Food & drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector accounting for 20 percent of output and employing 430,000 people. With international sales approaching £25bn per annum, it is also one of our most important export sectors critical to future UK growth and competitiveness.

With the 8,000+ companies in the industry currently facing challenging times (see below), greater attention is being paid to the critical role of technology in supporting the operational excellence required to survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19, post-Brexit digital world.

Figure 1: Food & Drink Sector Challenges

As shown in the tag cloud below, technology has long played a critical role in the industry’s competitiveness. The digital landscape for food & drink manufacturing, however, is about to change dramatically. 

In a rapidly changing, dynamic VUCAD world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous and DIGITAL), Commercial-of-the-Shelf (COTS) ERP systems no longer provide a cost-effective solution for a growing number of applications. Nor can the high costs of fully customised software development be justified in many cases.

The emergence of low-code Applications as a Service platforms (aPaaS) provide a third option.

In particular, the ability to quickly and easily streamline and automate key business processes using the low-code software development tools available through the Microsoft Power Platform provides exciting opportunities for the industry to build sophisticated applications taking productivity to new levels at significantly reduced costs.

Gartner predicts that low-code application development will be responsible for more than 65% of all app development activity by 2024.

Technology in Food and Drink
Figure 2: Technology in the Food & Drink Sector

The Microsoft Power Platform

Made generally available in October 2019, following a two-year public preview, Power Platform can deliver powerful solutions and high ROI faster and at lower costs. Used effectively, it can speed up your organisation’s journey to becoming a Modern Intelligent Workplace.

The Platform allows powerful end-to-end business solutions to be developed by connecting PowerApps across the entire Microsoft Power Platform, to Office 365, Dynamics 365, Azure and hundreds of other apps, driving innovation across your organisation.

It delivers low-code, low-cost solutions ‘changing the way we have always done things around here’.

Figure 3: Microsoft Power Platform
  • PowerApps – for building customised business apps in weeks rather than months; connecting data and work across mobile and the web.
  • Power Automate – for embedding powerful workflow automation directly into apps.
  • Power BI – for unifying data from multiple sources; delivering actionable insight and business improvement through interactive personalised dashboards and reports.
  • Power Virtual Agents – for responding rapidly to your customer and employee needs, at scale, using intelligent chatbots.

Business Benefits

Acknowledged as a Leader in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low-Code Application Platforms; and by Forrester as a Leader in The Forrester Wave™: Low-Code Development Platforms for AD&D Professionals, Microsoft Power Platform delivers a broad range of business benefits:

  • A significant reduction in application development costs, estimated at 70%.
  • Process automation, efficiency gains, transformation and improved business outcomes.
  • Better and faster decision-making through improved access to data.
  • Integrated data and workflows across solutions.
  • Enhanced security, including mobile apps.
  • Applications can generally be built in a matter of weeks rather than months.
  • Automatic GDPR compliance.
  • High ROI.

PowerApps in Food & Drink

For food & drink companies facing up to the challenges of a post-COVID-19, post-Brexit digital world, PowerApps can take your organisation’s productivity and operational efficiency to new levels by modernising and automating key business processes quickly, easily and at significantly reduced costs.

By building powerful workflow automation directly into apps and services repetitive manual tasks can be reduced if not eliminated completely. The burden of excessive reporting (a particular problem in food & drink) can be reduced by enhancing access to and integrating data across silos, delivering actionable insights from the wealth of operational data being generated.

The rapid, iterative and scalable development made possible by PowerApps allows applications to be developed that grow with your organisation’s needs.

Applications can be developed streamlining processes and systems across all value-chain activities including Operations, Supply Chain Integration, Customer Engagement, Sales & Marketing, Human Resource Management, Workforce Collaboration and others.

  • Support operational excellence.
  • Engage customers.
  • Empower employees.
  • Connect data.
  • Automate processes.
Power Platform Across the Value Chain
Figure 4: Power Platform Across the Value Chain

Microsoft Power Platform in Action

Providing low-code, low-cost apps that modernise business processes, there are a growing number and diversity of case examples of Microsoft Power Platform solving complex organisational challenges.

As a multiple Microsoft Accredited Gold Partner, Bridgeall’s highly experienced development team has successfully delivered a growing portfolio of successful PowerApps projects for clients such as Link Group, NHS Education, ScotRail; and in the food & drink industry, Whyte & Mackay and C&C Group.

The approach we adopt allows your organisation to minimise risks and costs by initially developing a Proof of Concept highlighting how the solution would work before expanding to full development.

Power Apps
Figure 5: Our Approach

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would welcome an informal chat on how Microsoft Power Platform can support operational excellence in your organisation.

We would be happy to talk about building an initial Proof of Concept.

A guest post by Dr Jim Hamill.

Appendum: To support your company leverage the full potential of Power Apps and the Microsoft Power Platform, Bridgeall is offering a free ‘Discover the Art of the Possible’ service. Full details can be found here – ‘Power Apps: The Art of the Possible’.