Automation expenditures in the food and beverage industry are expected to reach $6 billion by 2013, according to a study by the ARC Advisory Group. “The information architecture is extending its reach all the way to the consumer by way of social networks and a new generation of truly virtual on-line shopping and on-line product customization tools,” says Principal Analyst for the CPG Industries John Blanchard, the principal author of ARC’s Automation Expenditures for Food and Beverage Industry Worldwide Outlook report, in a prepared statement “It is becoming an important solution in the drive toward mass customization and has begun to change the way consumer facing business is conducted.”

ARC says the three major areas of focus in food and beverage manufacturing are cost management and margin protection, more sustainable manufacturing focused on energy usage and waste reduction, and better ensuring food safety. Survival is also dependent upon product, packaging, and manufacturing innovation. Since most CPG companies have similar business strategies, flawless and timely execution differentiates leading companies from their competitors, according to ARC.

ARC”s study is designed to help users learn what others in the industry are doing and the capabilities of each supplier. The study discusses strategies and tactics for suppliers and user manufacturers to be successful in the changing environment of the worldwide food and beverage industry

Opportunities and Challenges
According to ARC, some key questions food and beverage manufacturers are trying to answer are:
• How do I address the fluctuating price and availability of commodities?
• How do I reduce my energy and other utilities costs and ensure the long-term availability of these resources?
• How do I find and evaluate new technology that will support innovation and speed time-to-market?
• How do I reduce my manufacturing cycle time?
• How do I come up with new ideas or equipment that allow multi-tasking and that can reduce change over time?
• What are the best metrics to support future manufacturing requirements?
• What are the leading best practices in the industry?
• What is my competition doing?
• How do I support my ever-expanding manufacturing and business automation systems and networks?
• What are other companies doing to improve the skill sets of their operators and staffs?