The 34th edition of the World Cheese Awards was held in Newport, Wales in November this year, where nearly 4,400 cheeses from 42 countries battled it out for the title of World Champion. The event has grown massively since the first competition held in 1988, when just a few hundred cheeses could be judged. When the awards started, each cheese had to be entered manually, with handwritten entries and judges using paper and pens to score each cheese.
Today, thanks to technology, the entire process has been transformed into a slick operation that can handle over 4,000 cheeses being delivered, processed and judged over a 48-hour period.
Journey to the awards
The journey to the awards begins several months before the event, when producers from around the world are invited to nominate their cheese. Rather than filling in paper forms and sending it off, details of each cheese are entered and paid for online. Depending on the type of cheese, its location and its shelf life, entries are then allocated to delivery slots and judging tables. Once allocated, producers can then download and print off their individual delivery instructions, along with barcoded labels to identify their individual cheese and how it will be judged.
265 judges from 38 countries were invited to judge this year’s awards. Each step of the judge invitation process is now done digitally, with judges able to confirm their attendance using their own purpose-built area.
The day before the event, the cheeses arrive by the lorry load. In what can only be described as a military style operation, an incredibly capable team of staff carefully open hundreds of boxes of cheese, before each item is scanned into the system and marked as delivered. The introduction of barcode scanning has transformed the delivery process, speeding it up and making the entire process a slick operation, less prone to human error.
The judging process
Judging day itself has been transformed as well. No longer do judges have to complete paper forms with scores that then need to be input manually into the system. Now each table coordinator has an iPad where they can view each entry, enter their scores and see the award calculated instantly. The new system makes the entire process easier for the judges, but also for the organisers as they can see the judging process on each table in real-time.
Once the judging has ended, results can then be published with the flick of a switch and producers can check their results and instantly download a PDF certificate and logos of their award – clever, eh?
Technology and people working seamlessly together
A bespoke system, built to fit the process and the way the competition works has allowed the awards to expand way beyond its original size, while also making the event easier to manage and more enjoyable for those organising and judging.
New technology can transform the way businesses work, both by allowing them to expand without necessarily increasing their costs and by reducing tedious manual and error prone processes. The entry and judging process at the World Cheese Awards is just one example of how the Data team at AB has transformed business processes using technology.
Barcodes to scan in deliveries, judges inputting scores into iPads and winning entrants being able to instantly download certificates and logos have been game changers for us here at the Guild of Fine Food. It makes organising the World Cheese Awards a lot easier, meaning we can be more accurate and get results back to entrants in about twice the speed. Enabling entrants to update their stockists online also helps ensure more people around the world can find where to buy their winning cheeses – which is a win-win for everyone!
Christabel Cairns from The Guild Of Fine Food
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