HEB, GE Digital discuss digital transformation of food industry
HEB and GE Digital embrace digital transformation in effort to build best in class food plants
AUSTIN, Texas–Greg Flickinger, vice president of manufacturing operations at HEB, discussed how a partnership between HEB and GE Digital is driving digital transformation in a presentation at this year’s H-E-B Most Brilliant Food Plant OEM Summit.
HEB is an American supermarket chain based in San Antonio, Texas, and GE Digital is a software company for the industrial internet of things based in San Ramon, Calif. Vendors met at the summit to discuss how the two industries could work together to transform food plants in a mutually beneficial, synergistic way.
With the rise of the digital era, vendors are seeking innovative ways to interact with their community. Given the surge of internet-connected devices, it can be challenging to determine to what extent these technologies should be integrated into the grocery shopping experience.
Flickinger discussed how top-notch buildings, the processing line and work systems can come together to create an effective food service. If anyone of these three parts fail, the project crumbles. “Integrating these three pieces is what will allow us to create the most brilliant food plants in the world,” Flickinger said. “Our objective is to courageously build the best in class manufacturing organization,” he added.
In terms of the human element of the work system, Flickinger noted people will lead the development of a partner centric work system that serves as a model within HEB for partner engagement and career growth. “The ‘Workforce Engagement Framework’ will serve as the roadmap that defines success” he said.
One basic way Flickinger seeks to build better food plants is through digitalization. Food plants would be paperless, which would significantly cut down unnecessary resources. In terms of processing technologies, automated tools would be leveraged to perform repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
Flickinger pressed how these automated tools are not intended to replace workers, but to enable workers to take on more dignified tasks. “Food plants will become the “university” for practiced based, applied partner learning and development,” he said.
He also highlighted how augmented reality holds promise for the grocery company, especially in regards to maintenance and troubleshooting. “Augmented reality, I see that as being a huge enabler,” he said. “We have a targeted technology for maintenance that may be the fastest at trouble shooting.”
Flickinger concluded by highlighting how food plants can serve as a platform for continued business partner technology development and as a way to elevate partners above the competition. To learn more about how Flickinger is integrating people with internet connected devices, see the video below.