Around the world, COVID-19 has drastically affected many different industries. Businesses have pivoted their strategies, products, distribution efforts and beyond in order to accommodate new regulations and safety measures. The food and beverage industry is no different. Even as food manufacturers were deemed essential by the U.S. government, they’ve had to adapt to a new normal during the shutdown. Here are the top three changes that occurred in the food manufacturing industry and what we can learn from them.
COVID-19 hit the food industry hard. With restaurant, hotel and school cafeteria closures due to quarantine restrictions, many of the food manufacturing industry’s largest customers all but disappeared. Consumer trends also shifted to eating from home, leaving the market to favor products optimized for individual take-home use and grocery stores. Many food production facilities had to rapidly find ways to change product packaging sizes, salvaging good product with take-home cartons and containers. Some processors even pre-sliced deli meat that was going out to grocery stores around the country, as stores had limitations on the number of people who could work at one time and were unable to slice meat in-store.
Many facilities were restricted on dock and loading times, significantly impacting their ability to ship product. Manufacturing facilities aren’t holding facilities, often partnering with cold storage facilities to keep food safe after production. However, when COVID-19 hit, manufacturing facilities had to deal with a new set of limitations: there weren’t enough dock times or truckers. Manufacturers faced a large time crunch to get product safely into distribution, some even trying to ship product directly from the manufacturing plant to the intended destination.
Food quality and safety have always been a top priority in our industry; however, with rising concerns around the transmission of COVID-19, the food industry met new and unprecedented challenges to keep food safe and detect foreign material contaminants amidst production limitations. With restrictions on the number of production lines that could run at once, many plants tried to rework product on hold for potential foreign material contamination with their open production lines, never having done this type of rework before. Most inline detection machines are only capable of detecting metal, and manufacturing employees are not trained to find and extract foreign contaminants. Relying solely on inline detection is risky, especially at a time when the food supply chain must be carefully safeguarded. Other plants who faced potential foreign material contamination, up against tight deadlines, risked shipping their product out without a thorough inspection.
The food industry has had to change its strategies, create new ways to package and repurpose food, keep the country fed, maintain job security for employees and procure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in mass. The industry is full of manufacturers and plants who did things they’ve never done before, getting creative to conquer new challenges. And these challenges aren’t over. We are all still facing the effects of COVID-19 shutdowns on our businesses even during this period of re-opening in different parts of the country. The bottom line is we’re in this together––together, we’re resilient.
At FlexXray, we’re here to serve you in whatever ways we can. If you’re in a time crunch to get product out, you can rely on us as the most trusted third-party inspection service in North America. We can get your product inspected before you get a quote from anyone else. If you call us today, we can rework your product today. Contact our team directly at [email protected]. You can also learn more about FlexXray’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and our position during these difficult times on our website.