Rockwell Automation helps an iconic Australian biscuit manufacturer with plant upgrade

Arnott’s is one of the largest food companies in the Asia Pacific region. More than 50,000 Australians have worked for Arnott’s over the past century.

Today, Arnott’s employs around 2,200 Australians across all states and territories.

The company also employs several thousand people across the Asia Pacific region, in countries such as New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

Millions of Australians have grown up with Arnott’s over the past 152 years. For them, Arnott’s is more than a food company – it’s a piece of Australia’s history and a national icon. Arnott’s portfolio of brands includes household names like Tim Tam, Shapes, Iced VoVo, SAO, Vita-Weat, Salada and Tiny Teddy.

READ: NHP to acquire Rockwell Automation related business assets

As consumers continue to seek high quality and variety in product ranges, food and beverage manufacturers are actively looking to invest in new technologies to help them develop a more agile response to changing consumer tastes and increased flexibility in production lines.

Arnott’s produces a wide variety of sweet and savoury biscuits that have been enjoyed by generations. In fact, Arnott’s has invested approximately a quarter of a billion dollars in their Australian biscuit facilities.

The company’s manufacturing plant in Adelaide produces approximately 10,000 tonnes of biscuits annually. To meet increasing local and global consumer demand, Arnott’s recently embarked on Project Flex – a control and HMI system upgrade to deliver increased flexibility and agility for biscuit production.

When embarking on Project Flex, Arnott’s had no hesitation in calling upon their long-standing automation and control provider Sage Automation. According to Stuart Mitchell, senior systems engineer at Sage, “We have been working with Arnott’s in Adelaide for the past 20 years so we are very familiar with the plant. It is a Rockwell Automation site through and through, so we naturally called on them to help with the upgrade.”

With expansion into international markets and a subsequent demand to increase production, it was important for Arnott’s to have the ability to run any biscuit on any line while maintaining product consistency.

The first stage of the project involved updating the legacy oven conveyor’s PLC hardware to improve the way that operators could load new production orders, including a feature that allows different recipes to be stored, selected and produced on the same line. It also involved the installation of two new cooling systems for conveyors including reprogramming of the control system and HMI.

With this new system, Arnott’s were able to achieve greater flexibility on each line with a reduced margin for human error.

The control system upgrade required the migration of legacy SLC controllers to Allen Bradley ControlLogix to help reduce maintenance costs and allow for increased flexibility on production lines.

While justifying the risk and expense of control system upgrades may initially seem like a challenge, investing in modern technologies that leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) helps manufacturers realise the benefits of smart manufacturing.

As Jonathan Footman, solutions architect, Rockwell Automation, explained, “The more connectivity you have across the plant floor helps implement the technology to enable smart manufacturing and progress in the journey towards a connected enterprise.”

To keep the plant running, Arnott’s leveraged the inherent flexibility of the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture system to undergo a staged migration to the new controllers.

The ControlLogix control system offers modular architectures and a range of I/O and network options. Tight integration between the programming software, controller, and I/O modules, reduces development time and costs at commissioning and during normal operation.

To help reduce engineering time, Sage used existing SLC I/O in the first stage and subsequently added some Ethernet Point I/O and Flex I/O on DeviceNet. The RSLogix Project Migrator Tool was used to install the ControlLogix controllers with ease.

“While the majority of the plant uses Ethernet, there is still some equipment communicating through DeviceNet and DH+ so by using ControlLogix, any potential integration issues were overcome because the controller is compatible with all three networks. This flexibility allowed the upgrade to be performed in a staged manner as opposed to having to perform the whole upgrade in one go,” explained Footman.

Investing in modern technologies helped manufacturers realise the benefits of smart manufacturing.

Reducing production loss during an upgrade was often filled with challenges but in this case, thanks to careful planning and a phased approach to the migration, the upgrade was completed with no production loss.

Delivering a wide-range of motor control, Arnott’s installed seven new PowerFlex 525 drives as part of the upgrade. Sage was responsible for the drive integration using existing code to both new and existing Ethernet and DeviceNet networks. Moving to the newer platform increased the operational efficiency and centralised the plant’s control system.

In addition, Arnott’s leveraged the intelligence of the PowerFlex variable speed drives on Ethernet to help operators access real time information in the plant.

“Prior to the drive upgrade, the operators would have to run feedback using analogue set points, which was very time consuming. Now, with the PowerFlex drives on Ethernet, all the diagnostics can be accessed in real time. The drives also have a small footprint, reducing the required panel size,” explained Mitchell.

The HMI design and functionality was updated according to Arnott’s specifications to improve the way operators could load new production orders, including a feature that allows different recipes to be stored, selected and produced on the same line.

Sage designed, programmed and installed the HMI solution allowing for a large number of recipes to be created and stored for each oven. The recipe management page enabled each oven to store recipes with pre-programmed conveyor paths, line speed set points and variables.

The new HMI system utilises PanelView terminals and reduces the number of pages from approximately 70 to only 20, simplifying events with each conveyor having its own pop up with manual controls and speed settings.

The HMI solution allows for a large number of recipes to be created and stored for each oven.

With this new system now in place, Arnott’s was able to achieve greater flexibility on each line with a much reduced margin for human error.

According to Andre Spoor, engineering manager, Arnott’s Biscuits, “Sage upgraded our PLC and HMI with no loss in production and no downtime. It’s a great result for us considering it was such a big upgrade.”

By undertaking a staged approach to the control system migration, the multiple manufacturing control solutions were delivered with no unplanned interruption to production. The system was centralised with all cooling systems being monitored and controlled from a centralised ControlLogix controller.

“The change has ensured that the site improves its ability to be flexible. It has simplified the selection and set up process and therefore reduced operator error and provided control systems for the sites conveyors and cooling systems that are well supported within industry,” explained Spoor.

Thanks to the upgrade, Arnott’s is well positioned to meet the growing demand for increased flexibility and agility in its manufacturing operations. By increasing connectivity across the plant floor, it is realising the benefits of smart manufacturing and is now able to build on this foundation, step-by-step, to work towards a connected enterprise.

JCurve Solutions helps Feel Good Foods step up its business

Running a business with multiple brands while ensuring staff and customers’ needs are met can be challenging.

Every business owner wants each sector within their company to be pristine and functioning at all times.

This is where JCurve Solutions can help. The company provides award-winning cloud software to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

JCS’ Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) enable employees to work smarter, simplify their processes, and empower more agile decision-making.

READ: Emma & Tom’s – growing with JCurve ERP

The tried and tested software is winning over people like Feel Good Foods’ CEO, George Giannakopoulos.

Feel Good Foods has dozens of brands that produce thirst-quenching products such as Bonsoy soy milk and Bod kombucha.

It also helps food cravings with products such as Sprout and Kernel handmade nut cheese.

Describing himself as “not particularly tech-savvy”, it was the all-in-one capability of JCurve ERP, an exclusive small-business edition of NetSuite provided by JCS, that won Giannakopoulos over.

He said the company explored numerous business software solutions, but when Giannakopoulos weighed up the options, JCurve ERP came out on top.

He took his business from a basic online accounting package to an all-inclusive system providing customer-facing sales force automation, quotes and orders, marketing and customer service capability, integrated back-office inventory management, fulfilment, logistics and accounting.

“Since implementation, I’ve really seen how JCurve ERP continues to be a big software for small businesses.”

The data and visibility JCurve ERP provided, allowed Giannakopoulos to more effectively manage staff.

“Decisions are no longer made on a hunch, but rather on hard, identifiable trends and forecasting data.

“As a business owner, I have always known my business, but today with JCurve ERP, I can see inside every channel of my business anywhere, anytime.”

It was a significant step for Giannakopoulos’s business, but a necessary one to achieve its growth objectives.

Over the past 12 months of Feel Good Foods’ journey, JCurve ERP has delivered significant returns in increased productivity, sales and business visibility.

With multiple warehousing capability, JCurve ERP has also provided the necessary features and processes to grow Giannakopoulos’ business on the national stage.

“I have every confidence now in our ability to take our current operations national. That was not possible before JCurve ERP,” he said.

Above all, it’s the day-to-day impact of JCurve ERP that has delivered immediate efficiencies and savings across the business.

Giannakopoulos said when his sales teams are out on the road they can now see stock quantities and customer order history in real-time.

Swapping over to the new system was not as much of a headache as people would think.

“The fact that it is a single unified cloud-based system with one point of contact for support gave me confidence that our transition would be relatively stress-free,” said Giannakopoulos.

“Most importantly, we wouldn’t have to be concerned with manual updates going forward.”

JCurve Solutions empowers business growth and profitability, through its business software, products that effectively manage costs, reduce business inefficiencies and improve the bottom line.

Its cloud-based ERP business management solutions are designed for companies who may have outgrown their accounting-only software or for businesses that work with multiple, disparate systems. JCurve ERP is the Australian and New Zealand small business edition of NetSuite.

It has an exclusive licensing agreement to design, develop and support a NetSuite small business product.

JCurve ERP delivers fully featured software via the cloud that works for small business, without the prohibitive price tag.

ERP software was once the domain of enterprise-level organisations, but cloud software delivery has made ERP accessible for businesses of all sizes.

With cloud ERP implementation, functionality and price points have been able to match small and large business requirements.

Giannakopoulos said his business had improved as drivers didn’t need to go back to the office to re-check information.

This is because Cloud ERP systems allow you to take your business with you and continuously see real-time information.

The single-source data of your ERP system is always accessible, wherever you have an internet connection.

Android and iOS native apps provide a convenient way to see dashboard data and business performance metrics for the user’s role.

Being empowered with information that’s always at your fingertips means being able to make agile decisions, the moment you need to.

Meet the ifm expert – Hao Yang

Meet Hao Yang, Internal Sales Manager with ifm. Hao loves working with a company that is a family business with loyal employees and also loyal long-term customers. He is proud and passionate to be part of the Australian ifm headquarters – a technical centre in the automation world and one of the few, if not only, companies that provide a 5-year warranty on their products. Hear Hao talk about the ‘Close To You’ culture of ifm and how together with customers they can help businesses to grow.

Picking your own box of chocolates – no longer a pipe dream

By Siemens

It’s not available commercially but to demonstrate what the future might hold, a chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland (where else) has experimented by offering a bespoke box of chocolates that Forrest Gump would be happy with.

The production line’s robot enables consumers to order its chocolates any time from any where via Twitter. You can order, for example, three mini bars of dark chocolate and several with nuts and fill the rest of the package with milk chocolate. No white chocolate to be seen. The container is labelled, provided with the necessary product declaration, sealed and shipped to the consumer.

The flexible pick system is an “innovation kit” for Chocolat Frey in Germany and part of experimenting with the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 as it is being dubbed. The company has collaborated with a leading university, the University for Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), packaging specialist Pacvois, automation partner Autexis Holding AG and Siemens using its MindSphere open cloud ecosystem.

“As a university, it’s our job to identify new possibilities and point out where the journey could take us,” says Markus Krack, Head of Technology Transfer FITT at the School of Engineering at the university.

“The system is intended to provide an experience,” Krack explains. “We therefore chose a product and a problem that everyone knows: chocolate!”

The process is currently very expensive because Chocolat Frey is orientated to mass production and individual orders are packaged by hand.

The flexible pick system was financed by the university. “Producing the system was quite a feat,” Krack said. “Everyone pulled together. Even our professors did some of the programming, which doesn’t happen very often.” The partners relied primarily on products and solutions from Siemens. “We used MindSphere, the open cloud ecosystem from Siemens, on which our proprietary Autexis apps can run,” says Philippe Ramseier, the owner of Autexis.

The MindConnect hardware component collects the data from sensors and actuators and transmits it to the MindSphere cloud. A Simatic S7-1500 controller controls the Kuka robot using the TIA Portal library. This significantly simplifies the robot engineering, since the engineer only has to be familiar with the TIA Portal.

Siemens provides an extensive sample application for this purpose, which contains the robot program and the HMI images. The robot path points can thus be taught from a Simatic mobile panel (KTP900F), which gives a common look and feel to the way the machine and robot operate.

Autexis has been working with products from Siemens almost exclusively for 35 years. “This strategy has proven to be successful,” says Ramseier. Thanks to this long-lasting partnership, and by sharing ideas openly with Siemens on a basis of mutual trust, Autexis can apply itself to the development of new products and services.

This is also a good choice for Krack and the university. “Siemens is cutting-edge in the industrial environment. Our students must be able to deal with that.”

The Autexis project team also implemented new services for the Hannover Messe. Inventories or operating data from the robot can be made visible directly on the flexible pick system. “A personalised label gives customers with augmented reality additional information on the product, like the origin of the chocolate and the calories in each item in the assortment,” Ramseier says.

“The system can be expanded almost infinitely,” he adds. “For example, we can integrate the warehouse. If the inventory of mini bars falls below a minimum level, an order is automatically triggered.”

The customer’s preferences and ordering habits can be analysed using the data collected by the flexible pick system. Who likes what chocolate? Who orders chocolate and when? Does customer behaviour depend on the weather? “A customer who orders an especially large amount of chocolate could be sent a fitness studio brochure,” Krack says with a chuckle. And then adds, “Data protection is important to us.”

The flexible pick system is an “innovation kit” for Chocolat Frey, so it can be used to test processes. The results obtained can flow into the operational process later on. Krack also has a lot of praise for the project. “Of course, the research is also aimed at expanding the flexible pick system and developing more processes. As a university, it’s our job to identify new possibilities and point out where the journey could take us.”

Learn how Siemens is helping the Food & Beverage industry adapt to technological change at Digitalize 2018, Siemens’ annual digitalization conference, which will be held in Melbourne on Wednesday, 8 August 2018. For more details and to register, visit www.siemensdigitalize2018.com

Meet the ifm expert – Glenn Thornton

National product and brand manager for ifm, Glenn Thornton, explains what differentiates ifm from other high-tech electronics businesses. Besides offering quality well-priced products and quick turnaround of service, Glenn says what really drives the company and his colleagues are the relationships they develop with customers. Originally an electrician by trade, Glenn appreciates that while getting the job done right is of utmost importance, what he really enjoys at ifm is the ongoing relationship with customers and seeing the outcomes that they achieve.

Meet the ifm expert – Freddie Coertze

Meet expert Freddie Coertze, the Product Manager of Industrial Communications at ifm. Freddie talks about why he loves being part of ifm’s family culture and working with such high quality products. He is particularly inspired by the customers he works with and extending the ifm values of good service to customers, gaining satisfaction from finding the best solutions for them. Hear Freddie explain why ifm’s slogan ‘Close To You’ is not just a saying, but a real company value.

Watch this video to find out more

A new and different stand-on scrubber

Maker of floor cleaning machines and technologies, Tennant Australia has released a scrubber with the right features to deliver speed, agility and performance to food and beverage makers.

The latest addition to the company’s line-up of scrubber-dryers, the T350 is available with Tennant innovations like touch screen ProPanel, ec-H20 NanoClean, Smart-Fill (Automatic Battery Watering) and IRIS asset manager software to help businesses drive down the rising cost of cleaning.

“The T350 is a new and different stand-on scrubber that delivers category-leading productivity by combining the agility of a walk behind unit with the speed of a ride-on for F&B manufacturers who need the best of both worlds,” Josh Hastings, Tennant ANZ marketing manager told Food & Beverage Industry News.

“High productivity rates and great manoeuvrability make this stand-on scrubber an ideal choice for large or obstructed spaces across manufacturing.”

The unit has a cleaning path of up to 600mm (disk) which means it can deliver productivity rates exceeding 2,795 square meters per hour. It easily handles tight turning circles in small spaces while offering speed over larger sized production areas. What’s more, its turning circle has been designed to easily navigate tight spaces with minimal disturbance.

“As with all Tennant equipment, maintenance of health and safety is a key commitment. Food ingredients, oils, grease, debris and spills are specific challenges to food and beverage makers so maintaining cleaning standards with equipment solutions that not only remove dirt and soil, but also leave surfaces safe, dry, and ready for traffic is paramount to safety,” said Hastings.

The T350’s optimised squeegee design and advanced recovery system are designed to reduce the risk of slip-and-fall accidents and ensure soils are removed from the floor quickly and efficiently in fast paced manufacturing environments. New Smart Fill automatic battery watering technology (automatically) fills batteries to proper levels with (distilled) water which helps increase battery life, extend battery run-time and easily optimises long-term battery performance with a nearly maintenance-free battery watering system.

With excellent down pressure (up to 41kg), the T350 is suitable for a variety of floor surfaces found in food manufacturing, including textured and grouted floors with multiple cleaning pad and brush combinations available from the company’s partner, 3M.

“T350 has been designed with latest technology, operator comfort and safety in mind with ergonomic and easy-to-use machine controls including LCD touch panel with on-board (ProPanel) tutorial videos available,” said Hastings. “For safety, before engaging motion, the forward and reverse light will blink until you tell the unit which direction you want to go.  An intuitive and ergonomic green control knob gives the operator an easy (and safe) way to adjust speed while in motion.”

While cleaning, users can choose between four cleaning modes: Standard Conventional Cleaning, Quiet Mode (for sensitive areas), available Severe Environment Mode (for harder to clean areas) and ec-H2O NanoClean (exclusive to Tennant company).

Ec-H20 (pronounced ec-water) is a detergent-free “green” cleaning technology that uses millions of electrically charged nano bubbles. It not only reduces water consumption (by up to 70 per cent when compared to conventional cleaning), but is also ideal for use in food production areas. Additionally, it voids the disposal of conventional cleaning detergents into the waste stream environment.

“Maintaining sanitary environments is critical for food and beverage facilities,” said Hastings. “Tennant’s total floor care solutions help provide clean, hygienic environments where food or beverages are prepared, processed, packaged, bottled, stored or transported.”

Meet the ifm expert – Jas Singh

Meet Jas Singh, who is the Systems and Solutions Manager for ifm in Australia. Jas is an expert in Internet of Things (IoT) solutions – and tailoring solutions for customers based on their specific needs. He is passionate about ifm products – both hardware and software – and gets great satisfaction in creating the ideal solution for a customer. Hear Jas talk about why he prefers to work with ifm, the unique connection that ifm staff have with each other and to their customers, and some of the inspiring projects he has worked on to improve outcomes for his customers.

A new generation of photoelectric sensors

SICK has streamlined its portfolio of object detection sensors and equipped them with new technologies for improved performance. These new smart devices represent a significant improvement, both in terms of usability and reliability.

By focusing on the essentials, SICK has made its photoelectric sensors fit to face future challenges. The new W16 and W26 product families are the result of a consistent simplification and streamlining of the company’s product portfolio. These devices are technically optimized and equipped with new features, intended to make work easier and processes safer.

In addition, as smart components within networked production and control processes in complex machine environments, the sensors are equipped for the industrial future and Industry 4.0. They are not only consistent in terms of housing size, but also in terms of their equipment. Because all features are consistent across both product families, users can rely on these product families for seamless, reliable production in all situations.

The new technologies

Twineye Technology offers operational safety for high-gloss, reflective, and high-contrast objects, such as food packaging. This technology uses one sender and two receivers. Should the light beam be deflected by an uneven or high-gloss surface, the sensor maintains its status until the second receiver can no longer detect the object either. This prevent switching errors.

Linespot technology ensures that perforated, textured, and uneven objects can be reliably detected. The light spot, which has been extended to form a line, allows optical information to be provided about irregularities, such as gaps or rough surfaces.

Clearsens technology ensures transparent objects such as bottles can be accurately detected. The operating element can rotate to set the required mode depending on the object characteristics, and then pressed to carry out the sensor teach-in for the reflector. Where dirt reduces the light emitted by the reflector, Autoadapt technology compensates by adjusting the switching thresholds. This allows cleaning intervals to be extended and the availability of the sensors to be increased.

Depolarizing objects such as foil-wrapped containers also place high demands on sensors. These devices filter the received signal geometrically and can therefore differentiate between reflectors and depolarizing objects, and thus avoid switching errors.

Importantly, the new sensors also provide the input required on the route toward Industry 4.0. They are all equipped as standard with IO-Link and, as smart sensors, can play an active role in end-to-end automation networks.

Optically and mechanically rugged

Until now, ambient light in the form of direct sunlight, LED illumination, and so on has sometimes led to switching errors. The new product families feature an Optofilter which ensures they only see what is there.

They are also more mechanically rugged than predecessors. Their “Vistal” housing is made from a glass-fibre reinforced plastic and is resistant to extreme loads caused by thermal, chemical, or mechanical influences. Also, the sensors’ laser inscription allows clear identification of the device type, even after years of operation. The printed QR code takes the user directly to more product information.

Usability a priority

The usability of the new sensor ranges is intended to create a “cockpit feeling” in the machine room. BluePilot, a blue LED alignment aid which enables faster alignment of sensors and reflectors as well as senders and receivers, helps ensure this.

No further setup is required. In live operation, the LEDs in these device classes also offer a diagnostic function: should detection quality change as a result of contamination and/or vibration, the LEDs indicate the degree of impairment by slowly increasing or decreasing dimming. In this way, operators can detect faults at a glance early on before they result in production failures.

Setting up the new photoelectric proximity sensors with Bluepilot is just as intuitive. To this end, the advantages of the teach-in button and potentiometer have been combined in one operating element. This allows the sensing distance – which is in turn visualized by the blue LED ring – to be configured in a matter of seconds.

With the help of a new smart production system, SICK has been manufacturing W16 and W26 sensors since July 2017 in Germany. Production cells enable the manufacture of bespoke product variants within the context of a modular system under the same conditions as serial products – in a traceable manner, with a serial number for indexing and cross linking.

The new standard in level measurement

Since its introduction about 30 years ago, radar level measurement has continued to change and improve. VEGA Australia offers two 80 GHz units which represent the cutting edge in this field.

Up until the late 1980s, manufacturers used technologies such as capacitance and ultrasonic pressure to measure the levels of liquids and solids inside vessels. However, as is the case with most old technologies, these devices have now been largely superseded.

“Radar technology now is becoming an accepted form of level measurement. Radar has completely replaced traditional methods because of advantages to the client,” John Leadbetter, managing director of VEGA Australia, told Food & Beverage Industry News.

These advantages include better hygiene, efficiency, simplicity, speed, accuracy, and more.

VEGA Australia offers two products which provide all these benefits – the Vegapuls 69 which is mainly used to measure solid materials like grains, flours, and solid mixtures; and the Vegapuls 64, which is suitable for use with liquid and paste materials, such as sauces, dairy products, blends of mixtures, and oils.

80GHz level measurement

These level sensors are the first to use a frequency of 80 GHz. This means they have a narrow beam angle of 3 degrees which provides better focus. In addition, they have an increased power range and can measure up to 120m.

According to Leadbetter, the small size of the sensors is another important factor. “The smaller size in both models allows a lower beam angle. The other thing it does is help with the cost of installation. The customer doesn’t have to go out and modify vessels to larger diameter units. In most cases, existing sockets on the vessels can be utilised for the transmitter. Installation’s a lot simpler and easier,” he said.

While the sensors are suitable for use in many industries, including energy, oil, chemical, building and elsewhere, the models used by food makers have all the necessary industry approvals.

“The Vegapuls 64 carries all the food approvals and the Vegapuls 69 carries what they call the dust approval. This is necessary because things like grain and white sugar are highly explosive,” said Leadbetter.

The importance of hygiene

Hygiene is a crucial consideration for food and beverage makers. The advantage of radar level measurement, in this context, is that the sensor used never come into contact with the material being measured.

Apart from that, operations which use the technology should simply follow normal industry procedures. “Most applications in the food industry use cleaning in place with caustics, so we’re all fully approved, we have temperature ratings and everything for that. Realistically in the food industry you’re going to have no little gaps or anything like that so it’s going to be a smooth finish,” Leadbetter said.

Connectivity and simplicity

According to Leadbetter, another advantage of the sensors is that they are Bluetooth compatible.

“With both units you have a variety of fittings so they are adaptable to the needs of specific clients. They also have built-in asset management which means that, if there has been a problem in the middle of the night, they can go back through the memory and pick out what the problem was,” he said. “Asset management’s a big part of it.”

The sensors are used with an industry standard software called Pactware which is commonly used for instrumentation. Users log into their units through a laptop (or Bluetooth via a smart phone or iPad) and they are able to set the unit up either remotely or connect to it directly.

“The major feedback we get from customers is how easy they are to program. We’ve made it a lot simpler for the customer,” said Leadbetter.

According to Leadbetter, the two units have been very well received by industry. “Three major grain companies in Australia have now standardised on the Vegapuls 69. Also, in the case of the Vegapulse 64 we have food manufacturers that have standardised on the product. This means they are very happy with the performance,” he said.

On top of that, they have proved popular. Combined, they have sold in excess of 80,000 units, across all industries, worldwide.

Leadbetter said that VEGA Australia has all the level measurement bases covered. “We’ve covered the dry and processed food with the same technology. It’s one technology to cover both sides of operations,” he said.

Drainage design and food safety

Cleanliness isn’t only about what’s visible. Behind seemingly clean food preparation environments, there lies a potential hygiene risk. Drainage maker ACO can be part of the solution to this problem.

Ultimately, food safety is about ensuring the food we eat is free from contamination. To do this, food preparation areas must be as clean as possible. The aim must be to prevent work areas from becoming breeding grounds for pathogens such as listeria and salmonella and to limit their spread into other areas of the business.

In food processing plants, the possibility for bacteria to grow exists everywhere from tea towels, utensils and appliances to the floor below. For consumers, the consequence of not addressing this problem can extend to food poisoning, allergies, severe illness and even death. With an increased demand for fresh, ready to eat food and specific dietary and allergen requirements, the pressure is on for food manufacturers to provide safe products.

Every food production and retail facility should understand the need for hygienic practices, identify potential hygiene weaknesses and have a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan in place. HACCP is a process designed to mitigate risk and ensure the highest level of cleanliness for maximum food safety.

How do drainage systems contribute to hygienic practice?

More often than not, after benchtops, appliances, equipment, cupboards and walls have been cleaned, cleaning water and products are swept or washed into the drainage system via grates and then into the floor gully. Therefore, it is crucial that grates and drain systems are thoroughly cleaned.

In many systems, the design of grates, floor gullies and drainage channels makes them difficult to clean thoroughly. This creates potential sites for the growth of bacteria, which can subsequently spread via foot traffic or washdown spray.

ACO is committed to hygienic drainage systems. Under its Hygienefirst philosophy, the company designs grates, gullies and channels for performance, safety and “cleanability”. Ensuring products are completely clean allows for high hygiene levels for food production facilities.

“The drains primary objective is to remove wastewater, be easily cleaned and subsequently be kept clean. If drainage is designed and installed correctly, it will reduce the bacteria that can harbour in joins, corners or crevices that occur with poor designs, thereby reducing the overall risk of contamination and food spoilage,” said Kate Jennings, product manager, ACO Australia.

Some of the key elements in the ACO design include the absence of joins and crevices where bacteria can build up; as well as sharp corners which can be difficult for brooms, mops and cleaning fluids to adequately reach and clean. In addition, drainable design ensures residual contaminated wastewater will not pool or stagnate.

Made of stainless steel for corrosion resistance and easy cleaning, ACO’s grates, floor gullies and channels are constructed with round edges for safe and easy handling, and smooth contours that won’t trap contaminants. In addition, the grates are slip resistant and minimise the risk of workplace injury. ACO recommends a standardised cleaning procedure for their stainless steel channels, drains and floor gullies. (See accompanying box).

For the most part, the level and frequency of cleaning is determined for the most part by the room’s hygienic risk profile. For example, in areas where food preparation is carried out for ready to eat meals, the moisture level of the food is high and therefore more likely to encourage bacteria growth.

“Assessing the risk with HACCP will determine the frequency and depth of the clean,” said Jennings. “Regular maintenance and inspection is often overlooked and must be part of the overall cleaning procedure for the floor and drainage system to ensure a safe food preparation environment.”

Drainage systems with corners and crevices make it difficult for cleaning with brooms and mops as the bristles cannot reach to remove waste products.
Drainage systems with corners and crevices make it difficult for cleaning with brooms and mops as the bristles cannot reach to remove waste products.

Bridging the gap – dock levellers in food & beverage manufacturing

Food & Beverage Industry News talks to MHE-Demag Australia’s Paul Clarke about how dock levellers help businesses improve their bottom lines by ensuring their logistics operations are safe and efficient.

For manufacturers, the gap between the plant floor and the delivery truck is tricky. It not only poses a potential safety risk, but also can be a source of inefficiency. For food and beverage makers, there is an added concern. Because these businesses deal with perishable products, speed and temperature control are important considerations. They have to be able to ensure their goods arrive fresh to their destinations.

MHE-Demag Australia offers a range of solutions to help businesses deal with these concerns.

“The products and solutions we offer within the industrial product market, provide entrance controls that assist with the environmental integrity within food and beverage temperature-controlled storage and manufacturing facilities,” Paul Clarke, MHE-Demag Australia’s national sales manager told Food & Beverage Industry News.

“Our low-maintenance/high-strength docking products, along with our range of industrial doors, assist with improving productivity through longevity and durability and cost reduction through environmental controls.”

How to choose the right dock leveller

There are many dock levellers on the market that are sold with promises of heavy-duty capacity or high quality. However, according to Clarke, those making such claims often overlook some important considerations.

Choosing the right product for each individual application is one such concern. “The correct size and duty of the dock leveller will not only greatly affect the transition between the factory or warehouse floor and the floor, or bed of the trailer or truck being loaded, but also improve the life cycle of the products and maintain safe operational integrity,” he said.

He said that, where floor heights and load averages are known, MHE-Demag Australia can use a formula to identify the most suitable product for the application.

“Our products not only satisfy any concerns surrounding quality, strength and integrity but can also reduce the internal footprint normally taken up by dock leveller equipment,” he said. “This can increase the valuable floor space within manufacturing or storage facilities by taking the loading process outside the buildings with external dock design options.”

The company offers a variety of docking solutions, from the hydraulically operated “Gator” pit or frame mounted dock leveller range, through to “Edge of Dock” and “Scissor Lift” dock platforms in all sizes and configurations.

According to Clarke, the Gator dock leveller is worth highlighting. Research, conducted by the company showed that one of the most critical parts for loading docks is the capacity they can carry. As a result, MHE-Demag Australia designed the Gator from scratch to allow up to 20t being carried over the dock leveller, while having the same dimensions as most existing dock pits. This design enables fitting Gators into existing dock pits as well as consideration for current projects that work on standard pit dimensions.

On top of that, MHE-Demag Australia offers a range of industrial door products as well as number of after-market safety and environmental products such as “vehicle restraint systems”, traffic control/communication systems, lights and fans for safety and comfort as well as “dock seals and shelters” that are designed to provide an environmental enclosure in and around loading docks.

Pre and after-sales support

As national sales manager, Clarke is predominantly concerned with building new business and customer relationships by penetrating into a targeted market and territories.

“I also oversee the establishment or addition of vendor and sub-contract specialist resources to accompany our technical abilities to install and service all products within our holistic product portfolio,” he said.

He pointed out that the company is not just about supplying the highest quality products. Making sure customers choose the right solution for their application is the most important concern.

“That’s why we offer a free, no obligation dock survey and site inspection prior to any business engagement, to assist with identifying any potential issues or hazards that can often be overlooked,” he said. “We also focus on constant improvements to provide high standard after-sales service and planned maintenance options to protect our customers’ best investments and provide ‘peace of mind’.”

MHE-Demag Australia has established a strong presence in the Australian food and beverage manufacturing sector. For example, the company is currently in the final stage of completion within the expansion project at the Coca Cola Amatil site in Brisbane. For this project, it has provided a docking solution package incorporating dock levellers, restraint systems and loading lights through F K Gardener & Sons Constructions.

In addition, the company also has docks installed with RED Trucks Logistics & Storage and Style Ergonomics in Sydney. There have also been further successful projects undertaken at various sites through resellers in Victoria, along with the use of industrial door products within DTZ Auburn rail maintenance facility.

The future of logistics

According to Clarke, the importance of logistics has never been greater. “I believe that with the growing demands of an increasing population within Australia there will always be a need for greater logistical presence and efficiency,” he said.

“With the arrival and expansion of global retail giants like Amazon, Costco, Lidl and many more making their way into our growing market, the need for viable and reliable products that assist with the productivity of this sector will be in high demand. Quality is now the growing focus and presence within this modern market and MHE-Demag is renowned for being at the forefront of quality and safety with cranes and lifting equipment. This experience in delivering highest quality solutions now dwells into docking solutions to serve the food and beverage industry.”

MHE-Demag Australia designed the Gator from scratch to allow up to 20t being carried over the dock leveller.
MHE-Demag Australia designed the Gator from scratch to allow up to 20t being carried over the dock leveller.

Green machines delivering sustainability and growth

Heat and Control, a maker of equipment for processing, product handling, packaging and inspection, helps food businesses achieve sustainability through innovative manufacturing.

Global population growth combined with demand for a more diverse range of products has seen an increase in the levels of pollution and waste levels resulting from food manufacturing. This provides food makers with a number of challenges, including the need to adopt more efficient and sustainable production methods to meet legislative changes around climate change, or to suit company culture and ethics.

Reducing carbon emissions is driving Heat and Control’s commitment to green manufacturing. The company’s R&D teams are constantly looking at ways to create innovative solutions around water and energy reduction technology, waste treatment/reductions and reclaiming or reusing material. The challenge in green manufacturing is being able to reduce waste and pollution while finding ways to improve equipment design to see higher production efficiencies both in equipment and processes.

“This investment into green manufacturing technologies is something we have long prided ourselves on, and we are continuously looking for ways to develop new processes and enhance the existing methods of use” said Jim Strang, CEO – Heat and Control Asia Pacific and Europe.

“When we design our equipment, sustainability is front of mind. We not only ask ourselves how we can increase yield and efficiencies through automation for our customers, but also how we can reduce emissions and waste.”

Energy savings and pollution reduction

Heat and Control offers complete snack systems for producers of natural potato chips, corn and tortilla chips, and other snacks, plus taco shells, corn tortillas, and tostadas.

Many of these now feature energy saving and pollution control systems, with the company developing a number of heat exchangers that combine the incineration of fryer exhaust pollutants with high-efficiency oil heating to help processors meet emission control regulations.

The Kleenheat pollution control heat exchanger incinerates and removes virtually all odours, oil and other particulates from fryer stack exhaust that would normally pollute the air and area around your plant. Heat and Control’s latest graduated density oil heating tube bundle provides 10 per cent greater thermal efficiency than existing models, and is fully compliant with US, EC, and Australian regulations.

Designing innovative ways to reuse previously exhausted waste gases can increase production efficiency and save energy, while reducing carbon emissions. The Heat and Control heat exchanger with combustion air pre-heater (and booster heater) can preheat cooking oil to boost fryer production by up to 11 – 15 per cent with no extra fuel consumption.

Managing oil use

Frying oil can be an expensive part of food processing and any steps the processor can use to reduce loss or wastage of oil are always welcome. Oil recovery during production not only reduces energy usage, but also sees higher yields through cost savings. Where cooking oil is used during production of the finished food product, Heat and Control has sought solutions to increase oil life.

Using the Oil Sweep System (pictured above), manufacturing operations can recover oil used in French fry production through a bank of cyclones and return it to the fryer oil recovery system. In addition, they can remove solid fines and transfer reusable oil by pump back into the frying system.

Heat exchangers can help manage the use of oil, with low oil volume promoting fast oil turnover and inhibiting the formation of free fatty acids.  Rapid, uniform heat transfer allows fryers to respond more quickly to changes in product load, and protects oil quality by maintaining a low oil film temperature.

Water conservation

Heat and Control has increased its use of recycled water for product and equipment cleaning. High levels of water usage can be costly for food manufacturers, so the company has developed a Water Cleanup System (WCS) for its slice washing system, which reduces fresh water usage up to 50 per cent, compared to conventional slice washing systems. WCS cleans and reuses wash water, concentrates starch and fines for more efficient removal, and reduces sewer loading and the burden on a starch recovery system.

Heat and Control has also developed an oil mist eliminator that removes oil mist from fryer exhaust without the need for water or high-horsepower fans and a heat recovery system which recovers normally lost heat from the fryer exhaust stack. This system condenses otherwise wasted steam to make hot water for blanching, sanitation, or even building heat.

The company offers four standard sizes of Stack Heat Recovery Units (SHRS), and can also tailor design applications to individual needs.  Absorption chiller technology is becoming more common in hotter areas for building air conditioning and the company’s SHRS acts as an ideal heat source.

Blanching potatoes before cooking is a necessary but costly part of the potato production process. The Heat and Control E-FLO system uses Pulse Electric Field Processing (PEF) technology to perforate the cell walls of the potatoes, creating micro holes that allow asparagine and reducing sugars to be removed in a cold water wash. The tissue of the potatoes becomes more permeable, which can eliminate or reduce the need to blanch them before cooking. E-FLO can also increase yield which, in turn, reduces energy use.

All these innovations are intended to help Heat and Control’s customers reduce their pollution and waste levels while increasing operational cost savings through improved manufacturing design. Reducing the environmental impacts of processing can lower energy use and overall costs, while providing food manufacturers with innovative technology that will provide a significant return on investment in the years to come.

The E-FLO system reduces the need to blanch potatoes before cooking them.
The E-FLO system reduces the need to blanch potatoes before cooking them.

Packaging solutions for the meat & poultry industries

Signode has 40 years’ experience in supplying innovative, fast, hygienic and reliable strapping machines to the meat and poultry industries. The company’s packaging equipment is manufactured and designed to improve businesses’ bottom lines.

Signode manufactures load containment and protective packaging systems that have been engineered to specific applications; systems that protect products, streamline production and improve profits.

The company knows the meat and poultry industry and understands that, for businesses operating in this sector, the hygiene imperative extends beyond their actual products. By law, for example, packaging machinery used in this sector must be made (internally and externally) with stainless steel.

On top of this important consideration, much like any manufacturer, these businesses are looking for packaging machinery that delivers them speed, accuracy and reliability, while minimising downtime. They want machines that will cut their labour costs and provide good returns on investment.

Signode has become a one stop shop for its customers’ strapping and wrapping needs. The company’s extensive range of equipment, strapping and consumables, backed up with onsite national service and parts supply, suit any application no matter how challenging or demanding.

Strapping machines

Signode makes stainless steel strapping machines to suit low to high volume users, who perform a range of applications and have varying budgets. The company offers everything from entry level semi-automatic machines, right up to fully automated inline strapping machines that can apply as many as 65 straps per minute.

The Signode MST (Pictured above), a semi-automatic, low-cost option for low to moderate volume strapping applications is ready to use in minutes. The machine features an easy-touch LED display control panel and electronic tension adjustment up to 50kg. Available with a full stainless steel body, it also comes with safety switches on each door (including the tabletop cover).

The next step up in terms of speed is the Predator 12 Stainless Steel Automatic (pictured below). An automatic strapping machine manufactured with safety in mind, it is suitable for use in the corrosive environments found in food and meat processing industries, and can apply up to 30 straps per minute.

Features of the Predator 12 Stainless Steel include safety switches on all doors, automatic strap loading, and electronic tension adjustment up to 70kg. It also has an automatic strap eject feature for coil changes and it operates in three modes – manual, tabletop sensor and foot pedal.

Any mis-fed straps are easily and quickly corrected with the Signode Predator’s automatic cut and re-feed feature.

Then there is the top-of-the-line strapping machine, the MOD GPX, which can apply up to 65 straps per minute. Available in automatic and fully automatic inline options, this machine features an entirely modular design that provides unparalleled flexibility and longevity for general purpose strapping machines. Each module can be quickly replaced by operators for desired upgrades or maintenance without disrupting production.

Available in stainless steel for hand presented cartons or fully automated applications, the MOD GPX is ideal for cold, damp environments where corrosion resistance is necessary.

Further features include safety switches, adjustable strap tension up to 90kg, and self-diagnostics.

Given the importance of food safety and the increasing prevalence of food fraud, it is important for food and poultry producers to be able to clearly identify their products.

This imperative makes strapping – rather than say taping or gluing – of boxes a wise choice for these businesses. Signode offers printed strap to compliment export users to identify products for security purposes. This type of identification is particularly valuable for exporters who need to identify themselves in the global supply chain.

Nation-wide support & services

Signode offers more than just quality products. The company’s service, maintenance, engineering and spare parts support help achieve year-on-year uptime for businesses and ultimately reduce their cost of ownership on their machinery.

Before any sales take place, the company works with clients to choose the best machinery for each job. It also conducts audits in order to identify, and then fix operational bottlenecks.

In terms of after sales support, Signode keeps standard equipment in stock to cover maintenance requests and also offers training to enable businesses to fix their own machines, as well as safety training. Service agreements along with preventative maintenance help ensure mechanical issues are fixed before they result in costly downtime.

While the company offers over-the-phone technical support, it realises that this cannot be relied upon in all circumstances. Its field sales and service representation is nation-wide. Importantly, this means that customers in regional areas of Australia are not left out of the service equation.

The company offers flexible buying options for all strapping machines, meaning that customers can either buy outright or take advantage of a rental program.

The Signode package allows customers the peace of mind that they are using safe, reliable, fast, new equipment technology available in full stainless steel or painted finish.

The Predator 12 Stainless Steel Automatic can apply up to 30 straps per minute.
The Predator 12 Stainless Steel Automatic can apply up to 30 straps per minute.

 

Total Tips – design and building advice for food & beverage manufacturers

Welcome to Total Tips, a regular column by plant building and design provider, Total Construction about how businesses can ensure they have well-designed, well-functioning manufacturing facilities that give them the best chance to prosper. This issue we hear from Tom Franks, a design engineer at the company.

TIP 2 – Building to hygiene standards helps ensure a clean working environment and decrease the risk of future food safety issues.

Food safety is priority number one for food and beverage manufacturers. As the recent Australian listeria outbreak illustrates, failure to properly address the issue can lead to illness or even death of the people who matter the most, consumers. On top of that are the business costs. Food safety scares can shut down operations and, worse, significantly damage the reputations of food manufacturers.

Maintaining a clean and safe environment all starts with the design and building of the manufacturing facility.

Designing the facility

When it comes to design, there are many rules to follow. Facilities in this sector must not only conform to the National Construction Code, but also to food and beverage design and hygiene standards. On top of that some buyers, such as Woolworths, have their own standards above and beyond the national standards.

Many factors – including bacteria and microbial growth, disease, vermin, and bugs – need to be considered when designing a facility. A good fit out methodology can help reduce the risk of contamination. Employing smooth and impervious surfaces allows for ease of clean down in operations. Areas where this can help include food grade stainless steel; epoxy resin flooring, sandwich panel walls and ceilings; coved and sealed junctions between floors, walls and ceilings; sealed concrete; and so on.

The presence of a food literate process engineer and a food hygienist can help businesses determine what design features will be required and where.

For example, it is important to ensure there are hand wash basins for employees to use after touching food, sneezing, or coughing. Also, there should be sanitation stations at all entries into production areas; male and female change rooms should be provided, with boot scrubbers or boot change areas with swing over benches if required; and colour coded clothing and tools can be used to identify employees working in high or low risk hygiene areas.

The pooling of water where dirt and grime are present can help listeria breed and grow. Good facility design which ensures all floors have appropriate falls to drains can prevent this. However, it is not only pooling on the floors that can cause problems. Drain pipes themselves can also play a big part in bacteria growth. Thankfully, the use of backflow prevention valves in pipes helps prevent this from happening.

Understanding how the client wants to run the facility from entry to exit, knowing the number of employees, and so forth all help to design a safe facility with appropriate hygiene systems.

Building the facility

From time to time, Total hears people describe food factories as “just boxes”. This is, of course, incorrect and, anyway, it’s what is inside the box that matters. If good hygiene practices are not in place, kitchens and food preparation areas can provide optimal environments for bacteria to breed. Minimising the risk of cross-contamination and spread of bacteria and ensuring proper hygiene are critical elements in ensuring the well-being of staff and consumers.

Total has vast experience in the food and beverage manufacturing sector. The company’s deep understanding of hygiene requirements means that they can be relied upon to deliver not only well-functioning, hygienic facilities, but also peace of mind.

 

How smart is smart packaging?

Smart packaging can help extend food shelf-life, enhance product quality, ensure safety, and monitor product performance through the supply chain. Professor Pierre Pienaar outlines the variations of these products and what they can do.

There are two varieties of smart packaging. The first, active packaging, is designed to extend the shelf life of products. It can do this in a number of ways, such as by releasing or absorbing substances which extend the duration of product quality.

The second type, intelligent packaging, is an extension of active packaging. It can monitor the product’s condition and communicate any changes to the consumer. It should provide more reliable information than just the expiry date printed on the packaging; and should monitor certain aspects of a food product (for example shelf life) and report information to the consumer.

Some of the chief purposes of intelligent packaging systems are improving the quality or value of a product, increasing convenience, and providing tamper or theft resistance.

There are currently three major types of intelligent packaging technologies available, namely sensors (biosensors, gas sensors), indicators (temperature, freshness), and data carriers (barcode, RFID). There is a great variety of indicators in each of these types, as well as much opportunity for further development of this technology.

For example time-temperature indicators (TTI), which are among the most commonly used types, can be classified as biological, physicochemical, chemical, enzymatic, diffusion-based, or polymer-based.

Physical TTI

Diffusion-based TTI is a widely used physical TTI. Fick’s law allows the application of diffusion in TTI. The diffusion rate of a liquid material would be higher at higher temperatures, and its distance of diffusion shows the total influence of environmental temperature. This is the working principle of diffusion-based TTI.

Chemical TTI

The applied principle of chemical TTI is a temperature-dependent chemical reaction. This type of TTI includes polymerisation-based and photochromic-based redox reaction-based TTI, depending on the different reactions it utilises.

Biological

This relates to biological reactions referring to enzymes or microorganisms. Enzyme based indicators present colour change caused by the reaction between enzymes and substrate with a pH change. One part includes lipolytic enzyme solution, lipase and a dye with pH indication. The other part is a substrate, predominantly triglyceride. The indicator will be activated when the gap between enzyme and substrate is broken so that two parts are mixed.

Photochemical

This type of intelligent packaging contains thermochromic ink consisting of dye, reagent and solvent. UV light activates the indicator because the ink absorbs photons with certain wavelengths, and activates them to excited states and forms free radicals or ions.

Controlled permeability packaging

Controlled permeability packaging (CPP) is a less expensive alternative to Modified Atmosphere Packaging (Pictured). In this type of packaging, no gas is flushed out or injected, but rather the produce is packaged within a film that controls the quantity of oxygen and carbon dioxide flowing into and out of the package. This type of packaging is suitable for small scale suppliers in developing countries, where pure MAP might result in the product cost being too high for the average consumer. This packaging produces shelf life results close to, but not as high as pure MAP.

CPP could be a good solution to food waste, especially in developing countries where suppliers may not be able to afford MAP machinery and processes, and where consumers may not be able to afford MAP produce.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is a form of active packaging that utilises bio-nanocomposites consisting of nanoparticles embedded into a biopolymer matrix – with dimensions less than 100 nm.

Antimicrobial nanoparticles

The antimicrobial action of silver nanoparticles is attributable to their high surface area-to-volume ratios which favour their interactions with microbial cells. These silver nanoparticles cause direct damage to the cell membranes of harmful microorganisms, by interacting with negatively charged bio macromolecular compounds with disulphide or sulfhydryl groups and nucleic acids. This results in cell membrane deformation, inactivation of metabolic processes and cell death.

Nanoclay

Nanoclays consist of montmorillonite silicate layers also known as nanoplatelets which are in a stacked arrangement with a nanometric thickness of 1 nm and a structural dimension of 100 nm.

These nanoclays are incorporated into the matrices of a polymer to delay the flow of gases such as oxygen and carbon dioxide from the external environment to the internal environment. Nanoclays exhibit excellent barrier properties due to their high rigidity, aspect ratio and affinity as a result of the interfacial interaction between the matrices of the polymer and the dispersed nanoclay.

Nanosensors

Nanosensors are excellent microorganism detectors as they are able to monitor the safety and quality of food products at various stages of the food supply chain. These sensor systems have the ability to accurately detect food spoilage or microbial contamination in food by interacting with the external and/or internal environment of the food, thus producing a response in the form of a visual signal such as colour indicators on nanosensor labels which correlate with the current state of the food product.

Professor Pierre Pienaar (FAIP, CPP) is Education Director at The Australian Institute of packaging (AIP) and President of The World Packaging Organisation (WPO).

Meet the ifm expert – Aditya Kunder

Aditya Kunder (who goes by his shorter nickname Adi) is a mobile industry sales engineer at ifm – his expertise is in coming up with cost-effective solutions for customers. He loves the diversity of his role and working with customers to find ideal solutions for their business – tailored solutions that will make a difference to the way their business operates. Hear Adi explain why being ‘Close To You’ is not just a saying, but an ifm promise to every customer.

Reborn TPP good news for Australian wine and cheese makers

The Trans Pacific Partnership has been reborn as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. Matthew McDonald examines the new agreement and what it means for our food and beverage industry.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which originally was to include 12 Pacific nations, seemed dead in the water early last year when the then newly elected President Donald Trump declared that the US would not be involved in the deal.

However, at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January, the 11 remaining nations –  Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei – agreed to a new deal known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Then in March, all parties signed the deal (which is also being called TPP-11). Broadly, it cuts tariffs and puts in place common laws and regulations. It is a framework under which separate 18 new bilateral deals between participating countries will sit. Australia, for example, has made new deals with Canada and Mexico.

What’s in it for Australia

From an Australian perspective, farmers and the service sector are the big winners.

In terms of agriculture, our beef exports to Japan (which were worth $2 billion in 2016-17) will be boosted by tariff reductions; and there will be new access for dairy products into Japan, Canada and Mexico.

In addition, Australia will have new access into the Japanese, Canadian and Mexican sugar markets; and there will be an elimination of all tariffs on sheep meat, as well as an elimination of many tariffs on seafood and horticulture.

Also, our cereals and grain exporters will gain new access into Japan. Significantly, for the first time in 20 years, this will include rice products.

trans-pacific-partnership-news-01

However, agriculture isn’t the only winner. The CPTPP will eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in the free trade area. Australian cheese makers, for example, can look forward to the scrapping of a range of tariffs into Japan which currently cover over $100 million of trade.

Also, Australian wine makers, who were already on a high following the recent release of record-breaking export figures for 2017, will further benefit from the news that the CPTPP will see the elimination of tariffs on wine. CEO of Wine Australia, Andreas Clark told Food & Beverage Industry News that the two core benefits for the sector are reduced tariffs and a specific annex for wine and spirits.

“The annex is an exciting part of the partnership as it provides an opportunity to remove a range of technical barriers that can impact our exports. All the parties involved in the CPTPP have agreed on a cooperative framework to remove some of these barriers, which will help streamline trade,” he said.

“The Australian grape and wine community has seen many benefits from our existing free trade agreements with the USA, Japan, Korea and China – among many others – and the CPTPP may allow additional benefits to flow back to grape and wine businesses across the country.”

Clark’s positive reaction was echoed across Australian industry.

“The deal covers 11 nations that together constitute around 30 per cent of the global economy, and four of Australia’s top 10 export markets for food and beverages. The economic weight of the TPP and common set of rules established among 11 countries will greatly support Australian food exporters, providing Australian jobs and economic growth,” said Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC) CEO Tanya Barden.

She pointed out that the deal will result in greater alignment and harmonisation across the region on regulation and behind-the-border trade issues and added that this is particularly relevant to the food industry, which generally face onerous import controls that differ from one nation to another.

“The parliamentary process for reviewing international trade agreements will provide an opportunity to review the TPP agreement in great detail. At the forefront of that review must be the promotion of jobs, investment and growth for Australia’s economic prosperity,” said Barden.

What are the negatives?

While the Opposition has been mostly positive about the deal, sections of the Labor Party claim some Australian workers could suffer as a result of the CPTPP. They say the establishment of labour market testing for any foreign workers are crucial. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has called for the Productivity Commission to conduct an independent analysis of the deal first. He said that if modelling shows the deal is good for the nation and Australian jobs, Labor would back it.

One important feature of trade deals not often noted by the lay person is the fact that they aren’t all about free trade. They are also investor rights agreements. As such, the deal includes an investor-statement-dispute-settlement mechanism (ISDS). This has raised fears that, as the result of the CPTPP, corporations could sue the Australian Government if Australian laws adversely affect their performance. Many point to Philip Morris suing the Australian Government for introducing plain cigarette packaging as an example of what could happen.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo responded to the fears by saying Australia will retain the right to make its own legislation and that the fears were unfounded.

Can we have our chip and eat it too?

Ever since Swedish scientists discovered acrylamide in food in the early 2000s, there has been growing concerns over the potential negative impact it could have on people’s health, and some regulatory bodies have been looking at ways to restrict acrylamide levels in consumer products.

Acrylamide is a chemical, which forms during the cooking process when sugars and amino acids are release from food. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, have the highest levels, ad certain cooking methods, such as frying and barbecuing, produce higher levels than boiling or steaming.

The World Health Organisation and the International Agency for Research on Cancer has labelled acrylamide as “probably carcinogenic to humans”; the US Environmental Protection Agency has categorized it as an “extremely hazardous substance”, and the European Food Safety Authority noted that acrylamide was a “public health concern as it potentially increases the risk of developing cancer in consumers of all ages”

While these groups have given clear warnings to regulatory bodies and pushed for stricter, maximum levels to be enforced, some say that not enough is being done to curb the occurrence of acrylamide in consumer products. Is this trend about to shift?

In 2016, Denmark lowered indicative levels for acrylamide, and it seems that the European Commission (EC) is only steps away to setting stricter regulations. In 2007, the EC adopted a Recommendation on the Monitoring of Acrylamide Levels in Food, in 2011, they adopted a Recommendation on Investigations into the Levels of Acrylamide in Food, and in 2017 the EC is set to vote on draft regulation on acrylamide.

So what does this mean for food producers? The acrylamide topic is continuing to gain traction, and it may only be a matter of time before stricter legislation is realised.

Potato chip producers are one group at the greatest risk of being hit by this legislation, with these products producing some of the highest acrylamide levels. European manufacturers especially cannot be complacent and let changing legislation creep up on them without being duly prepared.

This now begs the question: Is there a way to reduce acrylamide in potato chips without compromising on taste and quality? The answer is yes. The upside is that these products can be marketed as a ‘premium’ product to appeal to an ever-increasing health-conscious market segment.

These are a number of ways to reduce acrylamide levels in food, such as varying cooking temperatures; storing raw product in different ways; harvesting at different times of the year; ingredient additions; or changing growing conditions altogether. But these methods can affect long-term costs and have negative effects on the taste on your products.

For potato product manufacturers, there is an alternative method which can reduce acrylamide levels by over 50%. This method is known as electroporation. Electroporation is a technique in which electrical fields are sent through a cell in order to perforate the out membrane with microscopic holes. In the case of a potato, this process allows sugars and amino acids to be released from the potato prior to cooking, which in turn lessens the occurrence of acrylamide.

Heat and Control, in partnership with ScandiNova – a world leader in the development and production of Pulsed Power Systems, have developed a potato processing machine which does just that. The machine, known as E-FLO, can fit into any potato processing line and requires low voltage, minimal maintenance and has a patented transformer design.

Peeled and washed potatoes are supplied in measured quantities by upstream equipment and delivered to the E-FLO infeed chute. The rotating E-FLO wheel transports the potatoes through the processing area as a compact packed bed through a water bath. Processing has to take place in a water bath for the electrical pulses to influence the product as desired. After a short exposure to the electric field pulses, to perforate the cell walls, the potatoes are lifted and discharged from the water bath by the continuing rotation of the wheel into the discharge chute. The potato then continues down the production line where greater amounts of sugars and amino acids can be removed during the slicing and washing stages. THE RESULT: potato chips with a reduction in acrylamide of over 50%, in some test cases.

But apart from reducing acrylamide and creating a healthier product, there are a number of other advantages to running your potatoes through a gauntlet of electrical fields:

A CRUNCHIER CHIP – A CRISPIER BITE

A notable benefit to pulsing your potatoes with electricity is that your chip is crispier. The E-FLO increases the amount of starch in the outer layers of the potato, which helps to give the chip that all-important bite. It also reduces the need or length of time needed to blanch your potatoes before cooking.

Less wear and tear

Slicing thousands of potatoes daily can quickly result in dull slicer blades. The E-FLO, however softens the tissue of the potato, allowing the blades to slice between the cells of the potato rather than through them. This lessens the pressure and friction on your tools, which means less down time and longer equipment life. Slicing between the cells of the potato also produces a smoother chip surface. A smoother surface means the chip absorbs less oil, which, in the long run, can significantly reduce your oil expenditure.

Product potential

The E-FLO has the potential to work on a range of products, such as differing root vegetables,  making them easier to process. Because the E-FLO softens the tissue of the raw product, different cutting technology can be used to create new shapes more easily.

While there hasn’t been a direct link between acrylamide and cancer in humans, the evidence provides researchers with a ‘more than likely’ scenario. It may just be a matter of time before tougher restrictions are put in place for food manufacturers. Either way, introducing a machine which reduces acrylamide levels while producing a crispier and crunchier chip into your production line makes sense. And giving consumers the choice of a healthier, ‘premium’ product may just increase your customer base.

With the E-FLO, we can all have our chip and eat it too.

Organics industry coming of age

The organic food and beverage sector has announced that Australian Organic is set to become its peak representative body. Matthew McDonald spoke to Quentin Kennedy, a director of that organisation, about where the industry is heading.

Things have changed for the organic food indutry. It has entered the mainstream.

According to the 2017 Australian Organic Market Report, a survey conducted by Australian Organic (AO), more than two out of three Australian households purchased organic products in the previous year.    

And it’s not just consumers who are attracted to organics. The survey showed that Australia has more certified organically managed agricultural land than any other country. In addition, the 27 million-plus hectares used for certified organic farming in this country account for about 7 per cent of our total farmland.

These figures have translated into more organisation. In February, the industry came together for the Love Organic Symposium, an event in Canberra which was attended not only by growers and manufacturers, but also Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud, and others. Out of the symposium it was agreed that, for the first time in Australia, a peak organics body will be formed. Over the coming months a permanent structure of the organisation, to retain the name Australian Organic, will be finalised.

According to Quentin Kennedy (pictured below), a director of AO and managing director of organic cereal grain processor Kialla Pure Foods, most Australians (76 per cent) are already aware of this organisation and its “bud logo”.

Australian Organic logo CMYK

“Originally we began as Biological Farmers of Australia which was both a member-owned body and a certification body. But some years ago we split off the clinical certifier Australian Certified Organic (ACO) as a subsidiary,” he said. “Then we also changed our name and moved from a member-based co-op to a not for profit and renamed ourselves Australian Organic.”

He explained that AO has a license agreement with ACO to approve the use of the logo on all certified products. “We’re separating ACO and opening up use of the bud logo to anyone that has certified with other certification bodies. In return, they will pay a fee which will go towards industry development,” he said.

So AO will now stand alone as the peak industry body. Asked why this step has taken so long, Kennedy nominated diversity and the relative youth of the industry as two important factors.

“The term organic covers all sectors of food and beverage production and agriculture, so having a single voice previously had been a challenge for us. It’s not until an industry starts maturing and getting a critical mass behind certain opinions that you’re able to get consensus.”

Growth, regulation and export potential

The organic food and beverage sector is growing. According to Kennedy, manufacturers of all sizes are now interested in producing organic products. “The bigger corporate players are looking at it now, just from the point of view of differentiating their product,” he said.

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According to the 2017 Australian Organic Market Report, in 2016 Australian exports of organic products increased by 17 per cent (in terms of overall tonnage) as compared to the previous year. While this growth was to all continents, according to Kennedy, much of the future growth is likely to be to Asian markets.

The Government responded to this potential by commissioning professional services network Deloitte Australia to conduct an Organic Export Orders Review. According to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the aim of the review is to improve access for Australian organic products into premium markets and increase the competitiveness of the sector. Submissions ended in late February and the results of the review are due for release in the second half of this year.

Kennedy pointed out that any subsequent regulation is likely to centre around establishing and proving that “organic” products destined for exports are, in fact, organic.

“It’s a regulatory impact statement so they’re assessing the impact of legislation. We want a level of legislation to stay because we need authenticity for our organic exporters,” he said.

In addition, Kennedy said one of the key aims should be to establish equivalence with the national standards of various other nations.

Pointing to personal experience, he said, “One big challenge is we have to be certified to, for example, US standards and Korean standards. Not only is there a lot of lost opportunity but also it adds spend to our systems. We’ve got to store grain in individual silos depending on the certification and we can lose opportunity if we haven’t got product that is certified for Korea.”

Kennedy said that there is still no domestic regulation around organics and said that, though it is not within the scope of the Deloitte review, the industry is hoping this situation will be addressed some time down the track.

“There’s no domestic regulation and it’s a big challenge for us,” he said. “Having domestic regulation around the term ‘organic’ would assist the industry and prevent the players who choose to short cut and not do the right thing.”

But overall he is positive about the industry. He welcomes the establishment of AO as the peak body for the Australian organics industry and is looking forward to the future, both from the point of view of his own business and that of the broader sector.

“The industry’s matured. It’s coming together and it’s a force to be reckoned with. We’ve moved on from being on the hippy fringe, so to speak, and we’re here to stay,” he said.