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Big data is on everyone’s lips and corporate agendas these days. It is the next big thing that can change the playing field in many industries, with the potential to drastically improve efficiency, ways of approaching the market and stakeholders, and to manage an increasingly complex risk picture.

There is a strong trend across all industries and sectors to use data analytics for managing performance and risk. This is the core of the big data shift: the ability to use data to obtain actionable knowledge, insights and predictions. Every day 2.5 quintillion bytes of data is created, gathered from sensors, posts to social media sites, purchase transaction records and the list goes on, including the data generated through companies’ daily operations. It doesn’t get much bigger than that, but the ability to “think big” does not come from the sheer volume itself but what you do with it.

How big is it?
Big data is characterized by the availability of an amount of data too big to be processed using conventional software systems and databases. However, deployment of technologically advanced tools and techniques allows for complex comparison and insightful information that would otherwise not be possible or visible. This is big in the sense that it provides timely insight from data, real-time monitoring and predictive information. It puts companies in a position to make fact-based decisions to manage and improve performance, not only in a reactive but predictive way. Moreover, it opens possibilities not only to how companies manage their risks but to new innovations, possibly revolutions. This ranges from radically changing services and products to efficiently satisfying stakeholder requirements and possibly changing the ability to address company, industry or even global challenges.

Something for the future?
Many see big data as something that holds great promises and benefits in the future for companies that invest, acquire the right competence and manage to capitalize. However, big data is not only for the future; it is already here today. The recent ViewPoint survey (to be released April 13) conducted by DNV GL indicates that big data is a reality for a number of companies around the world. Out of the total sample of 1200 respondents, 50% say that they have already undertaken at least one action related to big data. About the same number indicate that big data represents an opportunity for their company and 45% recognize the importance of building big data capabilities. The drive and optimism is underscored by only 5% indicating that they consider big data a threat; focus is on the potential.

Are food and beverage companies thinking big?
When analyzing the ViewPoint survey data looking at food and beverage companies only, it reveals that the food and beverage industry seems to be forward leaning in its approach to big data. The respondents representing this industry mirror the market when it comes to the number of companies indicating that they have undertaken at least one action. They are eying big data as an opportunity and not as a threat. More than 25% of the respondents indicate that big data application has already boosted their productivity and value creation, and 1 in 4 seem to have a clear strategy on the topic, as well.

Food and beverage companies do not report, overall, that they have benefited more than the total sample from their big data efforts. But their chosen actions and thus benefits seem to circle around efficiency and financial savings, brand reputation and supply chain management. This could indicate that the companies surveyed consider big data concepts as having the potential to help them address tight margins while managing their brand reputation and an ever growing complex risk picture.

And expectations are, from almost half of them, that big data will impact their company in the next 2-3 years. For many of them, “how” still remains to be seen. There seems to be optimism towards current and future potential, and food and beverage companies also indicate fewer barriers in taking advantage.

The food and beverage industry is recognized for being a collaborative industry, especially on topics like food safety. Efforts like GFSI have truly had an impact. It is a demonstration of what can be done, benefitting everyone, when an industry determines an issue non-competitive and decides to work together. It will be interesting to see, given the forward-leaning nature of food and beverage companies, if this will be taken further, fueled and accelerated by big data, into related or new areas. The potential in data sharing to address food fraud or traceability, for example, is an intriguing thought.

If you want to read the full ViewPoint survey when it is released April 13, please visit our ViewPoint website. Here you can also find the reports of all previous studies that we have done.

Website: Assurance.dnvgl.com

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