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Using Innovative R&D Technologies in the Food and Beverage Industry 

Consumer preferences are ever changing and evolving, and it’s up to consumer products organizations to quickly adapt and respond: R&D technologies can help. In an increasingly competitive market, it’s the first brand on the shelves that can win the lion’s share of the market. This is particularly evident in the food and beverage industry.

So how can food and beverage companies enable speed and flexibility in their R&D organization within a framework for risk avoidance and compliance? While there’s not one perfect answer, investing in R&D tools and technologies is a key way to unlock efficiencies within your R&D organization. Investment in large, broad functionality R&D technologies has not previously been a key investment area in food and beverage organizations; however, it may be time to rethink that approach.   

When you’re trying to innovate or quickly launch a new product, digital laboratory systems will enable and streamline your R&D organizations processes. By investing in the right technologies, you can automate routine, non-value-add tasks and allow your talent to focus on the tasks that deliver the most value. Additionally, the digitalization of R&D processes provides quick access to data previously only accessible on paper in laboratory notebooks.  This data can now be shared quickly and easily throughout the organization as well as processed and mined to guide future innovation. 

There’s a broad set of R&D systems that can help your organization, but they may not all be the right fit for your organization. Finding the right tools and technologies for your organization that balance the freedom that innovation loves and needs – while enabling a common platform that connects the dots and automates repetitive tasks – is just the first step. Below we have outlined a few R&D technologies used throughout the food and beverage industry that may be right for your organization. 

R&D Technologies in the Food and Beverage Industry

Electronic Document Management – As R&D processes ramp-up in pilot and scale-up manufacturing, traditional paper documentation becomes a cumbersome bottleneck. With the growing vigilance from regulatory bodies on the food and beverage industry, it’s never too early to transition to an electronic-based document management system. Whether the intent is storing research data, regulatory compliance, or product change control documentation, electronic management is a traceable, seamless, and scalable solution. 

Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELN) – During the research and development processes there is a tremendous amount of data generated, and for a long time that data has been stored in paper laboratory notebooks. ELN solutions are the backbone of a digital, streamlined laboratory. ELNs allow for the digitization of structured and unstructured data, can streamline processes, and can drive compliance and harmonization of procedures. Additionally, by having digital research data, your organization can now mine past data to innovate in the future.  

Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) – In order to meet the current and future regulatory requirements, food and beverage R&D organizations must take measures to implement a laboratory information management system (LIMS) to ease the process of data curation / reporting and allow for greater quality management. There are many cases of organizations that have adopted LIMS and subsequently developed increased process harmonization, production rate, quality, and safety. 

Capital investment into R&D technologies is a crucial way for food and beverage organizations to streamline their product development processes and capitalize on the data they already own but cannot report on. 

The Importance of Calculated Implementation 

While waiting too long to upgrade R&D processes and systems is a problem, so is upgrading the enabling technologies that are unnecessary to the essential functions of R&D. What solutions are most beneficial at your current stage and which ones can wait? Likewise, implementing a new system or solution across an entire organization can be daunting. Trying to push too much on your R&D organization at once can detract from the essential functions of R&D and cause short-term challenges while your organization normalizes.  

A more efficient and effective method of implementation is a lean approach. By implementing the enabling solutions in a phased approach, addressing your most pressing pain points first, you can allow for a more natural scale-up process in the future. 

How can your R&D organization leverage process development to support innovation? What R&D technologies and solutions fit best with your product pipeline and research strategy? Can your laboratory be made more efficient through the implementation of automated technologies? 

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Contributions by Irene Birbeck

Tags: Manufacturing Technology, Quality and Compliance Technology, LIMS, Digital Labs, Emerging Technology