Documentary processes in the food sector are very important because they enable companies to understand the characteristics of a product and its quality. When such processes are digitized, they stop being just functional elements and become strategic tools for being competitive.
The food sector is one of the great areas of excellence for Italy, a recognition for which it is known all over the world and that is capable of moving several hundred million euros every year in terms of investments and revenues. Often, however, the vision that one has of this sector is a little too simplified. In fact, it is unthinkable that a business of this level of importance is based solely on the quality of raw materials and the formidable ability typical of Italians to process them. All of this is there and exists, but behind such excellence, there is (or at least there should be) tireless research and continuous technological updating. After all, digital transformation offers remarkable solutions that can make production processes in the sector more efficient, economic, and environmentally friendly.
Not only that. Both in the food sector and in other sectors, new digital technologies can also improve some internal procedures, which are equally important for the functioning of this type of activity, such as documentation processes that are fundamental in the food sector, since they guarantee the safety and traceability of all the products that are prepared and then sold.
Also in the food sector everything is a matter of documents
After all, if you think of the entire Italian food supply chain, it is easy to understand how important it is to manage all the documents that are produced daily to and from the players in the sector. Every action that the company takes, in fact, leaves behind a long trail of documents that extends as the number of these actions increases.
Think of all the relationships with suppliers for the supply of raw materials, or the relationships with large organized distribution that must be accompanied by documents, often many of them, that attest to the origin, characteristics, and reliability of the products. The same is valid for all the fiscal and accounting documents in general, that require a careful organization in order to present the necessary documentation at the established deadlines.
A similar discourse must also be made regarding the internal documents of each company, which must be transmitted and managed between the different teams in an efficient way, so as not to slow down or even worse, damage entire production lines.
That’s why every company operating in the food sector needs to create document processes able to cope with these stresses without sending the organization of the company into havoc.
What do we mean when we talk about document processes?
With the expression “document processes”, we are referring to internal workflows that enable communication between the various organizational areas during the life cycle of the document. These workflows have the clear objective of improving and optimizing collaboration between the various company departments and the sharing of information, in a fast, secure, and traceable way.
On closer inspection, therefore, document processes concern “document management”, which concerns the proper administration of a document throughout its entire life cycle, from its origin to its preservation. Whether a document is created on paper or digitally, what matters is that the data it contains is always reliable and correctly archived so that it can be easily found. This is true regardless of the type of records involved: their correct and organized management is fundamental and it becomes an increasingly strategic process within organizations of any size. This is all the more true if we talk about companies such as those in the food sector that manage perishable products or whose components must be verifiable and traceable for the health of end consumers.
However, in order for document management to be truly efficient and effective, it must become automated, perhaps using the new technologies made available by digital processing.
The many solutions of digitization
There are digital solutions that are particularly suitable for improving the supply chain of a company operating in the food sector, which can be implemented with considerable advantages.
An example of this is Cloud Computing technology, which allows a company to harmoniously organize all its data, while ensuring maximum Synergy between management and production.
Among other things, the Cloud is particularly suitable for the food industry because it intensifies the exchange of information between the different segments of the supply chain using a technology that is easily modular and scalable and therefore easily adaptable to the specific production requirements of the company. In addition, the cloud can always be the basic solution to boost the entire purchasing and sales component, opening absolutely innovative and unexpected scenarios for the entire business.
This is exactly what happened with Cloud Food, the recently created Italian technology platform that aims to become a digital distribution channel for food products made in Italy by applying the same digital tools used for fashion to food and beverages (ilsole24ore.it). This is just one of the cases, but many others can be pointed out and you soon realize how much the entire sector lends itself to different types of digital solutions.
In this sense, speaking more specifically about document processes, another example of a digital solution that could be implemented thanks to digital transformation is the dematerialization of documents.
Digitizing in the food sector also means dematerializing document processes
Dematerialization is the process of digitizing physical documents. This management “efficiency” solution has been promoted for several years now in many sectors of the economy and food is one of them.
The dematerialization of documents began in the oil production chain and then continued with the digitization of documents for companies who are obliged by sector regulations to report: raw materials for the production of flour and pasta for export, butter, as well as the handling of sucrose, glucose, isoglucose, powdered milk, and the handling and processing of wine products.
Beyond this list, these innovations allow all companies in the sector to create real telematic registers with which to track mandatory and optional information, reducing, among other things, the margin of error in the manual compilation of accounts.
Among other things, the issue of errors is of primary importance in the food sector, given that within the food distribution industry, for example, there are on average about 1.2 errors per 100 order items. This is a huge figure, which risks having a very negative impact on the business. Also because it is precisely in the food sector where errors in document processes can lead to particularly serious consequences. They can range from the non-delivery or incorrect delivery of products, to the blocking of the entire production chain, with the consequent waste of raw materials and the inevitable decrease in revenue, which is necessarily accompanied by a lower margin of profitability.
In addition, the importance of the dematerialization of document processes is such also because it marks a real change of pace, a transformation of the approach to business that tends to become increasingly aware of processes, flows, and movements at the company level and more capable of aggregating and analyzing useful data from which to derive indications, interpretations, and, within certain limits, even forecasts about certain business dynamics.
But do digital documental processes agree?
The answer is certainly yes, especially in the food sector, as can be seen from the previous examples. Moreover, we have already begun to understand that when we talk about document processes in the food sector, we are dealing with an aspect of the business that, over time, has taken on an increasingly strategic importance. The food industry, in fact, is extremely competitive, and product quality is not enough to win. Instead, you need continuity of weekly orders, speed of delivery, perfect synergy, and communication between different departments.
This result can be achieved only through the digitization of document processes, since only this type of innovation allows to obtain certain benefits, which are precisely the requirements of a truly competitive industry.
Some of these benefits of digital document processes are:
- reduced time, which is achieved thanks to automation that speeds up many processes, making it no longer necessary to carry out certain operations manually, allowing time reductions that can exceed 50%;
- optimization of space, which is a clear consequence of the document dematerialization mentioned above; the elimination of paper and the digitization of archives frees companies from the obligation to maintain physical structures in which to store records and from the need to use specific machinery for printing, scanning, and copying;
- reduced costs, which in reality is expressed in different ways: not only because structures and machinery are saved, as mentioned above, but also because errors that can be very costly are significantly reduced;
- using human resources more efficiently: When processes are automated, employees can apply themselves to less mechanical and repetitive tasks that have greater added value;
- transparency, which, as we explained above, is particularly important when talking about the food production chain. Among other things, this transparency, obtained through digital tools, happens both inside and outside of the company, making the relationship with customers better and the exchange between different operational teams easier;
- traceability, which is a direct consequence of the transparency mentioned above. Each digital document process leaves behind a trail of data that allows the company’s operators to reconstruct the entire path taken by a certain product or raw material. This ensures the possibility to guarantee and verify the quality and reliability of its products at any time;
- sustainability, which is another way of thinking about ways to ensure the least possible waste of energy, structures, resources, and materials. Among other things, in addition to having a significant impact on the surrounding environment, the digitization of document processes is also an important element in terms of positioning, given the great attention that consumers pay to such issues.
But if it is convenient, where are we?
After this list, one thing is certain: document processes are an important and strategic element for every company in the food sector. The least certain aspect, however, is whether, in light of all these advantages, Italian companies have moved in time to implement these solutions.
On closer inspection, there are many positive signs. For example, according to the Observatory for Digital Innovation, the Italian market of the so-called Agriculture 4.0 is driven by monitoring and control systems of vehicles and equipment (39%), management software (20%), and related machinery (14%).
In particular, when we talk about new digital solutions for food traceability, we see the great diffusion of blockchain, whose presence has doubled from 2019 to 2020, making the food industry, the third sector in which this technology is more widespread, immediately after finance and public administration. Among other things, the fact that the most widespread digital solution in the food industry is a solution related to the protection and management of data and documents says a lot about how important document processes are for a player in the food industry, whose impact goes far beyond the reporting of passive invoices or tracking inventory.
They follow the diffusion of document processes based on the QR Code, the implementation of apps for mobile devices, data analytics, and the Internet of Things inside the company. Moreover, for some time now, many experts have expressed themselves in favor of the use of these technologies, emphasizing how the protection and competitiveness of the entire food chain is closely linked to the digital transformation of both document and non-document processes (money.it).
The need to know the origin of food, keeping track of it at all stages of processing is, in fact, a priority both for those who produce and for those who process, sell, and consume. In this sense, perhaps, changing how the sector approaches digital innovations is the greatest challenge, starting from an element such as document processes that is so strategic and closely related to the internal functioning of a company.
How is the food industry changing? Find out in the free infographic!