Industrial Internet of Things: The smart way to transform food

Australian consumers live in a world of abundant choices, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the food and beverage industry. You need only look down a supermarket aisle to see the plethora of brands and product lines, and the variety of the product sizing. While choice increases, so are consumer expectations.

This appetite for variety means food and beverage companies increasingly need to consider the capabilities of their machinery, because they need equipment that can do more, and do it faster. But adding a production line for each new product is difficult at best and does not leave much room for flexibility in operations. Therefore, food and beverage operators are turning to smart manufacturing, embarking on a journey of digital transformation to improve yield, productivity and efficiency across their operations.

One of the new technologies having a significant impact across each aspect of manufacturing is the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Data has always been a useful asset, but when combined with IIoT, it drives business performance and ultimately influences the food we eat.

These interconnected technologies use smart manufacturing and real time analytics for greater insights into industrial operations and increase process optimisation. It is setting the standard for a new era of highly agile production capabilities that offer a key competitive advantage, especially in food and beverage. With consumer tastes and preferences always changing, IIoT provides manufacturers with the flexibility needed to stay ahead of market demand.

Leveraging IIoT with The Connected Enterprise

Manufacturers can look to digital transformation to help navigate a variety of challenges in keeping up with industry developments. This may be limitations presented by legacy equipment, skills gaps in the workforce or ineffective data measurement processes. Smart manufacturing, powered by IIoT using data and information from multiple sources, can drastically improve performance to navigate the challenges that come with meeting changing consumer preferences.

The principal difference between smart andtraditional machines is the utilisationof information enabled by connectivity. Tapping into an ethernet-based network and leveraging IIoT allows smart machines to produce invaluable, standardiseddatasets that, until now, had been trapped in the respective machines, processes and supply chains of food and beverage production. Drawing from coordinated data points across multiple machines provides a platform for deeper analysis to improve processes and also creates a single view of operations.

Using big data analytics, numerous data points retrieved from across the production floor and the enterprise at large can be contextualized into actionable information. This is achieved by converging IT and plant-floor systems into a single network architecture, creating coordinated data streams across operations, referred to as The Connected Enterprise.

Manufacturers can use these information streams in different ways to make more informed decisions, for example around production, product stocking or delays in changeovers. Smart machines also utilisecloud data storage, which is fast becoming the norm for cost-effective and an easy to manage solution, meaning large banks of data can be stored and retrieved remotely.

Smart manufacturing as the gateway to increased operational flexibility

With a new year upon us, the next step towards digital transformation can be combining the broader availability of information achieved via interconnective technology with software like enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI). This opens the door for even more flexibility in operations, enabling food and beverage producers to be more responsive to supply-chain developments and improve on-demand production. For example, accessing real-time information on parameters like temperature, pressure and cook time helps to create a more proactive and agile approach to both food safety and quality. In real-time, operators can also spot performance issues and adjust production lines and use consolidated reporting and analysis of plantwide data and metrics tracking to help monitor and drive better yield.

The advances in smart technology and equipment are increasing opportunities for performance optimisation. Smart machinery can enable more frequent changeovers, effective batch and recipe management tools, enabling manufacturers to use the same machine for a variety of jobs. Technology solutions like independent cart technology (ICT) and robotics are also good examples of this level of flexibility, providing benefits like reduced changeover time, minimisedrisk of complications and overall reduction in time to market.

The further incorporation of robotics creates even more possibilities for end-of-the-line operations, like packaging. Advances in scalable batch and recipe management tools also allow food companies to build agility into their production capabilities, as companies can now easily and efficiently change recipes on the same production line.

Ultimately, IIoT is a key ingredient in the recipe for successful food and beverage manufacturing. The flexibility and real-time insights it affords has the potential to revolutionisebusiness operations and make better informed decisions at every level of the organisation.

It is putting manufacturers in a position to not just accelerate business growth but give consumers more of what they want: choice.

Michael Cahill, Manufacturing Information Solution Consultant, Rockwell Automation
Michael helps maximise the value of the Connected Enterprise for our customers by describing benefits in the specific language that is applicable to them. Michael has over 30 years’ experience within manufacturing and supply chain processes, systems and technologies.

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