The UK food industry faces significant challenges to remain sustainable. With major challenges, such as Brexit, on the horizon, companies can no longer rely on a low labour cost workforce to maintain low production costs and achieve economic sustainability. Smart Systems (SS) is being seen as an approach towards achieving significant improvements in both economic and environmental sustainability. However, there is little evidence to indicate whether UK food companies are prepared for the implementation of such systems. The purpose of this research is to explore the applicability of Smart Systems in UK food manufacturing companies, and to identify the key priority areas and improvement levers for the implementation of such systems. A triangulated primary research approach is adopted that includes a questionnaire, follow-up interviews, and visits to 32 food manufacturing companies in the UK. The questionnaire and interviews are guided by a unique measuring instrument that the authors developed that focusses upon SS technologies and systems. This paper makes an original contribution in that it is one of the few academic studies to explore the implementation of SS in the industry, and provides a new perspective on the key drivers and inhibitors of its implementation. The findings suggest that the current turbulence in the industry could be bringing food companies closer to the adoption of such systems; hence, it is a good time to define and develop the optimum SS implementation strategy.
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