9 November 2021- Animal nutrition is focused on the tangible and routine. After all, animals have to eat every day, and growth can be measured. It is a completely appropriate way of looking at the world.
However, this could cause a blind spot when the transformations which are shaking up the world are neither tangible nor incremental. How can the feed industry grapple with a world where the basic building block for innovation is not a nutrient or a calorie but a data point?
Kemin has spent several years focused on translating ideas like “industry 4.0” into concrete benefits for animal nutrition professionals, and has been fighting to ensure the digital revolution doesn’t leave our industry behind. Today, Stefaan Van Dyck, President & CEO of Kemin Animal Nutrition and Health EMENA, and Raf Van Grieken, Marketing Director for EMENA, make a passionate argument in favor of why embracing this digital transformation is not optional but essential to remaining competitive, and how Kemin can be a valuable ally in this journey.
[Feedinfo] Can you give an example of where better data collection and application have helped Kemin or its customers to make better decisions than was previously possible?
[Stefaan Van Dyck] Our commitment towards our customers is focused on three aspects. First, we share our knowledge with our customers and increase transparency, both in the context of specific processes (ordering, delivering) and in sharing scientific research and product insights. Second, we deliver data and analytics that will bring our customers insights to improve their processes. Third, we are constantly transforming our solutions offering to provide services and prescriptive insights to enable self-optimizing processes.
However, until relatively recently, our digital services – focused on this data collection and application – have mainly been concentrated on a digital service we call ‘monitoring’. This is about gathering and analyzing collected data from a remote location. Based on the collected data, we aim to optimize our customers’ inventory, supply chain and service levels, decrease operation costs, and improve their experience. Starting this year, with KEMINCONNECT, we have also begun to focus on the ‘assisting’ service. This service describes the data collected from different touchpoints by aggregating and analyzing it to provide customers with new process insights that allow for predictive actions and analytics. This reduces overall cost and increases productivity and ease of implementation for our programs. In the future we will even go one step further, with our ‘transforming’ service providing customers prescriptive insights, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to enable self-optimizing processes. This service improves quality, safety, productivity, and profitability in all their processes.
Stefaan Van Dyck
[Feedinfo] What does Kemin’s digital transformation journey mean for its customers? How does this translate into customer-facing commitments?
[Stefaan Van Dyck] As I said, the digital transformation journey has a big impact on our customer commitments. Our strategic intent is to digitally transform customer connectivity and engagement. The adoption of business analytics for decision-making therefore comes naturally. Business analytics refers to the use of digital data technologies to enable applied analytical disciplines to drive data-driven business experimentation, business insights or decision-making. Analytics capabilities allow businesses to move from being product-oriented to being able to offer a continuation of valuable customer experiences.
Thanks to digitalization, we have translated this new way of working into changes which can positively impact our customers. These include personalization and localization, tailored solutions addressing (future) customer needs, data-driven decision making, preferred communication formats and channels, and the digitalization of the sales process.
The end goal of our customer-facing actions is always to deliver customer value and improved customer experience.
[Feedinfo] Tell me about your commitment to sharing knowledge with customers and increasing transparency. How is this being applied within Kemin?
[Raf Van Grieken] As mentioned before, sharing our knowledge with our customers and increasing transparency is one of our key commitments, whether in the context of specific processes such as ordering and delivering, or in the sharing of scientific research and product insights. First, on the question of creating more transparency in specific processes, we have begun developing digital platforms to enable our customers to know at any time when their order will be delivered, for example. Secondly, sharing scientific research and insights with our customers has always been a priority within Kemin. Thanks to digitalization, this is now also translated into digital platforms enabling us to share this knowledge much more quickly and easily with them. For example, for our ruminant customers, we launched the Lifelong Learning Customer Platform, a tool which forms the bridge between the scientific community and our customers, offering them constant insights and learnings and enabling them to very easily request tailored support or guidance.
Raf Van Grieken
[Feedinfo] How has an “industry 4.0” approach transformed tools such as your customer portal or solutions finder?
[Raf Van Grieken] As “Industry 4.0” signals a change in the traditional manufacturing landscape, it creates enormous opportunities for the animal nutrition and health industry and fits perfectly into the global digitalization trend. This trend will impact employees working at organizations, how we connect and engage with prospects, customers, suppliers and partners, internal and external processes, and the tools we are implementing to transform customer experience. We all have to further extend our offerings, create value to our customers and transform customer connectivity and engagement. To support this digital customer connectivity and engagement we had to implement new tools such as our customer portal and solution finder. The Customer Portal offers a central location from which our customers can access order history, status, and documentation, available at any time, offering them transparency in their process. The Solution Finder is a searchable system that guides customers to the right documentation, answering their specific questions.
[Feedinfo] Kemin is more than a feed additives company; it has also offered Customer Lab Services for several years. However, the CLS Portal is a more recent extension of that offering. Tell me about the CLS Portal. When did it launch? What does it do? How does it go beyond what Kemin’s Customer Lab Services were previously able to offer?
[Raf Van Grieken] Solutions-selling is a cornerstone within an integrated solution offering. Our customers are not satisfied anymore with only a product offering. They expect to have an integrated solution offering including the right products and tailored technology, accompanied by a (digital) service and consultancy. This also requires our Customer Laboratory Services to evolve along with the digital revolution, focusing more on data-driven services and insights.
One of the actions we took to enable this was the development of a digital portal. Our CLS Portal is an interactive digital platform developed for our customers to consult lab data and to mine for data insights benchmarking customer results and bulk data of the industry. The platform is currently in a test phase and will be launched over the course of 2022. It will complement the already-existing services of our Customer Laboratory Specialists.
[Feedinfo] We have already talked extensively this year about your KEMINCONNECT application management platform, which helps transform data from sensors into actionable information. Can you explain where this project is at in terms of its roll-out? What kind of initial feedback do you have on the system? What is next for the project?
[Raf Van Grieken] In the past months, we have enrolled several key global customers in our KEMINCONNECT platform. These include existing customers with whom we had a long-term relationship and who believe in the added value of making data-driven decisions thanks to a digital platform. The goal of this beta phase is to evaluate the platform on its stability, scalability, security and data governance. Thanks to this feedback, Kemin will be able to fully prepare the platform for the production phase in January 2022. As of then, customers will be able to choose to subscribe to the platform. Additionally, every tailor-made system that is being created in Kemin as of now is prepared to connect to the platform in the future.
The feedback we received from our beta-users is extremely positive. They can now experience for themselves the added value the platform is offering; data-driven insights, information and decision making. By looking at the dashboards you can immediately analyze the data, see which processes need to be adjusted and which actions need to be taken in order to improve your KPI’s. The platform enables customers to maximize efficiency and productivity, to unlock the full potential of the programme—for example by calibrating offline recipes—and to better understand how Kemin’s solutions work within their processes.
[Feedinfo] To what extent do you think the “digital transformation” idea is universally applicable to the animal nutrition industry? Participation in it certainly requires a lot of buy-in, a lot of technical skill, and a lot of coordination within and without a company—what do you say to companies who think “this isn’t for us”?
[Stefaan Van Dyck] Today, digital transformation is about a world where technology helps organizations simplify their operation, from internal processes to external communication, and actually seeks value creation through the combination of products, services and technology. A recent market research report forecasts that the digital transformation market will peak at $3.3 billion by 2025, with a CAGR growth of 22.7% from 2019. Since the 1980s the agricultural industry has been embracing digital technologies enabling precision farming for maximized and optimized food & livestock production. Knowing that the agricultural industry is one of the most quickly accelerating frontiers of technology investment in our economy, it is key to evolve along with it.
Therefore, our entire industry is rapidly evolving into smart and digital agriculture, something which our customers will increasingly demand from us as well. Customers are moving targets and this requires us to build a close partnership with them in order to increase their loyalty. We can only do this if we look into every single need and expectation, something that can only be done with a digital transformed service offering. Data is and will become even more the new gold. Not only just collecting data, but converting these into customer insights and information that enables our customers to learn and take immediate actions.
It is clear that digital transformation is driving a shift from transactional (product) sales towards different information- and service-oriented business models, creating customer value and a superior customer experience. In fact, it’s about securing growth through new and sustainable revenue streams. In order to be successful, there is one condition: we need to look beyond our direct customer to find new customer value spaces. This introduces the need to partner with customers more than just through products, and to look for data driven partnerships upstream/downstream within the value chain: the so-called “ecosystem partnerships” and “digital platform development”.
Kemin is taking big steps in the digital transformation journey, but we cannot transform the industry on our own. We need to partner with others to really make an impact in the entire feed to food chain.
Published in association with Kemin Animal Nutrition and Health