Dairy Forum Panel Recap – Dairy and Tech: What’s Working, What’s Not, and How to Make it Work for Your Dairy Business

Feb 23, 2023 | Events

Ready or not, supply chain digitization is here to stay.

As more and more dairy businesses face an increasing urgency to innovate, many are looking for actionable insights on how and when to jump on opportunities with technology.  

Ultimately, they are finding out that it pays to explore what is working and not working before adopting new technology, and that it is very possible to achieve a strong ROI through these investments. A “Dairy and Tech” panel discussion at the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum 2023 highlighted growing digitization trends and provided insight on evaluating technology from industry specialists, including Janette Barnard, Merck Animal Health Ventures and Founder of Prime Future; Scott Graham, Chief Operating Officer, Hilmar Cheese Company; and Ron Osborne, Head of Technology, Agriculture, Amazon Web Services.

Panel moderator Ever.Ag CEO Scott Sexton led the discussion on what industry leaders have learned from working with technology and how they apply that experience to create additional future innovation opportunities. 

Based on their experiences, panelists highlighted these key focus areas to evaluate and adopt new technologies successfully:  

Prioritizing Organizational Alignment 

Organizational alignment is critical to the success of technology adoption. New technologies can significantly benefit the broader organization when a deployment has been successfully mapped. Furthermore, when senior leadership aligns with the people and processes involved in technology adoption, the organization will often experience successful deployment. 

At Hilmar, Scott Graham referenced a recent high-ROI project that required complete alignment of the technology, employees, and processes to deploy the project successfully. Cross-functional collaboration was critical to successfully implementing an integrated business planning solution that helps optimize their end-to-end dairy supply chain.  

Leveraging Data for Future Capabilities 

A growing emphasis on sustainability practices in food production is increasing pressure on dairy businesses. Subsequently, many are looking for efficient and even passive data collection methods to document and verify best practices in their supply chain.  

Although not yet a requirement, Amazon’s Ron Osborne highlighted a growing interest and technology investment among dairy businesses to better capture, measure and verify practices and data. Many realize that leveraging technology tools to drive passive data collection and reporting will be foundational to sustainability initiatives. 

Choosing a Reliable Partner 

The challenges of adopting new technologies in dairy are magnified by the fact that, simply put; milk never stops flowing for dairy businesses.  

Hilmar’s Scott Graham suggests experimenting with incorporating new technology into daily operations but emphasizes caution as dairy is a high-reliability industry. He recommends choosing the right partner with proven expertise and a track record that indicates the group can be a trusted and experienced partner.  

As a result, a dairy business will have the reassurance of exploring innovations with adequate support from a technology partner. 

Aligning People and Processes to Reach ROI Goals 

From his experience at Hilmar, Scott Graham mentioned there is more willingness within the industry to tackle new technology. In taking these steps, he emphasized the importance of prioritizing ROI-driven projects and being aware of the factors influencing ROI goals. 

Fortunately, tech costs are coming down, so it is increasingly more affordable to deploy technology in a way where it can likely generate ROI.  

However, where some businesses are faltering in gaining full ROI is the ineffective deployment of technology. Often, achieving affordable and efficient deployment is heavily dependent on organizational alignment.  

The alignment of key people and processes will make or break the success of the technology investment. Ultimately, two factors are crucial in reaching ROI goals in a new technology project: 

  • Clear and consistent company-wide messaging on the business value gained from adopting technology
  • A defined rollout plan

Explore Further at the DairyTech Conference

DairyTech provides a meeting place for dairy and tech leaders to connect and showcase innovative solutions for the dairy industry. The 2023 conference will include keynote sessions and panel discussions with industry-leading technology, innovation, data, and cybersecurity specialists.