By Ralitsa Peycheva

We live in times when food has become a fashion, an obsession, and a lifestyle. Bio, holistic, gluten-free, sugar-free, paleo-like or whatever, dietary needs are closely connected to education, culture and beliefs. The consumers eagerly welcome every new product on the market and ask for more. This secures food and beverage SMEs a great environment to grow and tailor their products or introduce new ones by developing healthier options as exploring vegan and/or vegetarian product innovations and many more.

According to FoodDrink EU, food and drink SMEs represent one of the largest employers in the European market and are therefore of great economic importance. The artisan food boom is seen as the main contributor to this profitability.

But if 15 years ago, small and medium-sized food and drinks producers have been focusing on how to produce quality products, complying with all hygienic standards, today’s business owners are facing much more challenges. How to deliver a more creative and appealing product without colorants, allergens and that is bio certified? How to cope with all the industry 4.0 trends in order to be competitive? And how to use assets data to deliver better and faster to customers without investing too much?

Due to their limited budgets, SMEs are usually more focused on incremental technical innovations than on radical changes. Therefore all the recent digital trends in manufacturing and industrial maintenance might be quite overwhelming.

The path that usually most of the food and beverage SMEs are choosing is to go local and establish regional customer base by developing up-to-date and efficient production processes. But even at this level, most of them still feel the pressure from consumers and competitors, which usually leads to financial loss. One of the main reasons for a food and drink SME to fail is the incapability of the management to cope with all the technical challenges and especially to sustain continuous assets health.

What Technical Challenges Does a Food and Beverage SME Face?

Some of the major struggles facing SMEs today include among other things IT systems and processes, sensors, how to measure asset performance, how to understand condition-monitoring data, IoT, CMMS and many more. Most of the companies simply don’t have the financial resources to engage a dedicated IT team. Furthermore, the fast-paced evolvement of today’s technology and dealing with issues as system and application compatibility is simply paralyzing many organizations. Cybersecurity obviously represents another top concern for more business owners. Therefore IT implementations for SMEs should be multifunctional, simple, smart and reliable: a compact, next-gen solution spanning across the entire organization with a mobile application connecting all employees. This should be a product tailored to adapt to all specific food and beverage processes as baking, canning, freezing or packaging while producing healthy food. Most of the food and drink businesses depend on seasonal crops and government regulations and every new technology deployed should be in the condition to guarantee the best performance of the assets during the tight production windows.

This is the only way entrepreneurs can step back from daily technical difficulties and spend more time on growing the business.

Why Should I Build My Maintenance Program Around a Trustful CMMS?

And when we talk about technical advancements and multifunctional solutions, a next-gen CMMS is the first thing to think about. Programmed and established maintenance routine is at the core of every successful business. And no, you don’t have to invest a lot. There are SaaS CMMS solutions on the market that will happily replace all your Excel spreadsheets for only 30 euros per month and make your employees and customers smile much more often. The deployment of a CMMS is the most valuable step towards production cycle improvements, reduced workload and increased workflow.

Unfortunately many business owners fall victims to the conservative thinking that their staff will be very slow to adapt to an upgrade of a new system and all the data from all those Excel sheets will get lost in the migration. Well, guess what? The times have changed, and neither the first, nor the second argument is really worth it anymore. There are CMMS solutions out there that are easy to use as your smartphone, don’t require any additional set up, IT skills or professionals and provide full migration support. Finally, when a business is struggling to succeed, flexibility is the one that counts in today’s environment. Installing a computerized maintenance management system gives you the opportunity to eliminate duplication of work, to follow up with employees performance, schedule maintenance checks, control spare parts inventory and so many more.

The best news is that today’s smart CMMS are evolving together with your organization to cover its changing needs. Data analytics, communication tools, ERP and system connectivity features can be added and improved anytime. Nowadays you don’t purchase a finished package of a product. For this 30 euros per month you get a technical support as well, ready to respond to your questions and concerns.

Imagine how much you could do; only if you knew 24/7 the status of an individual piece of equipment on your mobile phone and connect immediately to the responsible person. When used to its full potential, a CMMS can drastically improve your business to the extent of creating new opportunities and reducing cost.

What Kind of Maintenance Should I Perform? How Often Should I Perform It?

Regular, easy, scheduled preventive maintenance is the best approach for small and medium sized businesses. Equipment maintenance should ideally take place during a time that disrupts operations as little as possible.  Predictive and prescriptive maintenance sound fancy and promising but require a certain investment and additional resources. Relying on daily, strict routines and analyzing slowly but regularly asset data can lead you only to success. Take your time to consider your next important decision as an asset investment or a new product launch.

What if I Cannot Afford the Necessary Resources to Implement Industry 4.0?

It is not a secret that despite the enormous economic potential of industry 4.0/5.0, SMEs remain relatively cautious about it. The most important reasons have already been mentioned above: reduced budget and not sufficient workforce. However, a small but meaningful action as deploying a CMMS can bring you so much closer to the IoT industry and help you to reap off plenty of benefits. Only considering the fact that procurement, production and sales can communicate anytime and anywhere is a huge step towards digitalization.

Today there are even CMMS products that offer maintenance social network as Mobility Work and whole platform connecting suppliers and service providers with other industrial players as managers, maintenance technicians, etc.

The deployment of a high-quality CMMS can significantly enhance the innovation capacity of the common food and beverage SME from today by eliminating daily production problems and letting business owners more space to develop the organization. Maintenance management plays a critical role in achieving strategic objectives and leveraging the business to the desired competitiveness. An efficient maintenance management program depends on the deployment of a high-quality, next-gen CMMS able to address some of the company’s biggest struggles like productivity, profits and processes.

Ralitsa Peycheva is a technical content manager at Mobility Work (www.mobility-work.com), interested in latest machinery tools, technical maintenance, CMMS and Big Data; curious about new manufacturing methods; discovering, observing and admiring high-quality engineering.

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