Digital technology in all its forms, is drastically changing the face of manufacturing in the food and drink industry. Increasingly, due to product innovation and market competitiveness, new skills are required in a wide range of areas.
EFFAT and FoodDrinkEurope organised on 15 October a conference to present the outcomes of their EU funded social dialogue project which explores current changes in employment alongside work-related challenges.
One common conclusion of the project about the impact from adapting Industry 4.0 technologies in the European food and drink industry is the following: without a workforce there is no production. Securing an adequate workforce is fundamental and needs the attention of both employers and workers. This places the Social Partners in a central position for ensuring a socially robust adaptation to Food Industry 4.0; a process that is relevant and accepted by workers and employers, and where adequate and proper attention is given to the social and human aspect of adapting to digitalised and automated systems.
Bridging the gap between automation and people is crucial for a successful transition to Food Industry 4.0. The project has demonstrated that a very large share of the workforce in the European food and drink industry is in need for considerable re-skilling or up-skilling. This situation underlines the importance of providing proper training and the necessity of involving providers of education and training into the dialogue of how to equip the workforce with contemporary skills. The companies producing digital systems and automated production lines can benefit from knowing more about working routines in food manufacturing, and food companies can learn more about how Industry 4.0 solutions can be implemented into an existing context. This calls for an open and extended dialogue involving more stakeholder groups – including providers of education and the suppliers of processing equipment and digital solutions.
The European food and drink industry will remain a central and large manufacturing sector with a huge and beneficial contribution to society. The Social Partners have a role to play for ensuring this position of the food and drink industry. Teaming up with providers of education, suppliers of production systems, and policy makers could make for a strong route towards a socially cohesive and prosperous Food Industry 4.0.