A Blog Series: The Digital Transformation of Food Safety

Part Two: Learning from Other Industries – Newspaper Publishing

Thanks for visiting and your interest in how “Digital Transformation” is changing food safety operations and its impact on food supplier operations and financial results. In Part 1 of this series, we explored the definition of the term “Digital Transformation” and how it can be understood in relation to the advances being made within the food safety function and how this, at a high level, can impact food supplier operations.  

Here in Part 2 we will begin to explore how other industries have experienced and benefitted from their Digital Transformations, and the lessons we can draw and relate to how food supplier organizations can find similar benefit by digitally transforming food safety. To begin… we’ll explore what may seem, on the face of things, to be an unrelated industry: Newspaper Publishing.

I think we all can easily see what digital transformation has done within newspaper publishing… aside from the absolute havoc that has been caused within traditional advertising-based business models.

Let’s start here… Remember these? 

They’re still out there! Thinking about recent times… How many of you obtain your news content from a coin-op newspaper box? I bet the answer is close to zero. 

I still have a personal preference for reading a physical piece of content – whether it be a book, magazine or newspaper. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but the visceral appeal of holding the words in my hands is still a strong thing for me. But the limitations of this style of content consumption have become increasingly evident. For example, go back to the top of this post… and see how you can click on the link and instantly be taken back to Part 1 of this series – this is simply NOT possible with physical media. Expanding on this idea… and thinking about your food operations; Are you able to see how your food safety information impacts your operational performance? How food safety issues impact on-time production starts? Yield? Waste? Risk? 

We’ll come back to this… let’s look at newspaper publishing a bit more.

The old coin-operated newspaper box introduces a concept that enterprise leaders have increasingly come to understand: The problem of the “data silo”. The delivery of our news content has gone through a major digital transformation… well maybe multiple transformations. It started with the world wide web in the early 90’s… but before that happened, most of the data about circulation and readership was gleaned from depletions of papers from the coin op boxes in urban / populated centers, and from the depletion of papers from the paper boy’s stacks that were dropped off each day. 

There was some rudimentary correlation to the demographics of the people who subscribed… but absolutely zero data about what we read, how long we consumed content, or how we felt about the content. The “data silo” was defined by the limitation of the data to only a simple count coming from few sources at a low frequency. The industry was blind, basically… and it was all they could do to determine the amount of paper and ink to use for each “run” on the presses – which were VERY expensive to start and stop. (Sound familiar? Are food production runs also expensive to start and stop? Do food safety issues play a role in this occurring?) 

Of course, for the newspaper industry, that all changed. Not overnight, but today we experience a whole different approach to news and publishing of news content. We access news and information today via a linked and connected world of content that crosses media types, platforms and devices.

The digital transformation of newspaper publishing touched upon many major business objectives and factors: reader demand, print operations, advertising spend – all were once relatively based on educated guesswork. Before the transformation, “readers” were really a loose correlation of demographics tied to publishing/readership reach. Now… each individual reader is identifiable, their consumption of the news is digitally tracked, and publishers can pinpoint exactly which topics and content are in demand, clicked, shared, and commented. 

All of this has completely changed the way advertisers work with media. This is not just about newspapers any more… the “news” has become a ubiquitous term that permeates many content channels. Has this benefitted us? Well that’s a loaded question I suppose depending on how you feel about the seemingly limitless choices we have today… but it has surely benefitted publishers.

Here is a quick look at the before / after experiences of going from an “analog” (print-based publishing) to a digital world within the newspaper industry.

Analog

  • Reader demand was “guess work: based on papers depleted
  •  Print/paper supply and production waste
  • Ad spend based on reader “census”
  • Ratio: one article-to-one experience
  • Media availability limited by cost: “delivery area”

Digital

  • Reader metrics based on clicks, page views, etc.
  • Soon… no printing presses at all
  • Ad spend based on real-time metrics
  • Ratio: one article-to-many experience
  • Media availability limited by reader Web access

What was once guesswork is now a data-driven function that is increasingly more and more accurate in terms of knowing about readers, advertisers and the confluence of content that is the fuel oil of the industry. Waste that was once a risk associated with printing press operations has been reduced or eliminated for organizations… especially those that produce 100% digital content. 

Here’s another advancement that we may take for granted… Content now “finds us”.  What does that mean? Ever notice how the order of stories in your news app isn’t the same as the order presented to another person? Probably not – we’re not meant to know this! But it’s true!  Even elevators now deliver us tailored content. Why? Not just “because we can”, but because the driver of the industry – advertising dollars – demands that refined targeting be delivered by the content publishers and owners to consumers where and when they are most likely to take action on the advertising call to action. This is “customer demand” at its most extreme when it comes to digital transformation.  

Here is a side-by side table showing the comparative before / after benefits that the industry experienced:

Before

  • “Seek and ye shall find…”
  •  XX% of all physical media not read/scrapped
  • Ad revenue guess work (50% works…)
  • You search for content
  • Access controlled by “reader area”

After

  • Content tailored to behaviors
  • Almost no physical media = less waste
  • Precise Ad targeting (in theory!!)
  • Content finds you
  • Global access

Was this a necessary disruption? (see Part 1 for more on this) – It sure is from the perspective of publishers’ needs to better serve customer and consumer demand. 

So how does this relate to food safety? Here are a couple of concepts to consider:

  • Food suppliers are known to operate in environments characterized by tight margins and high operational and regulatory risk. A wasted production run (whether it be an overaged print run or a scrapped food lot production run) is not tolerable. But in the absence of the right information being available, consumable and actionable within a timeframe that allows for adjustment to be made and the production run to be salvaged, we face these adverse outcomes.
    • The newspaper industry figured out that more information and knowledge about their customer’s (the reader) behaviors led to a more accurate means of planning and executing production. 
    • That has continued today with the improved means by which a newspaper publisher selects content for targeted readers – which in turn positively impacts content “stickiness” and ultimately the flow of advertising dollars aimed at the targeted readers. 
    • Likewise, with food production, any factor that can reduce the risk of production disruptions should be prioritized. Digital Transformation of food safety is one such factor. Reducing the risk of a food safety issue, such as an unplanned tear-down of a production line or machinery due to a pathogen issue, will directly impact production yield and waste costs.
  • Digital Transformations enable linkages that we were previously blind to seeing. In the newspaper publishing world, there was a direct link between the content, the audience and the consumption styles of those audiences.
    • Readership, and the ability to target readers with the right mix of content and advertising has seen fantastic leaps forward with the advent of digital publishing. 
    • Likewise, food production can experience similar gains. For example, instead of an auditor or inspector finding issues that result in further administrative and regulatory costs, imagine a world where the data about these issues found you. 
    • In other words, digital transformations enable the power of computing to sift through massive amounts of data – say, all of your sampling diagnostic results for every facility within your enterprise – and find trends and issues, and then automatically send alerts to you BEFORE the issues become poor audit and inspection outcomes.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series where we will look at Financial Institutions and see how banking experienced the benefits of digital transformation.

About David Hatch (me):

I’ve been involved in some form of a digital transformation for a very long time. I was fortunate to start my career right around the same time that the Internet was emerging from the world of the government and military to commercial use. My first project was transforming the Boston Red Sox baseball and Bruins hockey video content from an analog to a digital medium… meaning that for the first time, the owner of the content could digitally access, search, and find the exact video they needed to fulfill certain new business opportunities. That experience, which resulted in building a video content licensing business, led me to various experiences across a multitude of industries, including banking, publishing, healthcare and food & beverage. I’ve spent my entire career working on one challenge: How can a business use technology and their digital assets, data and analytics to make better, more informed decisions that improve the business, meet customer needs and achieve desired outcomes and objectives.

About Corvium (my company):

Corvium is driving the digital transformation of food safety programs by automating and delivering a unified data platform for environmental monitoring, product testing, sanitation workflows, as well as tracking and alerting for conformance and compliance. We’re addressing the challenges that food suppliers are facing when it comes to making that leap from paper or manual spreadsheet processes to a fully digitized data-driven function.

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