Innovation in the Realm of Food and Beverages

Manuel Alcalá, VP Pan American Sales, SMurfit Kappa
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Manuel Alcalá, VP Pan American Sales, SMurfit Kappa

1.How has your IT operating model changed during the last five years?

Nowadays, we think about IT from a business perspective. So, basically it must be aligned with a strategy that leads to serving our customers more effectively, act as a support service, enhance our service portfolio and contribute to accelerating our growth.

The above means that we do not discuss IT as an isolated silo. One of the most meaningful examples is in the shopper marketing arena. By using advanced marketing tools, customers are supported and we are able to create the right experience for shoppers (their customers) and make their products and categories outstand through optimized packaging. Additionally, we have also used Business IT solutions and collaborative tools to achieve customer supply chain optimization and contribute to them having an iincreased mental and physical availability of their products.

2. What do you think are the biggest obstacles that technologists face while working in an agile and outcomes based model?

An outcomes based model needs integrated organizations with a holistic view that is willing to experiment. To be agile you cannot wait until you have every piece of data and information, so it is crucial to foster experimentation and departments’ integration. For this we need to break the silos and allow people to fail.

  ​The right use of new technologies in the digital world can allow us to serve people better and enhance their lives.   

In our case, through our rich network of Experience Centers, we are fostering both things and co-innovating and co-experimenting with our customers. I consider that the right atmosphere is also key in the process and this means truly engaging in a more customer centric and agile vision.

3. What set of skills do you think is required for the technology leaders to be successful in the new enterprise landscape?

Flexibility, agility and customer focus are key. Nonetheless, the true essence must be business relationships with customers, with the customers own customers, with partners, strategic suppliers, the academia and specially lead edge users. Business knowledge is very important, but today’s world is extremely interrelated, so relationship building skills and an open mind are the add-ons most appreciated in the skills set.

4. Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about in the Food and Beverage industry?

The dynamism of the food and beverage market and the continuous innovations, new product launches and changing lifestyles have driven market growth, thus packaging which is one of the key elements is forecasted to continue growing. The sector growth will need more from packaging and new technologies, so this drives packaging to not only make products outstand in the shelf space, optimize total supply chain cost and be reliable for e-commerce, but also drive the need to be more interactive with the consumers and stakeholders in the whole chain. So when I think of the food and beverage industry, I am excited to think about how it can benefit from interactive packaging, biodegradable packaging, sensorial packaging, active packaging such as virtual reality, combined enhanced reality, eye tracking, neuro marketing, nano technologies, smart and digital printing. In terms of the sustainability chain and circular economy, the above will also have an important return for the industry because it will be able to decrease the impact of the global burden of plastic waste.

5. We are all dealing with technology every day. How does technology drive your life?

Innovation is the key factor for business survival and quality of life/life expectancy. I think the right use of new technologies in the digital world can allow us to serve people better and enhance their lives. Thus, financial services, shopping, knowledge gathering, communications, transportation and so have created a seamless experience in an Omni-channel multi connected world for the majority of people. These new realities make everything simpler for us as human beings, but we need to be disciplined to set limits and make sure there is a balance in the use of technology. Technology must be used for peace of mind, enhancing our jobs and relationships and making us grow as human beings.

Within my family we have set strict rules in order to use technology only as an aid to help us achieve our real life purposes.

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