A man standing in front of an industrial food refrigerator

Bell Food Group: Proving the benefits of digitalization through a Power Platform solution

Leentje Chavatte

Leentje Chavatte

Microsoft, Data & AI and Digital Transformation

Read Time, 6 min.

“We expected a few drawings or designs to see what the product-tasting app would look like – but instead, they came in with a working model. We were all speechless, and really impressed at how fast Power Platform allows you to build something that works.”

Valery Thomas, Head of Business Intelligence, Analytics and Digitalization at Bell Food Group, recalls working with Microsoft partner, novaCapta – and how the low-code app they created helped his team begin to digitally transform one of Europe’s leading food processing organizations.

“At Bell, we’re food specialists not IT specialists,” he says. “Many have been working at the company for 30 years and have always known the same manual, paper-based processes, which can create a lot of inconsistencies.”

With no centralized system and rooms overflowing with paper, sharing important data across the wider group was a challenge – and audits were a timely and often painful process. But as a Business Intelligence (BI) specialist for over 10 years, Thomas knew the value that digitalization could bring.

The key was to start small with a simple use case that would provide quick results and get stakeholders on board for a bigger project. So, working with Microsoft and novaCapta, a proof of concept for Microsoft Power Platform was quickly put in place to help streamline the group’s product-tasting processes.

Cutting back on paper processes

Founded in 1869, Bell Food Group is one of Europe’s leading processors of meat and convenience products.

With 65 sites across 15 countries and more than 12,000 employees, the group operates through a number of different ERP and BI systems. Combined with a paper-based culture throughout the wider business, IT integration and data sharing has been an ongoing challenge that until recently had never been a priority.

“We needed to build a strategy that would help consolidate this data so it can be accessed by everyone from a single source,” explains Thomas. “This meant starting small – building one area of the business into a proof of concept to get stakeholders on board before rolling out multiple solutions across the entire group.”

Thomas knew this first project would need to give fast results without investing a lot of money, so after exploring a number of use cases, he settled on an important area for Bell Food Group that would easily benefit from digitalization – product tasting.

The current process was simple. Participants are given a range of products to try and asked to rate them based on their look, smell, consistency and taste, with additional comments if anything is rated poorly. At the end of the week, written feedback from multiple tasting sessions is then inputted into an Excel spreadsheet for a product manager to review.

“A clear difficulty here is transparency,” he says. “The whole process is paper-based, which takes a lot of time and doesn’t allow any follow-up questions with the participants once all the data is in Excel.

“There’s also no reporting possibilities, but these were all parts of the process that we could help improve.”

Finding the best platform for the job

With the first use case decided and a familiarity with Microsoft BI solutions, Thomas collaborated with a local Microsoft team to explore what technology would be best suited for the group’s needs.

The solution was Microsoft Power Platform – a strategic platform that allows organizations to easily analyze data, build end-to-end businesses solutions and automate processes through a range of intuitive low-code development tools.

“The initial proof of concept showed us how Microsoft Power Platform could really help digitize a lot of easy processes,” says Thomas. “Not only to help manage our product tasting, but also other business areas across Bell Food Group in the future too.”

This led Microsoft to introduce Bell Food Group to novaCapta – a Microsoft partner who had experience working with Power Platform and could help them create a Power App to streamline the product-tasting process.

“Power Platform is a low-code platform, so we were able to quickly build a Power App that showed off a lot of features they weren’t expecting to see,” says Marco Lötscher, Senior Business Consultant at novaCapta.

“Showing the data structure at this early development phase and how the Power App would look and feel really impressed Bell Food Group, and helped us make faster decisions about additional functionality that both product managers and participants would need.”

Implementing a user-friendly solution

The Power App needed to be tailored toward two different groups – the participants taking part in the tasting sessions and the product managers controlling the sessions behind the scenes. Both needed different functionality and UX, which novaCapta were easily able to tailor through the various tools Microsoft Power Platform offers.

“We decided on Power Platform as it offers a lot of user interfaces and functionalities we could use out of the box to manage our business process flow,” says Lötscher. “It’s easy to sort and filter data, and allowed us to give product managers full oversight of an event across three stages: preparation, ready to conduct, and completion.”

A product tasting Power App was then created that could be added to the smartphones of participants, allowing them to easily choose from multiple-choice answers and add any additional comments through structured feedback criteria – helping product managers more easily compare answers among the testing group.

Managers also have their own version of the Power App that provides additional features, such as a live view of the tasting results and the ability to take pictures through the app and keep them on file for later reference. All in all, a more streamlined and efficient process for everyone involved.

Once the tasting moves into the competition stage, all results and feedback can be easily viewed by product managers as a BI report and shared to reduce decision-making time and show transparency with suppliers and B2B customers. “We also added an extra workflow that automatically generates a comprehensive PDF report of the tasting,” adds Lötscher. “Which helps provide long-term evidence for Bell Food Group to comply with any auditing or product revisions in the future.”

A big step towards a digital future

With the product-tasting app just one part of Bell Food Group’s overall transformation, this digitalization has already helped lower the group’s carbon footprint by reducing paper consumption and also provide higher quality data – helping to better track product development and reduce the time it takes to carry data-heavy processes like audits.

While Power Platform still has more to offer Bell Food Group to help centralize data and make other business processes more efficient, for Thomas, this is a positive step towards a paperless future. “We have multiple business areas outside of Switzerland that do similar product testing, and a lot of other ideas for new use cases and how we can evolve the app to suit other needs.”

Free eBook: Top 7 Trends Every CEO Should Know About the Future of Retail

Download this eBook to understand the key issues that retailers will be focusing on in the coming year

Free eBook: Your Roadmap for a digital-first business

Discover how to navigate, rethink, and optimize for a digital-first world.

Education

Finance & Insurance

Government

  • a display in a building

    How public health and social services can deliver better care with secure digital solutions

    The mission of Public Health and Social Services organisations is to provide the right services to the right citizens at the right time. But how can that be achieved against a backdrop of increasing regulation, growing demand for services and shrinking budgets? That’s the challenge that the IDC white paper ‘Transforming Public Health and Social […]

  • Two people inside using Surface Go in office

    How technology is transforming the work of governments

    Governments have the ultimate responsibility to their citizens. People depend on the services they provide like no other institution. Whether in healthcare, education, business, roads, railways, water – it’s essential that government institutions are always at the forefront of social and digital trends. Cloud-powered technologies are playing a critical role in helping government agencies to […]

Healthcare

  • A portrait of a doctor from San Raffaele hospital in Milan

    IRCCS San Raffaele: Identifying the COVID-19 patients at highest risk with AI

    2020 has been an unpredictable and transformative year for every industry. But no sector has felt the impact of COVID-19 quite as acutely as healthcare. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions all over the world have had to adapt quickly to a situation that is changing and evolving every day. A major aspect of the challenge […]

  • a doctor wearing a white coat and smiling at the camera

    How technology is revolutionising care for patients with chronic conditions

    “I could never have imagined that the monitoring system I had developed for patients with chronic heart disease would one day play a role in the war against a global pandemic.” José Paulo Carvalho, Founding Partner of Portuguese telehealth company Hope Care, explains how technology he has been developing for more than six years – HCAlert […]

Manufacturing

  • A photo of trees

    Future society: The utility company turning up the heat with AI

    One Swedish utility company is undergoing a journey in energy innovation―empowered by dynamic collaborations and AI technology. Frosty commutes from work in wintery Nordic cities are endured knowing that a toasty home awaits. Keeping city energy consumption steadily regulated is key, not just for an economical and warm home for residents, but to minimise environmental […]

  • a man holding a paint spray

    What we can learn from AkzoNobel’s digital transformation

    Savvy businesses are always on the lookout for ways to improve what they do and differentiate themselves from the competition. From organisational restructure to the development of entirely new business models, the quest for continuous improvement takes many forms. But one common factor in almost all modern business leaders’ plans is an emphasis on technological […]

Retail

  • Big data boosts business for beverage company

    Big data boosts business for beverage company

    Contemplate, if you will, the multiple choices available every time you want something to drink. Water? Juice? Soft drink? Do you want a single-serve can or a six-pack? Or maybe you just grab a liter bottle. The fact is, we as consumers expect a lot of options and the global non-alcoholic beverage industry delivers. Arca […]

  • A woman wearing HoloLens

    Natuzzi: A new way of seeing your home with HoloLens

    In retail, the gift of the sales rep has always been to conjure up a vision for the potential buyer. Transport them to another world, surround them with artefacts – imagined or otherwise – that complete a picture in which the customer can envisage themselves. Because when we buy, we buy into something. The object […]