People. Process. Systems.

Sharon McLeay
21st December 2023

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UK Food and Drink manufacturers are currently navigating a complex landscape marked by regulatory changes, financial pressures, shifting consumer trends, alterations in preferences, access to skilled labour, and the increasing importance of sustainability and climate change considerations. While the concept of Smart Factories aims to address some of these challenges, rural Food Manufacturers face an additional hurdle in the form of poor connectivity, a facet often overlooked in today’s technologically advanced world.


Smart Factories rely heavily on innovative technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), both of which necessitate robust connectivity. The fact is that many rural manufacturers just do not have access to the connectivity required to take advantage of such technologies. As independent ERP consultants, we see first hand time and again that many rural manufacturers do not have the connectivity to even operate an ERP system optimally never mind these newer, advanced technologies which rely even more on high performing connectivity.


In this blog, we will explore the implications of AI and IoT adoption and how enhanced connectivity can empower Rural Food & Drinks Manufacturers to future-proof their operations. Based on the factory of the future trials in BAE – Factory of the Future | BAE Systems – improved connectivity is seen to be a necessity to unlocking many opportunities.


Enhanced connectivity not only facilitates operational efficiencies within the production line but also enables a deeper understanding of costs and facilitates cost reductions. Real-time analysis and alerts become a reality, providing manufacturers with valuable insights for informed decision-making. Moreover, the reduction of waste is achievable through the seamless communication of connected technologies, contributing to sustainable practices. Lastly, the integration of advanced technologies allows for a reduction in the labour needed, highlighting that connectivity is the foundation in propelling rural Food & Drinks Manufacturers into a future characterised by efficiency, sustainability, and innovation. As the manufacturing landscape evolves, the importance of addressing connectivity challenges becomes increasingly evident for those striving to stay ahead in the competitive market.


Some recent papers published underlines the importance to the sector, the wider economy and the rural communities dependent on these businesses:

Food Manufacture: Improved rural connectivity could unlock £8.8bn for Britain

Virgin Media O2: Great Rural Revival – Improved rural connectivity worth £65bn in new growth for UK economy


Virgin Media O2 have successfully launched 4G to 50 rural sites and have plans to launch a further 100 sites under the £1bn Shared Rural Network Programme by the end of 2025 – see Programme Timeline Shared Rural Network (



As the landscape continues to evolve, addressing the connectivity challenges becomes a crucial step to staying competitive in the market. In fact, as time marches on it will be crucial to just survive as technology and connectivity become ever more important for all UK Food and Drink Manufacturers. Whilst it will inevitably take time to get the underlying infrastructure in place though, there is still lots of progress and improvements that can be made even with the constraints in place. Speak to us about getting the building blocks in place to prepare for the Factory of the Future as well as ensuring any investment in technology is fit for purpose now.

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