Integrating drive safety functionality to simplify machine automation

ABB’s PROFIsafe plug-in module with integrated safety functions for variable speed drives provides cost-effective safety functionality to simplify installation and commissioning.

ABB is providing integrated safety functionality for its all-compatible variable speed drives (VSDs) to simplify the engineering design process in machine manufacturing and automation. The new plug-in PROFIsafe module (FSPS-21) removes the need for external safety components and reduces the need for configuration.

Machine builders must ensure applications can be controlled safely and stopped quickly if anything goes wrong. To meet demanding safety requirements, engineers have traditionally designed and installed safety functions using external (hardwired) devices. This usually requires additional installation space as well as being costly and time consuming. These challenges can now be overcome by using drive-based safety solutions.
The new functionality enables safe machine control and seamless safety communications between the drive and the programmable logic controller (PLC) in a wide range of machines from conveyors to grinders. This is enabled through the PROFIsafe over the PROFINET IO communication protocol.

“With this new plug-in module it is possible to provide control, ensure safety and enable PC tool communication to the drive through one Ethernet cable, which simplifies installation and commissioning” said Christopher Probst, Low Voltage Drives Product Manager for ABB in Australia. “The module simplifies commissioning significantly because it requires no additional safety configuration in the drive and moreover reduces the need for training.”


The FSPS-21 module is TÜV Nord-certified and is compatible with ABB ACS380 machinery drives, ACS580 general purpose drives and ACS880 industrial drives. The module offers Safe Torque Off (STO) and Safe Stop 1-time controlled (SS1-t) safety functions. It achieves the highest safety levels in machinery safety: SIL 3 / PL e and is, therefore, suitable for even the most demanding applications. It simplifies the design and verification of the safety solution.

Reducing the risks of recalls

With research showing that only 21 per cent of all product recalls over the last decade were detected by the company themselves, it is more important than ever that food and beverage manufacturers review and prevent contamination and mislabeling.

The most startling figures from the food industry are those that hint at the major financial burden of product recalls,” said, Tatjana Milenovic, global head of food and beverage at ABB. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), the estimated average cost for a food recall is $10 million – and that is only the direct costs to the company, such as the retrieval and disposal of the tainted product.

“Food packaging is advancing in many ways, with its principle roles being to protect food products from outside influences — making it a critical component in the overall safety process. However, contamination and mislabeling risks at the packaging stage are often overlooked and emphasis on food safety usually lies in the preparation of the food itself.”

 The risk of recalls
While most food recalls are voluntary, it is usually in the best interest of a food facility to fully cooperate and initiate a significant risk to human health if a manufacturer or distributor is unwilling to launch a voluntary recall, or if the agency decided that the company’s voluntary action is ineffective.

In 2010, multinational food manufacturing company, Kellogg’s, issued a voluntary recall of 28 million cereal boxes because of an “uncharacteristic off-flavour and smell” imparted to the food from the waxed inner packaging. While the company said that the chance of serious illness from the smell was low, the brand’s reputation suffered, with reports showing that the company’s stock prices fell by 0.8 per cent.

Food and drink processing company, Nestlé, had to mandatorily recall two million litres of baby milk in four European countries due to traces of IsopropilThioXantone (ITX) in its cartons. ITX was in the ink used to print the rolls of material before they were converted into packaging.

Although Nestlé attempted to calm consumer fears that their children were in danger of ingesting ITX, the nature of the recall cost the company around $1.75 million.

Food fraud
Food fraud describes any product that is deliberately mislabeled, misrepresented, diluted or manipulated. Unsurprisingly, profit is the main motivator behind this crime — with everyday products like honey, alcohol, milk and coffee being the most commonly counterfeited goods.

Advancements in software are now enabling manufacturers to monitor supply chains digitally, allowing them to easily identify areas where traceability could be improved. Using intelligent supply chain software, such as  ABB’s Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) software, a food manufacturer can view real-time production data from their suppliers. By adding the supplier’s data to their own, the manufacturer can easily identify if the wrong batch of ingredients has been dispatched, before they are used in manufacturing.

Properly declaring allergens in products is another crucial process to avert product recall. Once a company has identified the potential allergens, and processed products according to its hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) system, it is responsible for ensuring the product is adequately packaged, labelled and stored.

Considering that someone goes to the hospital for a food allergy reaction every three minutes, it is troubling that undeclared allergens and ingredients are one of the main drivers behind product recalls. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently evaluated allergen-related recalls and found that they are usually caused by new food ingredients, new suppliers, or a misprinted food label. Mislabeling can be easily controlled by an effective quality assurance department.

The effects of recalls can be far-reaching, affecting everything from consumer health to brand confidence. With the increase in automation sophistication to boost productivity and profit margins, it is becoming more achievable to have a clear, set process in place throughout the whole production cycle.

However, even though manufacturers have manual and automated systems in place to check labelling and packaging, it is up to the manufacturer to make sure that their product is up to standard, to make profit and build reliable brands for customers.



3D printing: A new frontier of food

Sci-fi fans will probably recall Star Trek’s Replicator machine, capable of turning any molecule into a meal. While synthesizing meals on demand may seem like something out of a futuristic movie, 3D printing could soon become a regular way of processing food.

The ability to 3D print food isn’t a huge intuitive leap. After all, we’ve already successfully created medical devices, machine tools and even entire homes using additive manufacturing technology. In 2006, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) began researching 3D printed food and developed the NASA Advanced Food Program seven years later, with the mission of feeding astronauts for extended periods of time.

Haute cuisine and pastry chefs are among those who have brought the technology into the wider market, as the creative freedom afforded by 3D printing means that they can produce especially intricate desserts and decorations. But 3D printing offers much more than avant-garde plate presentation. Although the technology is still under development, its potential for mass food production is tremendous.

Endless possibilities
At a time when consumers’ dietary requirements are becoming increasingly varied, product customization is a huge consideration for increasing competitive edge.

Previously, this customization process involved hand-made skills with low production rates and high costs. Printing food could overcome these limitations by offering a range of shapes, textures and flavors to satisfy consumers’ desires.

Additive manufacturing could also offer a more personalized approach to nutrition. With more options available, 3D printing could be one way of helping to tackle obesity or, at the other end of the spectrum, world hunger.

While we cannot predict that 3D printing will solve some of society’s most pressing food issues, it certainly has the potential to open up new opportunities. For example, ingredients can be placed in distinct positions to alter their nutritional value and items such as salt or sugar can be placed on the outside of a food product or decreased throughout it, resulting in healthier food.

And that’s not all. Manufacturing a single, chewable nutrition pod containing a multitude of active ingredients could be a fast and effective way of handling malnutrition. Customization can then be taken one step further and give individuals exact nutrition supplements based on their personal dietary requirements.

Because the 3D printing model creates a direct manufacturer-to-consumer system, dynamic forecasting will become paramount for manufacturers that will need to determine a wider variety of offerings for their customers. Packaging, logistics and material procurement will also undergo a revolution as the increase in product diversity will present a whole new set of demands. Software such as the ABB AbilityTM Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) suite will need to become an essential part of the inventory handling process, helping manufacturers manage customer requests and achieve a wider product range.

Fight food waste
Printing our food could also help in the fight against food waste. Most supermarket shelves are home to products that will never reach the consumer. Fresh produce that is blemished or misshapen is far less likely to attract customers and is often resigned to waste before it even reaches the shelves. Food that has been 3D printed is manufactured without these natural imperfections, making it more consistent and appealing to browsing shoppers.

It’s not just the outside that counts. 3D printed food can be manufactured from unused products, by creating a printable paste. Using this method allows manufacturers to upcycle items that would otherwise be wasted and increase their margins by producing more products with minimal extra ingredients. For example, bread that has been cut off when mass producing pre-packaged sandwiches could be used to 3D print new loaves, repurposing the excess product into a new item.

Meatless meat
Livestock farming contributes significantly to global warming and uses almost 30 per cent of the planet’s ice-free surface. There are also the issues of food contamination and antibiotic resistance that can arise from livestock farming, not to mention consumer’s increasing conscience towards the ethics of animal slaughter.

One way to fight these issues is to stop consuming meat. However, with our population continuing to soar, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has estimated that demand for meat will increase by 70 per cent by 2050. But what if we could make the future of meat, meatless?

That is what entrepreneur Giusseppe Scionti proposes with his 3D printed steak. Using a paste made of ingredients such as rice, peas and seaweed, the biomedicine researcher has been creating different tissues using bioprinting to imitate the texture of muscular tissue.

Texture is one of 3D printing’s biggest feats. Combined with its ability to tailor nutritional value, this precise replicating of meat products could be one of the main drivers in a switch from animal to plant based food.

Although 3D-printed food is still in its infancy, and researchers and scientists are yet to attain Star Trek levels of “tea, Earl Grey, hot!” at the touch of a button, its potential cannot be ignored. As technology develops, food manufacturers could use the manufacturing method to help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. With tailorable nutrition, upcycled ingredients and the possibility of huge levels of meat reduction, 3D printing could be the industry’s way of tackling major social and environmental issues while improving its own bottom line.

Conveyor belts: which system meets your production line needs?

Conveyor belts have been used to transport material from point A to point B since 1892. However, until recently they were unreliable and prone to breaking down or wearing out, though still more effective than continuing to use manual labour to transport goods around a production plant.

The advent of industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) technologies has reinvigorated conveyor belts by allowing them to develop and evolve. There are now an ever-growing variety of conveyor systems each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Conventional conveyor belts
The most conventional conveyor belt used in the food and beverage industry is made up of two key components: a belt and motor. This simple method can transport most solids and is highly customisable. Overall, there are more than 15 different varieties of traditional belt, such as bucket, trough and magnetic.

The variations don’t stop there, because there are more ways to modify belts. For example, belts can be divided into multiple cross sections, each travelling at a different speed allowing operations managers to appropriately balance the belt. In other cases, variable speed motors alloaw the belt to speed up and slow down at different points optimising energy efficiency and reducing energy costs.

Then there were other weaknesses. For example, belts often have to be replaced due to fraying. This can be disastrous for food and beverage manufacturers as elements of the belt can contaminate the product, resulting in a product recall and downtime if the problem has not been identified sooner. With more plants now working 24/7, unless proper care is taken then there is a chance of motor failure too, which can result in product build up and further downtime.

Because few parts are needed, it has been easy to boost the performance of conveyor belts by using IIoT devices such as smart sensors. For example, when ABB Ability smart sensors have been used to monitor motors, customers have seen a drop in operational costs by up to 30 per cent while commissioning costs of new lines have been reduced by 50 per cent.

Vibrating conveyor belts
Vibrating Conveyors, as the name implies, use rotary, or linear vibration to convey material along the medium. They are best use for moving dry, bulk materials that are durable, such as corn, gravel and coal.

One of the main benefits of a vibrating column is its vertical potential. Unlike traditional belts, vibrating conveyors can lift materials up in relatively compact space. This is because the medium is moulded into a screw shape, allowing for materials to travel up the medium.

Due to fewer parts being required, and the fact that the medium can be made of a sturdier material, in order to resist the vibrations, vibrating conveyors are said to require less maintenance on average than their counterparts. They also require fewer motors than traditional conveyor belts, but this also means that monitoring and maintaining the motor in question is important.

Another important factor for vibrating conveyors is their bearings. Due to the intensity of the vibrations, the state of bearings can deteriorate faster than normal. For this reason ABB not only provides bearings specifically made for vibration applications, but they are also custom made to be monitored by ABB Ability smart sensors.

Air conveyor belts
Air or pneumatic conveyor systems are great for moving easily damaged items, like aluminium cans or empty plastic bottles, at speeds greater than traditional conveyors. There is a reason that this method of conveyor is used in a range of soft drink production systems, most famously Coca-Cola.

This does not mean, however, that the system cannot move more traditional materials that have irregular shapes. Coal and other mined materials come in a variety of sizes and can fracture into highly flammable dusts. Using air conveyors with containment tubes can keep the coal dust contained.

Compared to other systems, air conveyors have a definite speed advantage. However, due to their use of suction or air pressure differentials, they are more delicate systems and require higher levels of maintenance. For example, in the case of a system that uses tubing, these can become clogged creating a blockage that will back log the entire system, However, those that use air pressure differential to transport goods are vulnerable because if one motor fails then the objects may not have enough speed to reach the next motor, causing the system to fail.

Overall, each one of these conveyor systems has its individual strengths that can bolster opportunities in their specific use cases. The decision on which style of conveyor will come down to the material that needs to be moved, the space available, the properties of the material and the speed requirement of the production system. A lot of time has passed since the industrial revolution, which means many new forms of conveying have come into play. The variety is out there – all that is left is to decide which one is for you.

Addressing food sustainably with Artificial Intelligence

With an increasing global population, the urgency to find new and innovative ways to address food demand is felt around the world. Since 1970, fish farming has existed in the Nordics and developed into a major industry. Norway Royal Salmon (NRS) is a leading producer of sustainable salmon, selling about 70,000 tons of salmon every year. This equates to one million salmon meals per day, all year round.

In the harsh and sometimes dangerous environments of the most northern parts of Norway, NRS sought to increase the safety of its employees, reduce operational costs and prioritize sustainability of Nordic aquaculture.

Through an artificial intelligence (AI) for salmon analytics pilot, ABB and Microsoft co-created a solution with NRS to produce quality food in a safer and more environmentally responsible way. The pilot showed that NRS can increase the efficiency and safety of its workers, who now aren’t required to be at open sea as often as before. The new technology will have an impact on the CO2 footprint due to less operations and better fish welfare, resulting in cleaner seas and improved efficiencies.

“Norway Royal Salmon has always focused on extensive research, development, cooperation and innovation,” said Arve Olav Lervag, COO Farming, NRS. “To continuously improve sustainability and increase the safety of our individuals, we worked with ABB and Microsoft to co-create innovative ways that empower us to achieve more on every level.”

ABB and Microsoft implemented technology with remote visual object detection for biomass estimation and fish population counting. The technology will monitor the growth of the salmon and reduce the workload of NRS workers, while providing an edge in collecting critical data from the production of salmon.

Underwater cameras capture images of the salmon in their submerged fish pens, floating kilometers offshore at sea. A layer of AI on top of the video footage makes it possible to measure and count salmon automatically.

“ABB is fully committed to helping bring about a more sustainable future, and here we’re using AI to revolutionize aquaculture and deliver on that promise,” said ABB chief digital officer Guido Jouret. “By monitoring fish health and performance, to minimizing environmental impact and reducing operational costs, ABB Ability is enabling NRS to reach a new level of competitiveness.”

The solution is powered by Microsoft’s Azure cloud and ABB Ability, which delivers ABB’s deep domain expertise from device to edge to cloud to empower customers know more, do more, do better — together.

“The collaboration between ABB, Microsoft and NRS has been highly innovative in this project,” said Christian Bucher, Global AI Specialist, Microsoft. “All parties embarked on a journey with a strong commitment to a sustainable food future. Only through such co-innovation and co-creation between engineering teams and the customer, could we realize maximum benefits. In just a few months, we went from ideation to the on-site solution installation.”

Securing industrial operations in the food and beverage industry

Many people are familiar with the financial risks associated with cyberattacks, but agroterrorism — the intentional disruption of the food supply chain with the intention to harm the population — is an increasing risk. Although the consequences of agroterrorism are relatively high, there has been little attention on minimising this type of threat. Connected automation systems are making food and beverage manufacturing more efficient, productive and cost-effective, but this greater connectivity creates greater opportunities for agroterrorism.

The food and beverage industry has historically been a slow adopter of technology, but this is changing. This high-level of connectivity allows plant managers to gather and monitor multiple data points spanning all areas of the production line, including changes in temperature, equipment performance and the quality of ingredients. This can reap multiple benefits such as increased efficiency, quality, profits and improvements to human safety. Unfortunately, many automation systems like this are prime targets for cybercriminals looking to disrupt a business or industry.

Data vulnerability can fall into several risk categories. For example, theft, public exposure, data corruption or loss, and data manipulation. Making sure that process data is protected against cyber-attacks, should be a priority for all food and beverage manufacturers.

A major risk of data breaches is the malicious manipulation of recipes. Over two million people die from food related illnesses every year and more than 1.3 billion tons of food is discarded due to spoilage. According to a Trustwave Global Security report, the retail, food and beverage sectors are more commonly attacked than banking and financial firms. With increasingly automated production lines, hackers have the potential to hack into programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to poison a food supply or endanger food safety by shutting down refrigeration systems. This could not only impact suppliers but also impact transporters, distributors, and restaurant chains.

Unlike the banking and financial sector, food manufacturing is not regarded as a high-risk industry. Therefore, it is common that food and beverage companies lack comprehensive cyber security programs. However, as evidence suggests, this can risk causing illness and fatalities through tainted food, thus incurring legal battles, fines and negative impact on the brand. That is not to mention the costly downtime associated with shutting down a production line until the problem is dealt with.

Many operational technology systems are interconnected with IT networks, leaving them more exposed as there are multiple access points for cyber-attacks. Insecure remote access, operating system flaws and a lack of staff training can all impact the cybersecurity strength of an organization. However, there are steps to minimize the likelihood of attacks.

Simple measures, such as implementing firewalls, timely deployment of security updates and using anti-virus software, can protect against some common attacks. Security zones should also be essential so that all data can be protected. To ensure safety systems are adequately secured, risk assessments should be carried out to detail each potential threat area and assess the identified vulnerabilities for their likelihood.

Threat detection aims to track and monitor the status of all operational devices and configuration of parameter settings, preventing any unauthorized interventions. Continually monitoring these systems provides plant managers with an early warning sign of any unauthorised changes or malicious events.

Services like the ABB Ability Cyber Security Services, provide manufacturers with customized cybersecurity solutions with multiple layers of control. Delivering sophisticated protection for the entire system lifecycle, from identification of security risk to the recovery of compromised systems, ABB’s  Ability Cyber Security Services can identify the vulnerabilities that exist in a system, so that the areas of weaknesses can be addressed and security controls implemented.

Plant managers should also opt for safety systems with cloud infrastructure built into the platform, allowing them to securely store their data.

Food and beverage manufacturers must adhere to fast production cycles to preserve nutrition value and freshness, while meeting the high-quality standards that the industry demands — and it’s clear that automation is the key to remaining competitive and achieving these goals. However, an effective cybersecurity solution is be integral to keeping these systems safe.

Wholefoods online store packages its commitment to environment

An Australian online wholefood store is upping the ante on reducing its carbon footprint by moving to compostable packaging made from 100 per cent vegetable material.

Lismore-based Affordable Wholefoods sells quality bulk organic, non-organic and gluten free wholefoods in resealable, reusable packaging but wanted to offer a more environmentally friendly option.

Mark Evans, owner of Affordable Wholefoods, said customers are happy with the current option, “But we wanted to give them a choice. More people are looking for ways to reduce waste. That is why we are seeing people move towards reusable and compostable packaging,” he said.

“Since we opened in 2008, we have been searching for a more eco-friendly packaging option. But nothing we tested made the grade. Our packaging needs keep the products fresh from the time of packaging to delivery. With many of our customers in rural and remote areas, that’s important.”

Evans and his team’s search lead them NatureFlex; based on cellulose, which is one of the most naturally abundant organic materials derived from renewable resources such as wood pulp from managed plantations.

“We heard great things about its ability to keep items fresh, which was exactly what we were looking for. Being 100 per cent home compostable, now that was speaking our language,” Mark said.

Affordable Wholefoods did not rush the packaging to market. “We tested it over and over, sending parcels to ourselves and back again to see how well the food travelled,” Evans said. “The results were spectacular. Every single time, the wholefoods arrived fresh.

“This is another way we commit to sustainability. Whether our customers use our soft zip lock bags that can be reused repeatedly for food storage or the new NatureFlex bags, which can be disposed of in worm farms, green recycling bins or home composting systems, it’s another step towards reducing plastic, which is important for the environment.”



Unifying control systems in the food and beverage industry

Many food and beverage plants have incrementally upgraded their systems over the years, with them now being a complex network of distributed control systems (DCSs) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Connecting a mix of DCS and SCADA systems into one master system can have multiple benefits. Here, Darcy Simonis, Industry Network Leader for ABB, explores how a single integrated system architecture can benefit plant operators and managers alike.

The first SCADA systems were independent, with no connectivity to other systems and were traditionally used for operating and monitoring production in a plant. The evolution of SCADA capabilities means that the new generation are now more advanced.  Modern systems can remotely monitor and control operations with coded signals over communication channels and log data for auditing purposes

The importance of collecting, storing and analyzing data is crucial, but this increase in data raises new questions of cybersecurity. If systems are not maintained and software becomes outdated, SCADA-based systems can be left open to vulnerabilities. For this reason, operators should regularly review their systems to protect them against cyber-attacks.

With an increasing amount of data, a DCS system can process a large amount of current information, however the failure of one controller affects more than one loop and requires a skilled operator to minimize downtime. In the food industry, any period of downtime can have catastrophic effects and can result in lost production. With new challenges faced by SCADA and DCS systems, unifying all operations into one master system is key to improve efficiency.

Coupled with technological advancements, rapidly changing consumer demands in the food and beverage industry have forced manufacturers to adapt quickly to retain a competitive edge. Consumers expect traceability throughout the entire supply chain, meaning the need for real-time continuous data is essential. Digital transformation in the food industry continues to be driven by these two key trends. So, what do these shifts mean and how can a move towards an integrated digital operating environment benefit food manufacturers?

Control system modernisation
Unifying control systems into one fully integrated system provides the synchronization of all applications and devices involved in the manufacturing process. This allows for the successful merging of information flow from DCS and SCADA systems, so that it is available in one interface in real-time. And one of the best means of unifying these communications is by using a single industrial software system.

ABB’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is an award-winning solution that allows users to optimize plant manufacturing and maintenance as well as a host of other benefits. These include powerful data analysis, improved quality, targeting areas for efficiency improvement and business-wide visibility. ABB’s system allows users to visualize pending tasks, work instructions, materials, equipment and quality test specifications, all of which are particularly important in the food and beverage sector.

Environmental factors such as trade instability, tightening industry standards and changing consumer preferences mean that manufacturers must ensure their MES is effective and secure to allow swift adaptation to new challenges.

Improved performance
The full integration of systems allows actionable information to be available in real-time to operators, often across multiple plants. Greater control and visibility of data improves security and allows for targeted improvements to processes. It also makes digital twinning feasible, where plant managers simulate plant operations virtually to achieve full plant visualization, support proactive maintenance and aid the decision-making process, not only from an operational but also from a cost-cutting perspective.

Secure reliable processing and an increase in manufacturing flexibility can boost efficiency and productivity, letting users optimize plant manufacturing and maintenance to the maximum.

Meeting industry standards
The food industry has been hit with numerous safety scandals, resulting in former UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove announcing a new law that will require manufacturers to include full ingredients labelling on pre-packaged foods from 2021.


Working to rigorous industry standards, key regulations and new manufacturing practices is vital. Plant managers in the food and beverage sector can improve the safety and quality of their operations, reduce unplanned downtime and mitigate food emergencies by viewing all data points in one place. Faster reactions to any manufacturing process anomalies can improve quality standards which also cuts down on wasted ingredients.

An integrated master system also allows for a shorter time to market for new products due to less delay. If less stock is held up at different stages of the process, this can reduce inventory levels and help raise quality standards.

The future of the digital factory
The successful integration of all systems in the manufacturing process means that plant operators can leverage the diverse capabilities of each system to improve productivity, cost-effectiveness, meet price competition, launch innovative products, and enter new markets. The consideration of multiple data sets with interconnected factors allows for businesses-wide improvement, which is essential in the current climate.

With many food and beverage companies now embracing an integrated control system, the future of manufacturing is digital.

The hazardous nature of food processing plants

In 2014, a large UK food manufacturer had to pay an £800,000 fine after a serious industrial accident. An engineer was trapped by the machinery while examining a conveyor belt and suffered major injuries and ongoing nerve damage. Accidents such as this are widely reported, but many people are unaware of the number of hazardous areas found in food and beverage processing plants.  Here Darcy Simonis, industry network lead for ABB’s food and beverage segment, explains the safety procedures that must be developed in these processing plants.

Across the globe, there are a variety of different regulations for food processing plants. In particular, North America and Europe have strict regulations for safety in these potentially dangerous environments. This also applies to the safety of employees in the processing plants and employers who fail to make adequate safety considerations can face large fines. Not only can these authorities enforce these in the case of accidents, they can also be enforced during regular inspections.

In Europe, the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC requires machinery to be designed and built so that it can be used safely. In food processing plants, there are many dangerous machines for which plant managers should follow safety regulations, or the plants may face closure or high fines. Machines such as decanters exhibit high centrifugal forces during operation, and it is not unknown for the machine’s g-forces to reach more than 2000 times gravitational force. This is clearly a dangerous environment for employees to work in, however as these machines are essential for production, the key concept is the management of risk.

In the 1970s, the increase in heavy machinery such as the creation of the steel press led to increased safety guards. Since then, many safety conscious companies undertake a risk analysis in the initial stages of machine development. In the case of decanters, it is not possible to remove the risk, but it is possible to mitigate the risk to an acceptable level by putting safety guards such as enclosures or emergency stops into place.

The hazardous nature of a food processing plant is especially affected by the need for hygiene, the continuous working of the plant and the high turnover of staff. To comply with hygiene regulations, plants need to be constantly washed down, meaning that despite safety guards, equipment needs to be accessible, which adds additional risk.

Due to the high demand on food and beverage production facilities, plants often run 24 hours a day and continuous operation means there is little time for maintenance and repairs to be carried out. In the food industry, it is during breakdowns when injuries occur. Workers, faced by high targets and strict deadlines, may attempt to repair equipment themselves or even override safety guards to reach into machines and risk injury in the process. It is therefore vital that, regardless of high production targets, employees are well educated in the company’s safety policies and the equipment`s safety features.

Despite overall labor turnover falling in Britain over the last five years, there is a notoriously high turnover of staff in food and beverage processing plants. This presents an additional complication to the hazardous areas. Employers are often reluctant to spend time training staff on safety procedures, but then run the risk of having employees who are not sufficiently up to speed.

The UK’s food processing industry employs 117,000 migrant workers from the EU, which supplies the sector with the necessary labor. However, language barriers and a high turnover of staff can indirectly create safety hazards. It is vital that plant managers communicate safety measures more effectively to reduce the risk to non-English speaking employees — all of which can be done by using visual displays or by placing new staff members alongside more experienced employees.

Wherever you look across the food processing industry, hazardous areas exist. Safety guards need to put in place from the very start of the food chain, such as in the milking process. In milking parlors, exposed platform rollers must be guarded to avoid clothing or employees becoming trapped. Hazards are present throughout the plant, from the handling of the raw material, to production — where industrial ovens can often reach very high temperatures — to the final packaging of the product ready for transportation.

Breweries are a particularly strong example of the hazards present in the food processing industry. The dust generated in the conveying, sieving and milling of malt grains can form flammable dust clouds. This creates a potentially explosive environment, officially classifying the environment as a hazardous area. This means that ATEX ratings must be observed on all equipment used in these facilities.

Later down the line, carbon dioxide, a dangerous by-product of the fermentation process, can be fatal if inhaled. Workers have died while trying to perform repairs or checking fermentation tanks, becoming overwhelmed by CO2 almost immediately. This means that companies should use suitable sensors and locks to separate workers from the tanks, while also educating workers on the associated dangers.

In the beverage industry, particularly in breweries, packaging and filling is one of the most dangerous places in the processing chain. The speed of operation and high quantity of goods being moved increase the risk of things going wrong.

In the beverage industry, glass bottles are commonly filled at high speeds and at high pressure, meaning the bottles could explode if the machines are incorrectly programmed. As these beverage plants are operating under high time pressures, it is not possible to completely stop the production line for receptacles to be changed. Instead, the filler operates at a slow speed, allowing the operator to change the bottle or can. By integrating sensors that can monitor the speed of the machine, companies have the ability to implement emergency stops in the case of a breakdown or safety issue.

Often, organisations find it too difficult to manage the complex world of safety regulations and procedures alone. In this case, it is always better to consult a professional rather than fail to comply with the regulations, as this will work out to be a costly mistake. ABB’s experts can provide detailed advice on regulations in specific countries, which also takes into account the needs of food processing plants.

As companies become more knowledgeable about regulations and regulations become more stringent, the need for retrofitting old equipment with additional safety measures will rise. Although it may seem instinctive, where there is a dangerous moving machine, the safest answer is not always to shut it away behind an enclosure or barrier.

In the food processing industry, companies should consult with functional safety experts that have experience in the sector. The experts will, for example, suggest equipment such as a light grid, which performs a local controlled safe stop when the light grid is actuated. These devices are more appropriate for the food processing sector than using physical guards or barriers, as they allow easier access for maintenance and washdown, which is essential for hygiene in food processing plants.

Functional safety experts are also able to advise on the use of safety programmable logic controllers (PLCs), rather than traditional PLCs. Safety PLCs, such as ABB’s Pluto, are designed to help companies comply with functional safety regulations such as IEC61508 and IEC61511. Safety devices can be connected directly to the PLC, which monitors equipment such as light curtains. By using the PLCs, companies can meet the rigorous standards required in the food industry.

Managers of food processing plants across the globe, regardless of the country’s regulations, should prioritize plant safety. Not only must plant managers comply with regulations to avoid the plant being closed by authorities, they also have a duty to protect their employees.

Plant managers are aware that they manage very hazardous areas and the risks cannot be completely avoided. By working with specialist safety consultants, plant managers should be more aware of what they can do to mitigate risks, all the while considering the specific needs of the food and beverage industry.

Easy to program YuMi cobot complements novelty ice-cream outlet

It can be hard to make a dollar in the retail world. Overheads can be high, margins small, good staff not easy to find, and with the online presence of Amazon, Alibaba and a myriad of other smaller players, competition is fierce.

But people will always need food. And while a recent report from Brick Meets Click has found that online grocery shopping makes up 5.5 per cent of total spend in the category in the US (closely mirrored here in Australia) and is growing, people still like to eat out. And there is still compulsion buying at your favourite fast food outlet, or ice cream store.

Again, competition is fierce so as well as varying the products that are on offer, but also vary the shopping experience, too. This is something digital and robotics solutions company Niska thought when it mooted the idea of opening an ice-cream store in Melbourne’s CBD. Its solutions are aimed at the retail industry, which is why it decided on a novel approach – robots serving customers. The idea of robots serving people has been the purview of science fiction since the genre was invented, however now it is coming to fruition. Although the concept is all Niska’s, the company needed help to bring its idea alive. Enter ABB, who among other things, specialises in robotics.

John Rieusset leads ABB’s business activities in the food and beverage industry. He is also the marketing manager for ABB’s Robotics and Motion businesses. The YuMi robot is known as Tony and adds the toppings to the ice cream, and serves them to customers. A key aspect of Niska’s operation is ABB’s YuMi robot – or cobot as they prefer to call it – which is a popular model that is being used in factories throughout the world.

While the aesthetic side of what the robot looks like in store are a novelty – and Niska are first to admit that is part of the reason for opening the outlet – Rieusset said that the practical aspects of YuMi were the main selling point.

“In terms of deploying YuMi, one of the key aspects as to why Niska was interested was the fact it could be redeployed to do different tasks and it’s very easy to program,” he said. “The robot has what is called a lead-through programming functionality whereby you don’t need a traditional robotics programmer. You basically lead the robot through the motions; you take its arms and you manoeuvre it to do the tasks you want. It records those motions and then it effectively plays it back. It is something that even a child could grasp.”

When new technologies start emerging – even ones that have been mooted for decades – there is usually a backlash from those most affected. In the case of cobots, it is those who work in some aspects of the retail environment. However, Rieusset believes that any thoughts of the demise of the retail worker are premature.

“For this particular concept it is effectively a novelty. In terms of a commercial concept, it’s not something that is necessarily something that is going to work in every retail environment,” he said. “Where we would see robots being introduced in a retail environment would be more in the back room activities. For example, some of the large fast food chains. They are very systematic in their processes. If you go behind of the big burger chains they have everything set up in modules and it like a production line and that’s where we would see robots becoming more involved in that food services industry. It is likely that robots will be introduced at the point of sale, but it’s not going to replace every point of sale job in every aspect of the food industry. That is unlikely.”

Labour savings
A key ingredient as to why some companies – especially in the supply chain – have adopted robotics is the cost savings on labour. What is the return on investment for putting something like a YuMi robot to work?

“The ROI for a YuMi robot can be as little as six months for some picking and packing applications,” he said. “It is a no brainer to introduce a robot, for example, in the picking and packing of sweets. We have a YuMi robot installed at a company in Finland. It is integrated into the production line and it is involved in the picking and packing process.”

Which begs the question; is there a perception that robotics as a solution are seen as expensive?

“I would say that was true,” said Rieusset. “It’s really a case of educating end users that robots can be introduced into their processes. It’s a case of increasing the maturity and understanding generally out in industry as to where that can occur. It’s not only about increasing throughput on production lines – some of the processes are highly repetitive, which creates issues of OH&S risk in businesses. Being able to introduce those robots into the environment is also about de-risking the business in other areas.”

Rieusset also points out that ABB and its ABB Authorised Value Providers have a nationwide network of service engineers that are available if the robots need servicing. He also said that even though robots do have a function in the Niska store, humans do still have a role to play.

“The three robots at the store are involved in the ordering and serving process of the ice cream,” he said. “Niska also has a human staff member within the store that guide people through the ordering process. It’s not as if you walk in and are greeted by robots and you’re left alone to place your order. There is a human element. The robots were introduced to that ice cream store concept just as much as a novelty as anything else.”

YuMi collaborative robots can be deployed into a lot of industries besides the food and beverage sector, including electronics, medical and pharmaceutical.

How to keep frozen food fresh

While many individuals are credited with developing the technique of freezing food, in 1924, Clarence Birdseye invented the quick-freezing method that enables food to be frozen in the way that we know and use today. However, regardless of the type of food being frozen – from meat to exotic fruits – the challenge is always to keep the product fresh and safe for consumers.

Customers demand quality and as a result, freezing techniques have needed to adapt over time. While freezing food had been possible prior to Birdseye’s invention, historical freezing methods were typically slow, meaning that ice crystals would rupture the cell membranes of the food, leaving it undesirable in both texture and taste once thawed.

Nowadays, frozen food is more readily available than ever both commercially and at home. Whether its mass produced pre-chopped vegetables and ready meals for the general public, or consumers preserving leftovers for a future date and salvaging near spoiled food from potential waste, we are all now well accustomed to frozen food being a staple part of our diets.

However, in order to maintain quality, many food manufacturers look to individually quick-freeze products using industrial freezers, which not only freeze food and keep it fresh, but also make it consumer friendly. This can be particularly difficult for smaller items, such as individual pieces of fruit, or pizza toppings, which can easily collect and freeze in bulk if not processed correctly.

READ MORE: Cryogenics offer alternative freezing solutions

Many manufacturers use industrial freezer processes, such as those supplied by Swedish food freezing experts, OctoFrost, which use bedplates to shake products so that they are individually and separately frozen. While this means that the time to freeze items is reduced as the surface area of the product is much smaller, it also means that products are individually useable either by second stage manufacturers, or consumers alike.

A chilly business
Frozen food manufacturing is a risky business. With temperatures potentially shifting anywhere between 25˚C and -30˚C degrees, hygiene requirements must be thorough to avoid risk of contamination and to protect public safety. Food manufacturing equipment must be cleaned regularly, often twice daily for some processes. Yet, with certain integral parts, like motors often being supplied with protective paint coatings, which can be subject to deterioration and damage under corrosive wash down conditions, there is potential for contamination issues to arise.

ABB worked closely with OctoFrost to develop a range of colourless motors to supply the industrial freezer range from the Swedish food freezing experts. While these type of motors are traditionally colored blue, ABB was able to develop and supply unpainted IE2 Process Performance LV fan motor to entire OctoFrost supply chain, as well as offering the range of colorless fan motors to OctoFrost customers that require replacement parts.

This also means that manufacturers can implement even the most rigorous of wash down procedures and there is no risk of paint flaking off and contaminating the food, at whatever stage of the process.

Lessons in mass production

Socrates and his student, Plato, are a perfect example of how good leaders are shaped by observant students. Darcy Simonis, industry network leader for food and beverage at ABB, explains what can be learned from global manufacturing leaders such as China.

China, a leader in mass production, has firm plans to build upon its proud history by investing in the robotics and automation industry. However, because labor is plentiful, mass production is not always automated in China at present. Because China’s working-age population is falling significantly, labor costs are increasing by 15-20 per cent year on year, compared to only 1.6 per cent in the US. This opens opportunities for automation across all economies.

In 2014, the International Federation of Robotics announced that China was buying more robots than any other country each year, partly due to government funds as part of China’s five-year plan to develop intelligent manufacturing. This trend has continued, in 2015 China bought more robots than every European country combined. Generally speaking, Chinese manufacturers are choosing to buy robots from the same global suppliers as other countries, including ABB, despite there being a number of small Chinese robot manufacturers.

READ MORE: ABB awarded unique aquaculture project

“This trend is driven by the Chinese Government´s 2025 initiative to support automation. The country aims to become a leader in automation globally,” explained Joe Gemma, President of the International Federation of Robotics, in February 2017.

Given the clear manufacturing focus in several governments’ foreign policies, including UK and US policy, it’s clear that the progress China is making in automating mass production is something that many countries aspire to. But there is also a clear reciprocal relationship, just as there is with Plato and Socrates, which is allowing countries around the globe to benefit from technological advances.

Mass production became possible because technology and processes evolved to the point that it was not necessary for the majority of workers to be skilled. Three decades of economic growth towards the end of the last millennium was powered by the flow of labor from countryside to city in China. This was a direct result of automation allowing workers to move into manufacturing without retraining from their agricultural background.

Chinese entrepreneurship led to rural inhabitants starting their own manufacturing businesses in the 1980s. To take full advantage of economies of scale, similar entrepreneurs eventually pooled together in production areas and development zones. One good example of this is the city of Datang, where eight million socks are produced each year, one third of the world’s total.

As well as being a thriving hotbed of entrepreneurship, China is also the largest food and beverage market in the world, relying highly on imported goods. In an effort to produce more in the country, China’s 35,000 food processing and manufacturing plants are finding success by using automation in innovative ways. For example, by using automation controlled LED lighting and an innovative growth liquid, Jinpeng Plant Factory outside of Beijing grows up to 15 million seedlings a year in a 14,000-square foot area.

Even in the mass markets of China, automation is being used to great benefit. Reduction in production times, increases in accuracy and repeatability, less human error and increased safety are all benefits cited by Chinese plant managers. However, in keeping with Chinese tradition, automation is being used successfully in innovative, unusual ways to remarkable success.

“What you’re seeing is a really high level of investment in Chinese manufacturing, but most of this is not going to expanding capacity. It’s making the workers more efficient,” explained Andy Rothman, an economist in Hong Kong.

It would be possible to argue that China is the observant student, learning about automation from the rest of the world. Nevertheless, just as Plato was inspired by Socrates, global manufacturing would be wise to pay close attention to China’s progress over the next decade, perhaps the student will quickly become the master.


How global exporters are keeping up with demand

Regardless of whether Venetian explorer Marco Polo really was the first to introduce pasta to Italy in the thirteenth century, food has been exported for thousands of years. For example, the UK has become heavily reliant on imported goods. In the first half of 2018, it imported $43 billion worth of food, with a proportion of five billion pounds of imported meat. In most towns, there is a corner shop that sells imported foods and supermarkets now have ‘world’ food aisles. With a rise in demand for globally imported foods, how do food manufacturers keep up with the demand for exported produce? Here, Darcy Simonis, industry network leader for ABB’s food and beverage segment, explains.

Attitudes to cultures and foods has changed. More than 15 years ago, global foods were not as widely accessible as they are now. From Asia and eastern Europe, to Africa and the Caribbean, it is now as easy to buy foods from these parts of the world as it is to buy domestic products from the country you live in.

Merging travel with cultures
Travel has developed significantly, opening more opportunities to experience different cultures and food, and as a result, cultures are merging. The convenience and appeal of being able to explore more places around the world quicker than ever, means that we are subject to a variety of different cuisines that we want to be able to enjoy at home. As we have become more accepting and adventurous to try foods from different countries, it’s become fashionable to embrace other cultures and experience their food, increasing the demand for exported food.

READ MORE: ABB Australia appoints new boss

Automating your plant
With these factors influencing the desire for foods from around the world, companies need to increase production and enable efficient processing to meet the demand. For instance, Hungarian company, Tisza-TK Projekt has used automation to increase production, decrease operation costs and sustain minimum waste and emissions of its corn grain processing factory.

The new Tisza-TK Projekt factory produces 530,000 tons of GMO-free corn a year and exports 70 per cent of its high fructose products. As the Hungarian government plans to extend the output of local agriculture and increase the value added by processing more crops locally, the new factory is considered a huge contribution to the growth of the Hungarian food industry.

In order to process this amount of corn and operate an energy efficient plant, Tisza-TK Projekt has implemented ABB’s System 800xA Version 6.0 . The system integrates plant utility processes and the process control system, energy monitoring and medium voltage automation.

Automation provides many benefits that allow manufacturers to be able to supply to demand. In particular, System 800xA Version 6.0 allows organizations such as Tisza-TK Projekt to automate processes including packaging, labelling and mixing, enabling it to increase productivity, improve energy efficiency, while reducing waste and emissions.

Whether or not Marco Polo was the first to export pasta, this historic myth has certainly made an impact on the way the food and beverage industry operates. Although, certain types of food manufacturers have no choice but to export their produce, all manufacturers should consider exporting as wider markets can be reached, increasing productivity and sales. However, without automation, manufacturers risk losing their place in the market to growing competition. As travel and popularity of global foods develops, manufacturers will heavily rely on automation to help meet the demand.

Developing new processes for new ingredients

Crispy roasted crickets were recently served in a sushi restaurant in London, re-igniting the discussion about integrating insects into consumer diets. However, less thought has been given to what industry will have to do to handle these new food types. Here Darcy Simonis, industry network leader for ABB’s food and beverage segment, explains how manufacturers can incorporate new ingredients to production.

Consumers love new ingredients to incorporate into their diets, with recent years new food trends including quinoa, avocado and kale. These new food products, with mass consumer appeal, are even more important when they use ingredients that are nutritious and environmentally sustainable. However, the sudden increase from low to large volume production can be an issue when a food product emerges to mass popularity.

Scaling up production and processing food that suddenly and rapidly grows in popularity can be a daunting task. Improperly controlled mass production can cause inefficiencies to spiral out of control, or for unknown issues to come to the forefront. For example, the massive global increase in demand for avocados forced the Kenyan government to ban the export of the fruit as there was not enough to supply local needs.

READ MORE: IGA invests in edible bug revolution

The increase in demand for new ingredients or products also raises the need to implement proper applications for handling new ingredients. In the case of the crickets, most food manufacturing processes are built to deter insects and prevent them from contaminating the food. As such, if insect-based foods were to grow in popularity, new processes would have to be developed to ensure proper cleanliness and hygiene levels.

When a product is in high demand and supplies run low there is also the potential for food fraud to come into play. This is dangerous, with potentially fatal consequences for the end consumer, because the product may have been tampered with, contaminated and may not be fit for human consumption at all.

To combat these potential issues, producers that are handling new exotic products should ensure that they have measures in place so that operations managers have full control and oversight over their facility. Systems such as ABB’s Manufacturing Operation Management (MOM) can help keep track of products as they move around the production line and beyond. The MOM software can give products digital passports allowing producers to accurately tell when the product was produced and exactly what it has come into contact with during production.

MOM’s can also help speed up the implementation period of new products because operation managers will have more in-depth information regarding their system, allowing them to effectively prepare for using a new or unique ingredient.

Being able to effectively prepare production lines for the introduction of a new ingredient is immensely helpful for producers, especially with the mass adoption of plant-based diets, meaning that more producers will begin introducing animal-free alternatives into production lines. Having the level of control brought by a MOM system will cut down on the time required to begin production.

While insects may not have soared in mass consumption just yet, as people become more interested in what is in their food it is likely that new ingredients will come to the forefront. Preparing for these changes by increasing control will help businesses remain ahead of trends and increase their product security, one crispy cricket at a time.

Bringing back the flavour

Store brought tomatoes can be bland. Recently scientists have discovered that it is because domesticated tomatoes are missing over 5,000 genomes compared to their wilder cousins, including the one that gives them their distinctive taste. Thanks to this research, store bought tomatoes may soon regain their flavour. This is not limited to tomatoes; many different products have lost unique properties over the years are now beginning to bring them back.

Tomatoes are an integral part of many recipes from pasta sauce, to shakshuka to the humble BLT. Giving them back their flavor will increase consumer satisfaction in products containing them, but how did we get to this place to begin with?

Over humanity’s 12,000 years as an agricultural society, farmers have selected certain strains of fruits and vegetables that demonstrated particular qualities — specifically fruit size, shelf-life and growth speed. This selective production has meant that certain qualities were encouraged while others were suppressed.

Due to the primitive nature of the science at the time it was also hard to fully understand the effects this would have. In the case of tomatoes, it made them bigger, last longer and grow faster but in return they lost the iconic flavor that made them so popular. Though we may imagine this happened recently it was during the earlier years of our modern era circa 1800, well before the advent of modern GMO’s, that tomatoes started to lose their flavor.

With modern techniques researchers were able to find the gene central to providing flavour to the fruit. Thanks to this development producers are now looking to re-introduce this forgotten flavour gene back into mainstream tomatoes. It is important to note that it was through a modern approach that this was achieved.

Many may believe that a rejection of modern applications means we can return to a more flavourful sustainable time, but this is far from the truth. Not only would rejecting modern methods be a step backwards in production, it would generate more waste and reduce sustainability. Control methods in modern applications and developments are a much more secure path for creating sustainable production methods.

Modern technology also allows food manufacturers to have more of an impact on the flavour of their foods. From keeping produce fresher for longer to making sure that precise amounts of ingredients are mixed while making a product these technologies allow for precise production of quality goods.

For example, smoking houses imbue smoky flavours into cured meats. However, good control is necessary to ensure that the meat receives an even cover of smoke during the process, or the product may end up with an uneven flavour. These steps may have been previously irregularly carried out due to the unbalance smoke distribution or lack of precision in the required timing to impart smoke flavour.

Technology such as manufacturing operations management (MOM) software allows for detailed control over a large production system. In the case of a smoking house it is able to balance fan motors to give the meat an even balance of smoke while also optimising power usage and timings.

With one in place a plant can achieve the production rate necessary to keep up with current demand while providing high levels of control that reduces waste. This is because the system will also be able to track the health of the plant and allow operation managers to take better predictive or preventative measures to lower waste.

MOM software also helps manufacturers become more agile, meaning that production lines can integrate steps that may have been in the traditional recipe but were removed, at the beginning of industrial production, due to being hard to integrate into an automated process.

These modern tools mean that we can actively bring back forgotten flavours without discarding the benefits of modern production methods and while remaining sustainable, allowing us to enjoy the best of both worlds.

ABB Australia appoints new boss

Slavko Planinic has been appointed country managing director and head of industrial automation for ABB in Australia.

Planinic’s strong leadership and  experience across all business lines will underpin ABB’s growth momentum in Australia.

He succeeds Tauno Heinola who is retiring. With more than 30 years’ experience in ABB and having served most recently as ABB Australia’s chief financial officer, Planinic brings an understanding of the company’s market and the challenges facing  key industries.
His oversight and involvement in key market segments and account management programs will see ABB well positioned to seize growth opportunities as companies look to improve their productivity and competitiveness through automation and digitalisation.

In his role as Head of ABB Australia’s industrial automation  business, which is ranked number two in the market globally, Planinic will lead a dedicated team with in-depth domain knowledge.

“ABB Australia’s commitment to supporting our customers, and ongoing engagement to grow the business in our identified segments, is stronger than ever,” said Planinic.
“We believe industrial digitalisation and automation is a tremendous opportunity for businesses in Australia to raise their competitiveness globally and to play an important, decisive role for the future of this country.”

“For government, digitalisation offers innovative solutions for sustainable transport, infrastructure and energy challenges. As a technology leader, ABB is working closely with customers and industry to not only drive productivity but do so in a way that reduces environmental impact.”

Planinic has served as a director of ABB companies in Australia for many years and held finance leadership roles in Europe and across South Asia throughout his career with ABB. He holds a Bachelor of Business Degree from the University of Technology Sydney and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management. Slavko will continue to be based in Sydney.

Food date confusion and traceability

The leading cause of food waste is confusion over what the date labels on products actually mean. A national survey reported that 84 per cent of Americans waste food based on the date label.

Mislead by labels
Each year, millions of dollars are lost, and thousands of tonnes of food is wasted. Common reasons for this waste include damaged produce, it doesn’t meet supplier standards or even that demand is low.

The main reason for disposal of safe to eat food is due to misleading date labels.

The most recognised food date labels are “best before” and “use-by”. A “best before” label indicates that if a product is eaten after the recommended “best before” date, the quality will not be at its best, but it is still safe to eat. However, it’s commonly misinterpreted that the food is no longer safe to eat.

A “use by” date on a product is a safety risk and meat, fish and dairy products should all be eaten on or before the specified date. However, labels like “expiry”, “sell by” and “display until” add confusion, despite not affecting the consumer, only the outlet selling the product for stock control purposes.

Traceability to tackle waste
With millions of pounds worth of perfectly edible food filling landfills, a solution needs to be found. Perhaps one of the simplest is to standardize food date labels across all supermarkets and retail stores. The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has approved a Call to Action in an appeal to standardise food date labels worldwide by 2020, with the aim to half food waste by 2030.

In the meantime, a way that food manufacturers can help to reduce the cause of food waste, could be to implement traceability software.

Traceability allows manufacturers to track and record data of food produce through all stages of production, processing and distribution to the consumer, which could influence how much safe to eat food is wasted.

In recent years, the concept of “farm to fork” has become increasingly popular, with more people interested in where their food comes from. If consumers could trace how long ago and where their meat was slaughtered, packaged and distributed, or if they could see what date their milk was produced and which farm it came from, they may reconsider throwing away food that is safe to eat, reducing waste.

ABB offer traceability software such as Manufacturing Operations Management suite (MOM), which creates a digital trace of a product by integrating all features into a database.

For example, farmers could log all information of their livestock into a central system, including identification number, the age of the animal, what date it was slaughtered or milked, the date of packaging and where it has been distributed. A QR (quick response) code or barcode storing the information could be printed out and applied to the packaging. Once the product is on supermarket shelves, consumers can scan the code to view the product data.

It’s vital that food manufacturers support the reduction of food waste and should be compliant with the ISO 22005:2007 traceability standard as a minimum.

Standardised date labels and traceability will educate the consumer with more knowledge regarding a products journey and process, meaning that consumers have more information at hand in order to make an informed decision when it comes to wasting food.


Allergies: why traceability in food is important

Allergies are a life-altering and life-threatening condition. Daily, up to 20 per cent of patients with allergies face the fear of fatal reactions. Currently worldwide, seven per cent of children have been diagnosed with allergies, compared to just three per cent of the adult population. This  increase demonstrates the need for the food industry to do more to prepare for growing levels of dietary delicacy.

Food manufacturers need to understand this delicate balance, but there are often many barriers stopping them from reporting accurately. From food fraud to confusing or conflicting legislation, the barriers to effective traceability are diverse. However, the risk to consumers is high – even one mistake can cause potentially fatal consequences.

Traceability is the ability to track food through all stages of production, processing and distribution. Most legislation requires producers to be able to trace products one step backwards and one step forwards, at any point in the supply chain. This means that as long as every part of the supply chain is reliable it is hard for ingredients to be mislabeled. It’s simple in theory but can often be a difficult concept to implement.

Food manufacturers need to be compliant with the ISO 22005:2007 standard for traceability in the feed and food chain. However, due to the complexity of modern supply chains, it is harder, but also more vital than ever to have a good overview of the complete process.

To this extent, it is good practice for a food and beverage producer to trace every single ingredient throughout the whole of their supply chain. Not only will this have good business applications, because fully understanding a supply chain will drastically reduce the cost of a recall, but problematic steps or points of contamination will become easier to trace, cutting down the number of products that need to be recalled.

There are tools available to improve traceability, including automated control systems that allow manufacturers to give their product a digital, trackable passport. Recording the details of production digitally through automation systems and feeding them into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Manufacturing Operations Management suite (MOM), will create a comprehensive digital trace.

ERPs and MOMs work by integrating all facets of a business into a single database, allowing an in-depth view of business operations. The systems can then break down a production plant into distinct steps, meaning plant managers can easily identify when a contaminate, or potential contaminant, is present. Producers can then state exactly what is in their product and plant managers can accurately understand how many batches need recalling if issues do occur.

While more than 50 million Americans sufferer from chronic allergies every year, this number is expected to double by 2025. With the rate of people with allergies rising, manufacturers need to prepare their systems for even more detail and reporting for customers. Installing robust traceability can help eradicate unintended allergic reactions, building strong consumer trust and ultimately saving lives.


Cooling tower optimisation

Food and beverage production requires a large range of temperatures. This means that plants must have effective cooling systems to deal with the excess heat. Removing the excess heat from the system requires a cooling tower, however, traditional designs require frequent maintenance. Darcy Simonis, food and beverage group vice president at ABB, explains how to optimise cooling towers.

Food and beverage manufacturers understand that the industry is becoming a constant production environment, especially with the expansion of technologies like cold supply chains. Businesses, therefore, require equipment that can work constantly. However, when producing for long periods of time machines tend to overheat, meaning that to become a constantly working operation cooling systems must also work 24 hours a day

Heating, cooling and pasteurising are all common steps in food and beverage. Each one of these steps either directly or indirectly produces large quantities of heat. Managing this heat is a priority, because otherwise equipment may be damaged through overheating. As such, it is important to have a cooling system that is reliable, requires minimal maintenance and can extract heat at a sufficient rate.

How to optimise cooling
Traditional fans generally use 1500 rpm induction motors that connect to a driveshaft that connects to a gearbox, the gearbox then connects to the fan. This makes the system prone to breakdowns as there are many moving parts, also gearbox maintenance is time consuming and, due to the environment, oil leaks are common. To combat this, modern cooling fans need motors that can be mounted directly onto the fan, while being able to resist the conditions within the cooling tower.

Many of these traditional motors can be replaced with more efficient permanent magnetic motors that can be directly installed onto the fan. This reduces the amount of parts in the system, limiting the risk of breakdowns. They are also compact compared to traditional cooling tower motors, reducing the space required by the system.

Furthermore, the motors help optimize cooling towers by reducing noise pollution and as the motor is reversible allows for the fans to be used to prevent freezing during the colder months of the year. Adding extra functions like this means that the higher efficiency of permanent magnetic motors, especially at partial loads, in tandem with the drive’s variable speed control ensure fast running of the fans at the required speed saving energy, reducing CO2 footprint and lowering running costs.

Permanent magnetic motors from ABB can also be installed with ACS880-01 industrial drives that are built with cooling tower application control programs. This allows the drive to adjust the speed of the motors to match the process demand, further increasing energy savings while lowering wear and tear rates. Meaning that cooling towers will be able run for longer while further reducing the amount of maintenance required during its lifetime.

Overall, upgrading cooling tower systems can lead to major savings and create a platform for constant production that can help drive business growth. Traditional cooling systems, especially cooling fan motors are no longer up to par with the requirements from the system. Optimizing them through the introduction of new technology is the only way to improve production.

ABB awarded unique aquaculture project

ABB systems to power Arctic Offshore Farming’s new salmon farming concept with remote controlled submersible fish pens.

Arctic Offshore Farming is developing a new concept for salmon farming using remote controlled and submersible fish pens based on offshore technology. ABB will have a comprehensive system responsibility for electrical, automation, instrumentation and telecom solutions.

Arctic Offshore Farming is a Norway Royal Salmon (NRS) project. NRS has received 7.68 development permits that allow the company a total of up to 5990 tons of salmon at the fish farm location.

Harsh environment
The offshore farm consists of two large fish cages that are placed in the Norwegian Sea outside Troms, in an area where weather and wave conditions are far more demanding than inside the fjords, where traditional farms are located.

Placing the farm offshore reduces its environmental footprint, while providing an opportunity to study if this can provide a healthier environment for the fish. But the harsh climate also means stricter safety requirements are required. ABB will be responsible for designing the monitoring and control systems that will make it possible to operate the plant safely. This means, among other things, that there are back-up solutions, or redundancy, in critical systems such as energy supply and communication.

The solution is a part of ABB Ability™, the company’s unified, cross-industry digital offering — extending from device to edge to cloud — with devices, systems, solutions, services and a platform that enable our customers to know more, do more, do better, together.

High demands for stability
Pontoons over and under the fish pens will keep the pens in place in two different positions. In the service position, the facility is lifted to allow access to the equipment. In the normal operating position, the roof of the cages will lie 10 meters below the sea surface. This will result in reduced lice impact, while at the same time lowering the risk of escape.

In ballasting and de-ballasting (raising and lowering), the fish pens will be partially submerged.

Among the most critical systems are the pontoon ballast water systems, designed to ensure that the pens are stable. ABB will deliver the control system with sensors, monitoring, automation and interfaces for the remote control of the pumps. The harsh climate in the Norwegian Sea presents challenges with fouling and icing, which will cause time-varying weight changes challenging the constructions ballast system supplied by ABB.

Extensive data collection
The system also collects environmental data including as meteorological conditions, ocean currents, oxygen level and sea temperature. It also monitors the pH at different depths and the amount of biomass in the cages, among others.

“One purpose of awarding a development license is to find solutions to some of the challenges the industry has today so that it can continue to grow in a sustainable way. The pens will be unmanned and operate in submerged operation. The fish pens are remotely controlled from a feed barge that lies about 400 meters from the pens. Technically, the fish farm can just as easily be managed from a control room on land,” says Lars Wasa Andersen, Sales Specialist (Aquaculture) at ABB.

ABB is working to be the most valuable partner within electrical, instrument, automation and telecom systems for aquaculture customers to help improve efficiency, environmental impact and productivity across the value chain, including enabling new solutions for fish farming offshore and onshore. Fish welfare, traceability and food safety are key focus areas of ABB’s support.

“The contract fits perfect with ABB’s vision regarding aquaculture. With this project, ABB is entering as a supplier to the future offshore fish farms, which places new demands on both safe operation and technical solutions. ABB has total responsibility for technical solution within several disciplines”, says Steffen Waal, country manager of ABB Norway.