In many Food & Beverage organisations, the product development and update process puts an immense strain on internal and external resources. This blog post looks at six elements that businesses can put in place to engineer smoother and more efficient workflows.
If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you may have found a fair bit of finger-pointing at the issues that can make the product development process in the Food & Beverage industry complex, long-winded, unsafe, and stressful for everyone involved.
This post is different. Enough with the moaning about what’s not working well – today, I want to talk about what a better way of getting products developed, produced, and on the shelf could look like. (We’ve also written about this in an ebook.)
Give your experts the tools they need to do a great job
I’ve worked in Food & Beverage for many years, and the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the hard work and professionalism of all the specialists involved in the development process. These people have got some serious skills - whether it’s a hunch for a successful product (and the business stamina to make a convincing case for it), the production know-how to make it work at scale, the understanding of intricate international regulations – or any other of the hundreds of talents that are necessary to make a product a success.
I think the best process to help them do their job is one that respects the value of their extraordinary contributions – and gets rid of anything that keeps them from doing what they’re best at. Here’s a list of 6 things that businesses can do to make life easier for their employees:
6 principles that can make Food & Beverage product development safer, faster, and more efficient
One of the key reasons it’s hard to birth a product is that so many different functions are involved. And they’re all using different systems (software, spreadsheets, what-have-you). If they had a single collaboration tool that everybody (external suppliers and partners, too!) can work from, all data and workflows could live in a central tool, and be visible by all stakeholders in real-time.
I’m going to come right out and say it: manual data entry is evil. It adds no value, takes up a lot of time, and often introduces a ton of human error. That’s why the entire process should become digital, with all product information and production steps happening digitally. This will get rid of the need to re-key data across systems, and avoidable human error and duplication. It’ll also make the process transparent and traceable – which isn’t only great for accountability and compliance. It’s also a key source of business intelligence.
When things go wrong, it’s often because an important step or approval has fallen through the cracks (maybe because of time pressures, or a misunderstanding, etc). That’s why it’s important that Food & Beverage businesses find a way to establish standard workflows that every project will follow without fail. But – and it’s a big caveat: these workflows need to be customisable and smart enough to take into account that the product development process is complex and iterative (e.g. they need to understand and adapt to the up- and downstream effects of a change or approval).
Once such a workflow is set up and automated for every project, it will hugely boost speed to market. But it’ll also help compliance (by making it easy to trace and document due process).
This one’s a combination of my points about digital tools, and the one about manual labour that doesn’t add value. By building templates, formats, and rules into your system, it can automatically output product information for all your channels (for online use, for artwork, for syndication, data sheets, you name it). No more copying over and re-formatting, ever.
The product development process, by nature, is one of bumps, roadblocks, and last-minute changes. Let’s not pretend it isn’t. That’s why we need proper frameworks so everybody knows what they’re expected to do; the granular permissions that are necessary to make sure nobody’s able to break things outside their remit; and tools that empower people to drive the project forward when it gets stuck - and get it right, every time.
Product development can be frantic, with a new project starting as soon as the previous one goes out the door. Unfortunately, there’s often precious little time to pause, think, and have a look at what worked well, and what didn’t – so you can avoid those same mistakes next time. We need to start taking the time to do that – but we also need to build the capabilities to run analytics on our workflows, gain insight from our ways of working and use them as the basis for improvement. It’s the only way we can avoid ‘Groundhog day-like’ repeat mistakes and endlessly replicated bottlenecks.
I’m sure there’s always more we can do – but the above is a good start that I believe will benefit the business as well as the people who work on a product launch or update project. Let’s give them better tool and smoother processes. I believe it’s the only way we can keep our fantastic teams engaged and happy in their jobs - and our businesses innovating.
The ebook I mention above is called “End-to-end product management”, and it talks about the way that digital tools can help your key departments do their jobs better and faster – and how that will make your launch projects more efficient. If you liked this post, I think you’ll like the ebook, too.