Some of us fondly remember the famous fast food commercial with a little old lady yelling out, “Where’s the beef?” I find myself thinking of this iconic moment from the '80s and how it relates to the promise of digital transformation today. People are naturally wondering, "Where's the beef?" in reaction to the benefits we expect in the industry. There is meat to this story, literally, in how Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) is working with Hitachi Consulting to deliver the beef.

MLA is responsible for improving the productivity, profitability and sustainability of the beef industry in Australia. While most people don’t think of cattle ranching as a high-tech industry, nothing could be further from the truth for our clients. MLA is aggressively utilizing digital technology from conception to consumption at every step in the value stream to ensure that the best possible product ends up on the consumer’s plate.

Our journey with MLA started with the deployment of cameras to identify individual animals and track their weight gain over time. With the initial success of this deployment the scope and nature of the camera use expanded to include animal health and welfare tracking. These successes were quickly followed by deploying drones to help farmers track pasture quality and quantity, water sources and fence maintenance. The next step incorporated weather stations that captured data about wind, rain, humidity, soil moisture and temperature.

Being able to capture and track data at every step of the value stream is clearly an important step in achieving digital transformation. However, data without analytics and associated improvements in the underlying processes doesn’t really deliver the beef. So, the most recent and most impactful addition to this transformation is the implementation of the Hitachi Process Intelligence (HPI) Solution that brings all of the internal data together and combines it with other relevant external data. This helps farmers make better decisions at every point in the process. With the HPI dashboard, farmers can answer critical questions. How many cattle they will need to breed to meet demand? When and where should herds be moved to maximize weight gain and minimize pasture impact? What steps should be taken to improve welfare of individual animals and herds? What steps can be taken to minimize environmental impact on pastoral and water resources?

  

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The benefits of this digital transformation of Australia’s meat and livestock industry are substantial. The MLA’s 50,000 producer members are finding new ways of increasing profitability, sustainability and global competitiveness. Consumers are assured the availability of high-quality products at competitive prices. And the MLA is fulfilling its vision “to be the recognized leader in delivering world-class research, development and marketing outcomes that benefit Australian cattle, sheep and goat producers.”

For any enterprise looking to transform their operations, MLA’s experience is food for thought.