It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic completely changed our lives. Every industry was impacted, and the way we conducted business dramatically shifted.

The dairy industry was no exception. Consumers’ needs shifted drastically and practically overnight, forcing everyone to act fast and meet the changing demands. This instant change highlighted the lag that the shipping industry had when it came to digital transformation. The lack of technology impacted ordering and made staying on track with revenue targets difficult for some in the grocery space who had yet to embrace technology-forward solutions.

Those companies that implemented technology prior to the COVID-19 pandemic were able to adjust quickly and avoid the challenges felt by others lacking innovation. Technology has proven to be a vital tool when it comes to shipping within the dairy industry and will only continue to play an instrumental role in dairy processors’ success moving forward.


The COVID-19 impact

Believe it or not, the dairy industry actually saw an increased demand for products throughout the pandemic. It would makes sense; stay-at-home orders were introduced and as uncertainties mounted, consumers began “panic buying” necessities.

As the pandemic continued well throughout the summer, consumer fears turned into finding new hobbies, including cooking in quarantine. COVID coping mechanisms such as stockpiling and dining at home resulted in increased demand, posing a challenge to the industry: How could it keep up?

The pandemic also caused significant disruption to the supply chain industry. Shippers were greatly impacted as the demand for drivers increased but the number of drivers coming to work every day decreased. With very few drivers, it was nearly impossible to move the necessary goods at a steady pace.

Additionally, stay-at-home orders meant people could not come into work. While remote work now feels like something we have done for years, at the start of the pandemic, remote work was something very new. Most industries had relied on the fact that their employees could come to work every day, and now they couldn’t.

Without the technology enabling remote work, production and shipping could not keep up with rising consumer demand, while sales in the cheese sector increased 15% between 2019 and 2020. The pandemic highlighted the gaps and the advantages in supply chain innovation.


The tech advantage

The adoption of technology in the supply chain industry has allowed for a number of advantages during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newer innovations have improved supply chain efficiency by managing all shipping transactions in one place. This eliminates administrative paperwork, enables folks to focus on more impactful activities and gives shippers more time and options.

Technology saves time, increases shipment visibility and provides additional cost-savings opportunities for the dairy industry. As efficiencies and cost savings increase, many companies see an increase in revenue when integrating technology into their shipping processes.

One cheese manufacturer cited a 27% increase in revenue from last year. When considering how difficult the last year was for everyone, this leap cannot be understated.

Technology has also proven critical in the age of remote work. No one was prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic and having to work remotely. Those who were already leveraging cloud-based technology found the transition a little bit smoother, since they still had access to everything they needed, even at home. Having everything available online made communicating with employees, drivers, and customers that much easier.


Adopting cloud-based technology tips

The supply chain industry is built on relationships. These are real-life people who come to work every day. It’s the drivers, the processing plant managers, the shipping managers and even the farmers themselves.

The last thing anyone wants is for technology to eliminate these jobs. Recognizing that technology doesn’t have to remove the human element, but rather can enhance it, will help overcome that hesitation.

Over the last few years, we have seen the introduction of a number of new technologies in the dairy processing industry. The plants that have implemented these new innovations have experienced the most success. This has added a sophistication and simplicity to the monitoring of dairy processing operations.

Companies that have switched to new technologies have a better decision-making process by receiving real-time data directly from the plants. Forecasting, budgeting and planning are all built off of this real-time visibility.

There are some recommendations that businesses should keep in mind when venturing into the world of the cloud. The first is to do your research. There are many technologies out there and it can become overwhelming very quickly. Take your time to thoroughly research and find the solution that works best for your organization. Once you do select a solution, predetermine a successful implementation by focusing on the details.

There can be many challenges when it comes to adopting technology into an industry that has operated very manually for so many years. The dairy industry is taking on that challenge, and the results are unparalleled. We’re seeing increases in efficiency, streamlined operations and transparent supply chain visibility.

The last year reinforced the requirement to access information at any time and anywhere. The time is now.