PLM: A Key Enabler for Food Label Digitization (Part II) – Challenges and opportunities

For manufacturers, updates and changes to food labelling regulations represent challenges as well as opportunities. They have the opportunity to reinforce customers’ confidence in their brand by reacting to updates swiftly, particularly when the new packaging emphasizes a healthy message. There is also the risk of products seeming less healthy as a result of now mentioning ‘added sugars’ or higher calories, which can drive customers to competitors offering healthier products. The only response is to reformulate products to retain their appeal among consumers.

Many companies view regulatory updates as a way to enhance their competitiveness through product innovation. This can occur through greater visibility of nutritional information to help the modern consumer make judicious purchase decisions more easily. By reformulating and repackaging existing products to promote healthier, more responsible consumption, manufacturers can win favour among consumers. Instead of viewing minimum requirements as a burden, companies can leverage updates to position themselves as the more attractive option in highly saturated product categories.

70 per cent of all product purchase decisions are made at the point of purchase. The product label is a critical element that enables consumers to make those decisions. The right identifiers, accurate product information and proper product promotion can gain the attention and endorsement of consumers. In today’s highly brand-conscious world where consumers have been found to be highly resistant to brand failure, smaller players have the opportunity to claim a position of strength by creating attractive and insightful labels aligned to customer needs, preferences and attitudes.

A Look at a Few Effective PLM Solutions

Revising product levels in line with regulatory requirements calls for improved cross-functional collaboration among technical, design and marketing teams. PLM solutions enable food and beverage manufacturers to manage product specifications through a single, integrated system available throughout the enterprise and capable of being dynamically updated. The product record ensures one version of truth from ingredient to finished product, across functions, locations, geographies and languages. Specifically, PLM solutions align specifications with ingredients and nutrition labelling requirements, and print them in all required languages.

1. Specifications management system

A centralized specifications management system provides the latest information on all projects by serving as a single database for formulas, ingredients list, raw materials and specifications. Food and beverage manufacturers are leveraging the system to standardize their business processes and streamline reviews and approvals of packaging labels based on user-defined workflows.
The ability to reuse designs without having to redesign the package delivers several benefits. This solution can aggregate all technical and marketing data related to packaging and labelling, cut time-to-market, save time and cost, and establish a single version of truth for packaging bill of materials.

2. Beyond master data management

Manufacturers commonly use SAP systems for master data management to consistently define and manage critical product data. However, a certain portion of product information is often stored in external applications and additional data sources, resulting in time-consuming searches and duplication of work. The fact that many companies do not have expert resources to examine existing material data for completeness and Global Data Synchronisation Network (GDSN) compliance exacerbates the problem. A third challenge is the error-prone process of publishing master data directly on the master data pool’s user interface.

There are PLM solutions that address this issue and allow manufacturers to manage information more efficiently and in a more secure manner. These solutions can connect to manufacturers’ existing SAP systems to send GS1 compliant material master data directly from their SAP ERP systems to GDSN-certified data pools such as 1WorldSync. By ensuring integrated GDSN plausibility checks for food regulation requirements, manufacturers can immediately identify missing or faulty data and manually rectify it.

Key advantages include simplified data preparation, efficient and reliable data verification, a reduction in manual effort, and time savings. PLM solutions assisting with material data management are especially useful when in-house developments are economically unviable.

3. Easing the route to product information

GDSN empowers trading partners to share trusted product data globally, enabling them to meet the demands of today’s informed consumers with discerning tastes. PLM solutions which enable manufacturers to easily source product information through the GDSN, download product data and print specification sheets are strategically beneficial.

Access to accurate product information and local distributors is a competitive advantage that manufacturers find hard to ignore. Food and beverage companies have increasingly started investing in PLM tools that enable quick access to online catalogues with detailed product specifications, including printable specifications sheets, ingredients and health information, and regional distributor lists.

4. Better traceability

PLM aims to digitize tasks that do not require dedicated human intervention. A popular example is the online collection and transfer of specifications, suppliers and questionnaires. The ability to create legally binding digital product specifications documents is a win-win for suppliers as well as manufacturers, saving time and effort and ensuring better traceability from both a product and an auditing standpoint.

Reputable PLM solution providers now have mobile-optimized websites to allow users to engage more conveniently with their products and brand. Manufacturers and distributors can access online catalogues in a user-friendly manner and achieve their goal of staying on top of trends through mobile-friendly educational blogs.

Featured Image: © fotolia / alphaspirit

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