"Digital transformation is becoming an issue of primary importance in the European food industry,"says András Sebők, general manager at Campden BRI in Hungary. Digital transformation is needed due to consumer and societal pressure. But the problem is the lack of skilled people to make it happen. "Education is what's needed", says Sebők in an interview on EIT Digital.
Despite the fact that the food and drink industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the European Union, the sector is far behind other industries when it comes to digital transformation, says Sebők. The industry should speed up here, for it faces increasing pressure from the consumer and from society, both having an impact on profit margins. Consumers for example demand a lot of diverse and personalised food products - at the same cost as a mass-produced items. "This is a challenge: to meet the needs of personalisation while still ensuring the benefits of large-scale production."
Digitalisation and industry 4.0 can is a solution to this, says Sebők, who is also chair of R&D Expert Group at FoodDrinkEurope. "There is a big unexploited opportunity in the food industry because many of the available solutions in other industries can be adapted to solve food problems relatively easy."
Thus, education is needed. "The real risk is that the industry will be limited by the lack of skilled people. Current employees need conversion training; without digital capabilities, they will have difficulty in implementing digital solutions. And you need managers to convey the digitalisation message to staff."
This is exactly why food and drink industry research & development institute Campden BRI-Hungary, together with the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and ELTE Faculty of Informatics has developed a 4-day executive course Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 in Food Processing for the EIT Digital Professional School. Aimed at executives, it will bring ICT providers and food business leaders together. "If we bring them together and get them to exchange ideas and talk to each other, then we will significantly increase the probability of a successful application."