Food & Beverage Manufacturers and Distributors Drive Profits through Technology & Automation

In this economic environment, with rising costs and risks, effective profitability strategies separate companies that thrive from those that fall behind.

In the manufacturing and distribution industry, many companies are identifying and embracing these strategies to find success and opportunities for growth. In Grassi’s 2024 survey of food and beverage manufacturers and distributors in the NYC metropolitan area, 60 percent of companies surveyed reported increased profits last year.

The companies that reported this profit growth were much more likely to focus on improving operations, such as increasing employee productivity and streamlining processes. One of the most common ways companies do this is by investing in technology and automation.

Survey respondents cited these tools as highly effective solutions to the industry’s biggest challenges, including supply chain disruptions, rising costs, a tight labor market and inflation. The survey found which strategies are already widely embraced and which are on the rise in 2024.

A majority (60 percent) of respondents said they are utilizing automation tools through supply chain management software to assist with tracking and managing inventory. As one of the most important metrics for a manufacturing business, inventory management is crucial to profitability. Inaccuracies can lead to stockouts, backlog of sales orders, longer lead times, customer dissatisfaction and other issues that can place many business goals at risk.

Technology is also being used to increase the quality of data in other areas. A manufacturing executive said, “On the operation side, we’ve really embraced production data by implementing a production management system that provides real-time feedback in terms of throughput on the production line. It gives our managers actionable data to communicate better with their teams.”

Distributors are improving their data analytics to drive profits as well. About a third of high-growth distribution companies (32 percent) surveyed plan to increase the use of analytics to optimize production, distribution, or customer service this year.

Technology and automation are also being used to combat rising labor costs and shrinking talent pools and to keep operations running as efficiently as possible. ERP systems, programmable logic controllers, automated batching systems, online point-of-service (POS) programs, electronic engineers, and robotic process automation (RPA) were cited as the most utilized catalysts for employee productivity.

According to survey respondents, other high-growth technology drivers are artificial intelligence (AI), predictive supply chain management, and cloud computing. Less common but emerging trends include RFID technology for product tracking and GPS to track workers, vehicles and tools. Respondents also see strong growth potential in the increased adoption of digital sensors, remote machine controls, wireless plant networking, and cybersecurity.

Despite the industry trends toward technology adoption, a third of respondents cited automation and technology as challenges. Manufacturers also face challenges of outdated systems or a lack of systems and processes. This signals the dire importance of selecting and implementing the right technology effectively.

While reflective of trends in the food and beverage sector specifically, these strategies can be used by any manufacturer struggling to combat today’s industry challenges. Combined with the other operational and financial strategies uncovered in the survey, technology and automation will continue to propel the rising revenues and profits that most respondents experienced last year.


To download a complimentary copy of the 2024 State of Food & Beverage Manufacturing report, please visit

Robert E. Grote Robert E. Grote is a partner at Grassi and leader of the firm’s Manufacturing & Distribution Practice. With more than 30 years of experience in public accounting, tax planning and management consulting services for the M&D industry, Rob has grown the practice to become the second largest industry group in the firm. In his role as M&D Practice Leader, Rob leads a team of... Read full bio

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