energy now can ensure beverage companies minimize disruption from any changing legislation.
Almost every industry today is going through a technology-driven transformation. Capitalizing on this movement means being able to separate buzzwords from the most promising technologies. These five technologies are among the ones most impacting beverage companies today. If their adoption increases, they could dramatically change the face of the industry.