Digitalisation Action better than reaction

by Sandra Sieler
Friday, December 07, 2018
Convinced of the opportunities presented by digital change (left to right): Alexander Riedl from the EU Commission, Tim Reintgen from Plytix, IBC President Jean-Marie Oswald and presenter Renate Kühlcke.
Photo: si
Convinced of the opportunities presented by digital change (left to right): Alexander Riedl from the EU Commission, Tim Reintgen from Plytix, IBC President Jean-Marie Oswald and presenter Renate Kühlcke.
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Digitalisation does not normally count as a core skill for butchers. Nevertheless, they need to be able to handle the new technologies in order to take advantage of the opportunities they present. "Action is better than reaction." This was one of the main conclusions of this year's European Meat Forum in Brussels.

The International Butchers' Confederation (IBC) once again brought together a high-calibre group of experts on the podium. IBC President Jean-Marie Oswald firmly believes that: "The future belongs to paperless companies." This was also underlined by Alexander Riedl of the Connect Directorate-General in the EU Commission. However, only about one fifth of all SMEs in Europe are currently using digital technologies. And the picture differs greatly from one Member State to another. Riedl: "We still don't have a level playing field in Europe."

The Commissioner spelled out how important digital strategies are for market survival to an audience of MEPs, delegates from various European butchers' associations, and trade representatives. Encouraging new generations of young talent, responding to customers' individual wishes, promoting health awareness, traceability, transparency, automation and monetisation of customer relationships – digitalisation can help in all of this, said Riedl, offering encouragement to the master butchers.

Taking small steps to reach the goal

The craft butcher associations play an important role here. This emerged clearly during the panel discussion in Brussels. They have to offer their members manageable, easy-to-adopt, tailor-made solutions that help break down the inhibitions surrounding this field which is highly complex and often alien to craftsmen. From his own experience, Stephan Blank of the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) also confirmed that "...many people view this topic as if it were Mount Everest. We need manageable applications suitable for craftsmen." He believes that digitalisation can provide useful assistance in responding to demographic change – but only if we embrace it.

There is no single strategy for pursuing digitalisation in companies. Each firm has to define its own goals. Experts from the Chambers of Crafts, for example, can provide help, explained Blank.

Alexander Riedl also suggested encouraging 'best-practice transfers' by looking at what the competition is doing. Riedl's second tip: bring young people into the company, either on a permanent or freelance basis.

Tim Reintgen from Plytix highlighted a possible starting point for engaging with the digital world. The Danish-Spanish company provides analytical tools for sorting and interpreting the sheer mass of product information – and exploiting it for the various distribution channels. The start-up won the Digitaleurope SME-Award for this.

Keeping pace with security

"There is no shortage of criminal opportunities," admitted Reintgen, himself a digital native, when quizzed by presenter and "Fleischwirtschaft" editor-in-chief Renate Kühlcke on the subject of cyber crime. However, this should not stop people from engaging with digital development. Reintgen: "Security must keep pace with it."

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