EtherCAT G – ultimate I/O performance for high-performance machines

The EtherCAT G technology extension can superimpose itself on Gigabit Ethernet for data-intensive applications. It is compatible with EtherCAT, which uses 100 Mbit/s. In addition, the operation of parallel network segments is possible with the branch concept introduced for EtherCAT G.

EtherCAT G uses the 1 Gbit/s data transmission rate of standard Ethernet; while the EtherCAT G10 variant, achieves data rates of up to 10 Gbit/s. The increase in data rates compared with the standard 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT increases the possible data throughput. In conjunction with the new branch concept, EtherCAT G (1 Gbit/s) enables a two- to seven-fold increase in performance in relation to communication times and up to 10 times the bandwidth, depending on the application. A hundred times the bandwidth is even possible with EtherCAT G10.

A fully compatible technology extension
With EtherCAT G, the success principle of EtherCAT can be used to leverage the high Ethernet data transmission rates that are technologically available today – without any changes to the EtherCAT protocol itself. The telegram sent by the EtherCAT master continues to pass through all network devices. Every EtherCAT slave reads the output data addressed to it on the fly and places its input data in the forwarded frame, but now with data rates of 1 to 10 Gbit/s. As before, the last device in a segment (or branch) will detect an unused port and send the telegram back to the master. The full-duplex property of the Ethernet physics is utilised for this capability.

All other EtherCAT properties are also retained. Devices with three or four ports (junctions) make flexible topologies possible that can be individually adapted to the respective machine architecture. Optional machine modules can be plugged in or out by Hot Connect as required. An internal network diagnostic function helps to minimise machine or plant downtimes and therefore increase availability with familiar efficiency. The integrated distributed clocks concept also remains available and enables synchronisation accuracies of better than 100 ns between devices. Conformity with the Ethernet standard IEEE 802.3 is also guaranteed.

Rollout of EtherCAT G made easy
Performance is key to EtherCAT G. Not only the protocol, but also the fundamental mechanisms and the configuration options remain the same. Only the function blocks necessary for physical access to the communication cables have been replaced by corresponding Gbit/s variants. The master therefore requires no new software, just one Gbit/s port. The existing cable types can also continue to be used: Cat.5e cables for EtherCAT G or Cat.6 cables for EtherCAT G10.

Consequently, EtherCAT G slaves can be operated on an existing EtherCAT master, provided it has the aforementioned Gbit/s port. Several special protocol extensions for EtherCAT G are currently being prepared that will allow for even higher-performance use. However, the extensions required for this on the master side will not be mandatory for the network to be operational.

Branch concept for mixed operation with maximum efficiency
EtherCAT and EtherCAT G can be operated within the same network, i.e. EtherCAT G slaves will work in a 100 Mbit/s EtherCAT network and vice versa. However, all EtherCAT G devices will switch back to the 100 Mbit/s mode in such a mixed network. In order to prevent this, the new branch concept makes EtherCAT branches possible, which enable the parallel operation of 100 Mbit/s segments in a 1 or 10 Gbit/s network through appropriate speed implementations. In this way, a branch of an EtherCAT G segment can be implemented on a 100 Mbit/s network, for example, using the new EK1400 EtherCAT G Coupler, therefore allowing the wide range of standard EtherCAT terminals to be used within the EtherCAT G network environment. The 1 Gbit/s speed of EtherCAT G communication segment is retained.

The EtherCAT G branch concept offers efficiency benefits that minimise propagation times. The CU14xx multi-port branch controllers are designed for this purpose and enable the interconnection of several EtherCAT and EtherCAT G segments. The individual branches are addressed with a single telegram from the master, which will then be processed simultaneously. This makes much shorter signal propagation times possible and therefore shorter communication and cycle times, because the telegram of a segment travels directly from the branch controller back to the master and not through all other connected segments as well. In most applications, the parallel operation of network segments results in an improved performance increase compared to a slight increase in the transmission bandwidth would render possible.

Application and performance examples
For most present-day applications the high performance of standard EtherCAT is fully adequate. Accordingly, EtherCAT G communication was developed with large-scale applications and many devices in mind, as well as the increasing use of particularly data-intensive devices such as vision cameras, complex motion systems or measurement applications with high sampling rates. Machine vision, condition monitoring or the innovative transport systems XTS and XPlanar require transmission of several hundred bytes of process data per cycle for each device. In conjunction with short cycle times of less than a millisecond, the high transmission bandwidths provided by EtherCAT G are called for in this context.

The first practical EtherCAT G application is the XPlanar transport system, which was shown for the first time at the SPS IPC Drives 2018. This planar motor system enables motion control and highly precise positioning of passive free-floating movers with six degrees of freedom. Due to the continuous position feedback required for the unique new system, extremely large data quantities are produced that have to be transmitted within a few microseconds. This would hardly be possible without the high performance of EtherCAT G.

Yume partners with Suez to combat food waste

Yume has announced a partnership to fight commercial food waste. A fight that cannot be fought alone.

Suez and Yume have formed a first of its kind collaboration to tackle the 4.1 million tonnes
that goes to waste every year in Australia in the commercial sector, before it even reaches
supermarkets, restaurants or homes.

War on Waste and Love Food Hate Waste movements shone a spotlight on food waste in
the home and appealed to consumers to change habits at the end of the supply chain.
However, if we take a trip upstream to where the food is grown and made there is a much
bigger problem – some 55 per cent of all waste occurs in the commercial sector: primary
production, manufacturing and wholesale. This is equivalent to 560 semi-trailer loads of
edible food never reaching its destination, and instead going to waste, every single
day. This waste costs the economy $6 billion every year, on top of the substantial
environmental and social impacts.

This is the uncomfortable truth of food waste, the one no one talks about and only few see. Yume and Suez have both seen it and have joined forces to tackle it. We are partnering to offer an integrated full service waste solution to makers and growers that honours the food waste hierarchy. Yume, an online marketplace for surplus food, will be the first interception point where product will be listed for sale to be rehomed and consumed as intended. Suez a world leader in resource recovery and waste management will then focus on optimizing recycling, composting, and energy opportunities to extract the greatest value from precious food resources.

The partnership between Yume and Suez is founded on shared vision. We both have the environment at our core and believe a whole of industry and government approach is required to successfully transition our take-make-waste economy to a resource-recovery model. Yume, as a relatively young organisation, is benefiting from Suez’s deep specialist knowledge and industry connections. Meanwhile, Suez benefits from the ‘disruptor’ mindset that Yume brings as an innovative start-up. This unlikely collaboration creates a win-win-win outcome that will accelerate substantial improvements to the  performance of the commercial food sector.

Katy Barfield founded Yume in 2014 with a bold vision of a world without waste. Australia
has pledged along with 193 countries to adopt the UN Sustainable Development Goal to
halve food waste by 2030. With only 10 years left on the clock, we need to unite and
innovate. Yume is proud to have united with SUEZ to work together to provide an improved
experience and service that directly and measurably diverts food from waste.

With 560 semi-trailer loads of food going to waste every day, it’s time to ask ourselves, what are we doing together to fight this issue?. The problem is huge, too big and confronting to be solved alone and the clock is ticking.

SMC’s smart thermo-chillers for peace-of-mind this summer

SMC’s smart range of thermo-chillers come in an array of sizes and deliver on precise and accurate temperature ranges for peace-of-mind.

According to Guiomar Fernandez, product marketing manager for SMC ANZ, the company’s range of chillers offer proactive control, improved performance and are backed by world-class service.

“With things heating up in Australia and New Zealand, now is the perfect time to order a thermo-chiller for your plant. Industries making use of heat generating devices such as machine tooling, printing and packaging are at risk of high rejection rates, poor product quality and a lack of overall process reliability,” Guiomar said.

In terms of how it works, the recirculating fluid of the chiller removes the heat from the customer’s device. The heat is then removed from the fluid by an air-cooled (or water-cooled) refrigeration circuit. The coolant temperature stability is ±0.1°C within a set temperature range.

“Correct temperature control is vital for productivity,” said Guiomar. When properly sized and selected, a thermo-chiller improves the quality of the final product, protects valuable process equipment, and reduces costs.

SMC offers a variety of solutions ranging from our standard type to our basic types and our high-level type triple inverter type chillers that adapt to the variable heat and flow requirements, achieving substantial power savings of up to 53 per cent.

Answering to the call for Industry 4.0 solutions, SMC’s range of thermo-chillers put the power in its customers hands. “Thanks to proactive controls via a remote control, these units offer self-diagnosis readings so that customers can anticipate and easily manage any incidents.

Environmentally resistant type: The HRS-R series 

  • resistant to dusty environments or environments with water splashing;
  • cooling capacity of up to 5000 W (60 Hz);
  • IP54 rated;
  • large capacity tank of 12L;
  • features a metal panel and a stainless-steel panel can be selected on request; and
  • ambient temperature of 5 to 45°

Series HRR (rack mount)

The temperature control device is mountable in a 19-inch rack, which is great for space savings:

  • temperature stability: ±1℃;
  • temperature range of 10 to 35°C;
  • cooling capacity: 1.2/1.8/2.4/3.0 kW (60 Hz);
  • easy front access; and
  • easy to operate without removing the unit from the rack.

Add-ons such as flow switches, pressure switches, filters, fittings and tubing are also available to order.

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.

New way to get rid of excess food

Imagine a stack of pallets full of surplus food – 4.1 million tonnes worth. And imagine you could stack those pallets on top of each other one at a time. Now, imagine that once stacked, these pallets would reach all the way from Earth to the International Space Station – 14 times over. That is how much commercial food waste there is every year in Australia alone. Remember, that is only commercial food waste, and doesn’t include household waste, which makes up another 34 per cent.

It’s a staggering statistic that still amazes Katy Barfield, who set up the Yume marketplace because she knew that there must be a better way of utilising surplus commercial food waste than throwing it away. It is not Barfield’s first foray into food waste recovery having started food rescue organisation SecondBite back in 2006. Although the organisation does a great job, Barfield soon realised that SecondBite, along with other food rescue organisations OzHarvest, Foodbank and Fareshare, only managed to move less than two per cent of that 4.1 million tonnes.

Barfield knew there had to be a better way. Therefore, Yume was born. The interactive website offers a platform where food and beverage manufacturers and processors, who would usually throw away production runs for a variety of reasons – wrong labelling, batch over-runs, cancelled orders – can put it on the site to be sold to interested third parties. When the idea was first mooted, Barfield thought it sounded pretty simple.

READ MORE: Australian food waste bill hits $10.1bn

“It is the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire career,” she said at a speech she gave at the Waste & Recycling Expo held in Sydney recently. “Because when I came up with the idea of doing this – whereby big brands and farmers could put this stuff onto the platform – and put it up for sale to a new cohort of new suppliers, people told me I was mad. They said, ‘no one will go for that. You’re cuckoo. Bonkers. Think you better start again’. Their reasoning was, ‘who was going to buy products unseen off an online platform?’”

It was a fair point at the time. In theory, the idea was great. Who wouldn’t support an initiative where food waste was lessened – it sounded like a win-win. The manufacturers and food processors get money for products that they would have to pay to get rid of, and third-party vendors get a quality product they can on-sell or utilise. However, Barfield also knew that, especially with some of the bigger name manufacturers, branding is more important than being seen to be eco-friendly. Barfield and her team found a way around it.

“Suppliers can white label their product on our platform,” she said. “You might not know who the brand is, or the history of the brand, but you will have all the history of the product you are receiving. It might say “quality cream cheese from South Australia”. They have to show you the certificates of analysis, so you know it is absolutely edible, and has passed food safety standards. It is quite hard to be a supplier on the Yume platform because we do need to protect everybody in the process including the people who sit on the other side, the buyers.”

And you would be surprised who has turned up on the site to buy produce. Accor is one company that has bought food via the platform, plus a number of industrial catering companies. Barfield admits it wasn’t easy to convince the bigger brands to come on board.

Once she gave them guarantees that the items would not appear on any of the major retailers, they began to list items on the site.

And what sort of dent has the site made on the food waste mountain? There is still a long way to go, but with more than 400 suppliers and 2,500 buyers registered on Yume, Barfield is confident that the site will only grow. Then there’s the environmental impact.
“The amount of embodied water we’ve moved through the platform is more than 86 million litres. That’s nearly 2500 tonnes of CO2 that hasn’t been released into the atmosphere,” she said. “There has been a trifold growth for Yume in the past 12 months.”

Sometimes it takes some lateral thinking to get rid of a product. Barfield cited an example involving cereal manufacturer Kellogg’s where the company had 7.5 tonnes of dried fruit that was at risk of being dumped. It came about because the company changed one of its cereal recipes and no longer needed the dried fruit. Kellogg’s specialises in making cereals for the mass market, and therefore didn’t have a ready market for left over ingredients.

“They put the dried fruit onto the Yume platform and that product sold within 48 hours to a whole raft of other, smaller manufacturers who could use that in the manufacturing process. It was a win-win-win,” said Barfield.

And just because it is a platform for foods doesn’t mean those who buy from the site aren’t thinking outside the square on how to move on similar products and find an end use for them in the marketplace.

“A lot of the companies we work with ask us if we could try and find a solution away from the norm,” said Barfield. “One of my personal favourites was about a substance called Maltitol, which is an artificial sweetener.

“We were asked to help find a home for it and we weren’t too sure. However, it was eventually sold to a pharmaceutical company that used it in coating some of its pills to make them easier to swallow. It was 14 tonnes worth of product that would have been wasted if it hadn’t found a home.”

One aspect that Barfield is pushing, and she thinks needs to be amplified, is that just because a product appears on the site, it doesn’t mean it is not of high quality. Yume recently facilitated the selling of some top-branded salmon to an industrial caterer because the salmon missed its delivery window by a day. Because it missed the delivery, it no longer met the requirement to have a shelf life of 10 days. However, it was still top quality and was consumed well before it’s use-by date.

One issue that Barfield had to think about was the impact of those that already supply to some of these areas. After all, if you’re a regular supplier to an aged care facility, but the chef who is in charge of the kitchen decides to buy cheaper food from Yume, where does that leave the regular supplier?

“We have thought about that. We knew that when we went into the market we had to think about what we were displacing. There is always some displacement that happens,” she said. “Yume is what I would call an opportunistic marketplace. You couldn’t rely on it to supply all your needs because it is part of an irregular supply chain. You can’t hop onto the platform and buy your entire shopping basket from Yume every week because the nature of surplus is that it changes all the time – sometimes hourly.”

Barfield said that Australia is leading the world with this technology and that the country needs to get more people wrapped around it and talking about it. She also believes that the government could do its bit to reduce food waste.

“The biggest change that can happen is to engage with the government,” she said. “The government is the largest procurer of food in the country – if you think about defence, education, aged care, health care, corrections facilities. That is taxpayers money that goes to fund the food for these institutions. Day in, day out, three times a day. If they just mandated that a certain percentage of product that was surplus had to be bought through a platform like Yume, we would significantly impact the amount of food currently going to waste. We would return more money to Australian farmers and manufactures. We would save taxpayers money.”

Show me the honey – Nature Nate’s arrives in Australia

Turning your hobby into a full time job would be a dream for many people. And turning that dream into a multi-million dollar business would be like winning the lottery. You could argue that is what happened to Nathan Sheets, the CEO of Nature Nate’s Honey Co., a US-based company that produces raw and unfiltered honey. Now, Sheets is making a foray into the Australian market.

“When I got married in 1996, my wife Patty said we needed a hobby,” said Sheets. “She was thinking gardening or antiques, but I was thinking bees. We started keeping one hive in my parents’ backyard because we lived in an apartment. I would also go and help the guy who I got the hive from with his 100 beehives on the weekends. He had started a honey company in 1972 – the North Dallas Honey Company – which would eventually become Nature Nate’s. I then started getting up at 4am to help distribute his honey because he had cancer and needed help delivering to the 20 stores that stocked his product.

“Then I started going down to his house and helped bottle the honey. In 1997, I took over the business.”

However, Sheets wasn’t ready to go full time just yet. He decided to take up an offer to become a missionary and spent the next 12 years visiting 88 countries doing this work. He sees this time as formative in terms of how he wanted to run the company he now owns. In 2010, he went full time so that now, nine years later, he has more than 85 full-time staff at the company’s headquarters based just north of Dallas, Texas. Like any business, in order to grow, the company needed to expand. Australia was always going to be on Sheets’ radar.

“I chose Australia because we had some relationships with people down here,” he said. “That opened up the door for us. Personally, I’ve always loved Australia. I’ve always been fascinated with Australia and I love to fish, and you guys have great fishing.”

Australian standards
Nature Nate’s has teamed up with Woolworths to launch the product in Australia. How did he find the local market compared to the US?

“Australian standards and regulations are pretty similar to what we have in the US,” he said. “I have found that the actual honey in Australia to be cleaner than what we have in the US, which is awesome.”

As with any foray into a new market, there are teething issues however, the overall experience has been good. Sheets noticed there is an issue with traceability. In order to deal with any suspicions or any negative impact that might occur with regard to his products, he has been proactive in letting consumers know the provenance of Nature Nate’s honey.

“There was an issue about 12 years ago in the US. I’m talking about food fraud and honey adulteration. People bringing in honey saying it is from one country but might be from another and things like that. Food fraaud is so prevalent everywhere. It is in olive oil and seafood. It has been pretty significant in the honey industry,” he said.

“When I started doing the honey company full time, we created a robust and uncommon food testing programme where we test 100 per cent of the honey,” he said. “We test for pollen, antibiotics, pesticides – and we do that with gold standard testing via a German lab called Intertek. We created that testing protocol, which we have brought to Australia. I think the beekeepers that we partner with in Australia have clean operations and our testing has not found the same pesticide issues that we have found in some American honeys. Again, it’s not that the beekeepers are doing anything on purpose, you just don’t know if the bees are flying three to five miles away from the hive – beekeepers don’t know what the bees are going to encounter.”

Sheets isn’t satisfied with manufacturing honey on its own, he also wants to work on other products that, naturally, will have honey in them. He said the company is developing an array of products that usually rely on processed sugars and Nature Nate’s is trying to engineer honey into them. For example, it has developed energy shots that it’s bringing to market in the US. It is also looking at barbecue sauces, ketchups, condiments, syrups, nut butters and range of other products.

“We are just trying to figure out now what is a viable product,” he said. “The hardest thing is that the properties of honey themselves are different than other sweeteners. Corn syrup is dirt cheap and available. Honey is expensive, but it is hydroscopic, so it absorbs moisture – you have to think through that and how honey is going to interact with other parts of food products.”

Getting the team onboard
And how do you brand a product when you enter a new market? There are plenty of established, well-known, popular honey brands on the market in Australia. Sheets’ background before beekeeping was marketing, and that, tied with his time as a missionary, gave him some insights into how peoples’ minds tick and he believes his strategy will be a winner.
“The way I approach the business is this; people spend most of their waking hours at work,” he said. “My dad gave me this principle growing up – if you ever borrow something from someone, give it back to them in a better condition than you got it. If I borrowed your car, I’d bring it back to you washed and full of gas. I view people like that. I am a steward of their time and abilities so at the end of their time with Nature Nate’s, whether that’s a month or 15 years, I want them to be better people – emotionally, spiritually, financially, intellectually and vocationally. We invest a lot into our people and try to make their work experience to be something they are passionate about. We have a bunch of people that are passionate about what they do.”

Along with his staff, it’s not just the amount of time and money he puts into the manufacturing process, but making sure the product is as perfect as can be that is its best-selling point, plus he is a big believer in philanthropy.

“We didn’t see it as a marketing strategy, we see it as an extension of what we are passionate about,” he said. “That’s one of the branding strengths of Nature Nate’s. There is a commitment to the quality and the tasting perspective and also a food safety perspective. I tell our staff all the time that we shouldn’t put honey on someone’s table if we are not willing to put it on our own table. And it’s not just about money. I spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year testing honey to make sure it is a high-quality product.”

And the philanthropy? Sheets launched the product in September, and already the company is laying out plans with Woolworths and its Foodbank initiatives, as well as helping out farmers.

“When it comes to the Foodbank, we wanted to find a way we could invest immediately that involved the community,” said Sheets. “This is to do with Woolworths, which is a cause near and dear to their heart. Next, we’re going to ask communities, ‘hey, where can we best help?’

“We’ve already talked to some people who help with the plight of farmers, especially in relation to the drought. We’ll see where that is. I’m already on board with investing into kids and their development, which is important. We have a program we developed for kids. It’s called ‘The Adventures of Nature Nate’ and it is a cartoon about me when I was a little kid. It educates kids on the impact of beekeeping and the environment.”

His overall philosophy is why he believes Nature Nate’s is not only successful now, but will continue to be so into the future, especially as it expands into other regions.

“If you maintain people, service them and try and make them successful, ultimately we are going to be successful at what we do,” he said. “I live out the brand of Nature Nate’s. It’s not a marketing strategy, it’s an extension of who we are.”

Distributed servo drive system for modular machines

The AMP8000 distributed servo drive system provides suitable support for the implementation of modular machine designs. For this purpose, a servo drive can directly integrate into a servo motor, all in a highly compact design. In this way, the power electronics are relocated to the machine, reducing space requirements in control cabinets to just a single coupling module. In addition, decentralised distribution modules and the universal EtherCAT P solution further optimise the modular machine design approach.

The AMP8000 system consists of three main components. It has a single-channel, or alternately dual-channel, coupling module that forms the starting point, and the only component that still needs to be installed in the control cabinet. The coupling module establishes a connection between the DC link, 24 V DC supply and EtherCAT communication. For use with the high-performance AX8000 multi-axis servo system from Beckhoff, the AX883x coupling module is connected to the AX8000 supply module in order to provide a link to the IP 65-rated devices with one or two outputs.

In combination with the AX5000 digital compact servo drive, the AX503x coupling module can also be used in stand-alone mode due to an integrated power supply unit. In this way, 20A (per output in the case of the AX883x and as sum current in the case of the AX503x), 600V DC link voltage, 24V power supply and EtherCAT networking are available via the EtherCAT P outputs (B23 sockets).

This power is initially supplied to an AMP8805 distribution module as a second system component. As an IP 65-rated component that is integrated into the machine layout, it supplies up to five AMP80xx distributed servo drives. It can be mounted either directly (brick style) or using a bracket available as an accessory (book style) and adapted ideally into individual machine designs. The distribution module has an internal capacitance of 1120 µF to support the DC link. Additional EtherCAT P Box modules, such as for I/Os or for a second feedback system, can be connected simply and quickly via an additional EtherCAT P M8 output.

The third system component is the AMP80xx distributed servo drive. It is identical to the standard servomotors in the AM8000 series with regard to its mounting dimensions and performance data. Only the overall length has increased in comparison with the standard motors due to the integrated power electronics. Since this added length is not usually critical for the installation, most existing machine designs can be upgraded without the need for modification. The AMP80xx distributed servo drives are initially available in the flange sizes F4 and F5. Various versions are available with rated outputs of 0.61 to 1.18kW and standstill torques of 2.0 to 4.8Nm (F4) or rated outputs of 1.02 to 1.78kW and standstill torques of 4.1 to 9.7Nm (F5). The STO and SS1 safety functions are integrated as standard and a range of extended safe motion functions are currently being prepared. In addition, the new flange sizes F3 and F6 are in development and will complement the AMP8000 distributed drive system in the lower and higher power ranges.

The components in the AMP8000 system are universally connected with the uniform One Cable Automation (OCA) cabling technology, which connects via identical cross-sections and connectors. This is a dynamic, drag-chain compatible EtherCAT P cable with ECP-B23 connectors, which means the one cable solution features a hybrid cable that combines EtherCAT P (communication plus 24 V system and peripheral voltage) with additional power cores. Also, preassembled cables and connectors facilitate easy installation and minimised errors during cabling.

The AMP8000 system is also cascadable via the distribution module, meaning even highly complex machines and plants can have a simple and clear-cut topology layout. For this purpose, one or several additional distribution modules are connected to one of the module outputs in place of a distributed servo drive. For example, one main distribution module can supply five sub-modules, to which a maximum of 25 distributed servo drives can be connected, assuming an adequate supply of power to the individual motors is provided.

Compact drive integration in optimised design
With the AMP80xx, the integration of drive technology has been implemented in an exceptionally compact design, made possible through the use of the latest output stage technologies. The power module is attached at the rear end of the servomotor shaft, ensuring that the attachment dimensions are identical to those of the corresponding standard servomotors in the AM8000 series. Only the overall length is about seven centimetres larger. For machine builders, this means only a small amount of additional space is required, making it possible to change their drive concepts without any fundamental design modifications.

Apart from the small overall volume, the elegant and slim design of the AMP80xx offers further advantages over certain servo motors commonly encountered on the market, where the power electronics are mounted on top. With the AMP8000, the two dissipated heat sources – motor and power electronics – are clearly separated from each other and ensure much better heat dissipation by design, without the need for additional installation space or heat sinks. As a result, the distributed servo drives easily attain the same excellent properties as the corresponding standard AM8000 servo motors.

Don’t forget about Lean manufacturing in food and beverage

Lean manufacturing in the food industry has traditionally been about reducing waste – it has been about reducing down time, material waste, and making sure plant and machinery are running as efficiently as possible. However, with the advent of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT), some companies who deal with the food and beverage industry think that Lean manufacturing principles are getting left behind, which could be a mistake.

Tim McLean is the managing director of TXM Lean Solutions, a company that specialises in helping manufacturers implement transformative lean methodologies into their workspace. He believes that the new technologies of Industry 4.0 and Lean thinking can work together. The first question is, what exactly is Lean?

“Lean for us is a set of principles and techniques that eliminates waste and maximises value by delivering to customers exactly what they need, when they need it, in the quantity they need, in the right sequence, without defects and at the lowest possible cost,” he said.
So, why does he think there is an issue between Lean manufacturing and the principles that are outlined with Industry 4.0/IoT?

“Lean is primarily about people and process and some Industry 4.0 aficionados see this as ‘old school’ thinking. These Industry 4.0 enthusiasts argue that we won’t need Lean because we’ll have self-optimising machines which optimise themselves through machine learning and artificial intelligence. This is a very narrow interpretation of Lean – thinking of it as just reducing waste in the production process,” he said. “But it resonates in the food industry, because we have a lot of machine-driven processes, where the output is determined by the output rate of a machines.

Big Food and FMCG companies tend to have a functional silo structure where they have got operations, procurement, supply chain, logistics – all as separate functions reporting through to different areas. The role of manufacturing in this structure has traditionally then been focused on delivering the products to the supply chain at the lowest possible cost.

This has led to the belief that Lean is just about production and a version of Lean in many big food companies called Total Productive Manufacturing (TPM).

This means sweating the assets. The improvement focus is on maximising run speeds, minimising downtime, reducing set ups between jobs (to further reduce downtime), increasing yield and keeping tight control of output with short-interval controls. In other words, tracking performance hour by hour and squeezing as much out of that hour as you can.” In this context, better process data from IoT sensors that integrate with software platforms such as ERP systems will help provide better visibility of every aspect of machine performance in real time.

Beyond that, artificial intelligence tools will take this data and help processes to optimise themselves in real time. All this adds up to machines driving machines to produce more, more efficiently and at lower cost.

However, reducing waste and increasing efficiency is only part of the story according to McLean, “Investing in more equipment, more automation and better factories and running them harder all sounds good and the right thing to do, but where is that approach leading us?” he said. “What that is driving is long production runs high inventory and big warehouses. The exclusive focus on waste and cost reduction also drives huge investment in often quite inflexible equipment.”

“However, there is another goal of lean thinking that tends to get forgotten in this drive for lowest cost, that is maximising customer value,” said McLean. The relentless focus on cost reduction in food and beverage production has taken focus away from customer value.

“There seems to have been a disconnect, particularly at the big end of the food industry, with what customers really value. People take it for granted in the food industry,” he said. “The big brands don’t really seem to have an answer to competition from generics except to drive down costs and prices. But people don’t go and choose to drive a home brand car.

They don’t wear a home brand suit. They don’t use a home brand mobile phone. Why is it the food industry – in particular the FMCG – is having such an incredible loss of market share and margin due to generics? Why do customers buy generics? My argument is that customer no longer see the value of buying a branded food product.”

“At the end of day your brand is a promise to the customer that the customer will get something different or special,” he said. “And if they don’t get something different or special, then they’re just going to buy a generic, which is just the same thing.”

However, McLean said that new entrants are carving out market share with higher margins and prices by providing customers the value they have been missing. Beer is a great example. Big brand owners with the big automated production lines have to discount to sell their mass-produced products for around $50 for a case of 30 cans. However, craft brewers are struggling to keep up with demand for their boutique brands that sell for $5 and $6 per can.

The big brand owners have caught on to this and are increasingly developing premium brands or simply buying out the newcomers. However, when you take these premium products and just stick them in your big volume automated brewery or bakery or bottling plant and within your siloed management structure, compromises are inevitably made.

Inevitably, the new “premium” brands eventually end up being versions of the old volume brands with a different label – and we know that customers are smart enough now that they won’t buy this. If they buy a premium brand, they want a premium differentiated product.”

“We can actually reduce waste and costs until we go out of existence by offering the customer the same old same old while other people – who are probably nowhere near as efficient as we are – are offering a greater value to the customer and the customer is prepared to pay for that value,” McLean said.

This is where lean comes in. However Lean applied with a completely different mindset to what has traditionally applied in the food industry. McLean has definite opinions on how to get ahead of the game. One of the most important pieces of advice he gives, is that a company needs to map its value stream – and he’s talking not just the factory, but the whole end-to-end process, which includes the supply chain.

“And also consider the information flow, like replenishment and product flows,” he said. “One of the problems with a lot of food companies is they separate – including geographically separate – the supply chain team from the operations people. The supply chain team sits at head office planning the operation, and the operations people are out in the branches, and running the factories according to this plan that has been developed in head office.

This is a very inflexible approach. Instead, we need to also focus on lead times and agility. In other words, we might need to sacrifice some cost to be able to be more responsive to the market. To be able to offer more of a product range and have more SKUs, shorter Lifecyle’s, more change and be more flexible.”

He said another barrier to change is company culture, which is often driven by frontline leaders, but can often go right through to manufacturing operations.

“I hear food operations managers pushing back all the time about the number of SKUs they have to do, and the complexity they have to deal with, and they ask, ‘why can’t sales sell more of the standard offerings?’” said McLean. “Ultimately, we have to change that culture because if we can’t sell the diverse range of products someone else will, and those innovative products will take our market share. We have to design our operations to meet the needs of the market, rather than try and engineer the market to meet our operations.”

The implications of this for technology are quite different to the current assumptions, said McLean. Technology will allow manufacturers to get closer to their customers, obtain more granular real time data on what is selling to who and where. In the factory, the aim will be to have more flexible processes that can then respond much quicker to these changing customer needs. Equipment will need to be smaller and more configurable to make a greater range of product variants in smaller volumes. Customisation at the point of production such as in-line digital printing of packaging will ultimately offer the opportunity to create a unique product for every customer.

Organisationally, functional silos need to be challenged. The Lean organisation is built around the value stream or product family, which means all the functions required to deliver value for a particular product family from purchasing through to marketing work closely together to deliver customer value for that product family. This emulates the structure of start-ups and small- and medium-sized enterprises in the food and FMCG industry. Combined with efficient data flow, this structure allows for fast decision making and close alignment of every part of the process with the needs of the customer.

McLean’s final thoughts on Lean and its place in the value chain of food processing is that it will become an even more powerful tool to drive customer value. However, it will need a completely different approach and mindset to that taken by manufacturers over the past 20 years.

“The traditional cost reduction model that has built on the assumption that we will optimise what we do now, and take costs out of what we do now, is essentially flawed,” he said. “Because what we do now is likely not to be what we will do in the future. The whole traditional approach, in my view, is increasingly breaking down and not working.

Customers are not seeing value in branded products. I would think that if that was the case in any other industry, which would be a crisis. But it is seen as situation normal in the food and beverage industry.

“Simply doubling down on the current approach by using Industry 4.0 technology to drive out more cost and ‘make the big machines go faster’ will not work. A completely fresh approach is needed, and a new approach to Lean combined with technology and data can aid that transition. Critically, it is important to be clear on what a customer wants and focus on customer value rather than just waste reduction.

“Technology becomes a tool to give you greater insights into what constitutes value for different customers as well as changing your capabilities enabling you do to more, more efficiently to deliver customer value. Or do more at the same level of efficiency to meet your customer value.”

Drinks companies cut sugar by seven per cent

Australia’s largest beverage companies have marked a major milestone by announcing a 7 per cent reduction in sugar in the first progress report on the beverage industry’s flagship initiative.

The signatories to the pledge, Asahi Lifestyle Beverages, Coca-Cola Amatil, Coca-Cola Australia and PepsiCo Australia, have contributed to the reduction in sugar across their portfolios, and more drinks companies are expected to join in the future.

In June 2018, with the support of the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, Australia’s non-alcoholic beverage industry committed to reduce sugar across the industry by 20 per cent by 2025.

KPMG has provided the first report on the industry’s progress towards the sugar reduction goal and today this has been shared with the Australian Government.

Geoff Parker, CEO, Australian Beverages Council, said, “This report is a further sign that the industry is serious about reducing sugar in beverages while continuing to offer greater choice of low-sugar drinks and many without any sugar at all.”

“The industry is achieving its intended sugar reduction targets and is already more than one third of the way towards reducing sugar by 20 per cent by 2025, but there’s still a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.

The Australian Government supports the non-alcoholic beverage industry’s progress towards a 20 per cent reduction in sugar by 2025 with Minister Hunt congratulating the industry on its progress in an announcement at Parliament House today.

 

“The Morrison Government supports pragmatic and appropriate action to tackle obesity, particularly through initiatives that support Australians to live healthier lives,” said Minister Hunt.

 

“The partnership between the industry and the Morrison Government is a clear sign that collaborative solutions are available to tackle the complex issue of obesity by encouraging healthy diets.”

 

The Australian Beverages Council will continue to consult widely with a range of health, industry, supplier and government stakeholders to increase understanding of the commitment.

 

Mr Parker said, “The non-alcoholic beverage industry invites other sectors to join the Australian Beverages Council in reducing sugar while continuing to support choice and understanding of healthy lifestyles,” added Mr Parker.

 

Today’s report, demonstrates the industry’s long-term commitment to reduce sugar by 20 per cent by 2025, complements a national obesity strategy, encourages all Australians to live healthier lives and reflects our contribution to combat obesity.

 

v2food plant-based protein startup closes $35M Series A round  

v2food, Australia’s newest plant-based protein startup, today announced that it has raised a $35 million Series A funding round led by Main Sequence Ventures, manager of CSIRO’s Innovation Fund, and Horizons Ventures.

The round also includes Fairfax Family investment fund Marinya Capital & leading venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China. These new investors will add significant scale and build an impressive partnership alongside existing seed investors Main Sequence Ventures, CSIRO and Jack Cowin’s Competitive Foods Australia.

The Series A financing continues an exceptional few months for v2food that saw the company officially launch in October and release its first product in partnership with Hungry Jack’s Australia, the Rebel Whopper. Funding will be used to expand R&D efforts including building a new research and production facility, planning to begin operation in regional Australia in 2020.

The company worked with Australia’s national science agency CSIRO to create products that look like meat, cook like meat and taste like meat. Co-founded by former Masterfoods and PepsiCo Research Director, Nick Hazell, v2food’s mission is to develop delicious food that is good for people and good for the planet, revolutionising the way we produce and consume food.

“This is an important step towards v2food’s goal of transforming the way the world produces food.  There is a big shortfall between the amount of meat we produce today and the amount needed to feed the growing global population. There will be nearly 10 billion people on Earth by 2050. Our mission is clear — to provide everyday people with plant-based meat that tastes great and is good for the environment. It’s imperative that we scale quickly because these global issues need immediate solutions and we are fortunate to have secured these outstanding global partners to help propel us forward,”said Nick Hazell v2food founder and CEO.

As demand is currently outstripping supply, v2food also plans to use the funds to expand its footprint in Australia and develop a supply chain that is highly scalable enabling accelerated growth.

“Main Sequence Ventures’ mission is to help transform inspiring Australian research into epic global companies. v2food is an outstanding example of an innovative startup committed to solving a global problem. The team has demonstrated what can be achieved when science and industry collaborate,” said Phil Morle, Partner of Main Sequence Ventures.

With an oversubscribed round, the investors were selected due to their global networks, and their support will help the company to expand its sales and marketing efforts offshore. Leveraging the global ties of Horizons Ventures and Sequoia Capital will enable v2food to enter the next phase of growth throughout the Asia-Pacific region with the support of investors with long histories of backing sector-defining businesses.

“The v2food team has created a truly world-class product in an area that is seeing massive growth and demand. We’re incredibly excited to back this home-grown startup to help bring v2food not only to consumers across Australia but the world,” said Nicholas Fairfax, managing Ddrector of Marinya Capital.

v2food plans to continue to launch new products in outlets across Australia in the next few months.

Patented technology supplies Australian pet food ingredients to the world

Pet owners are constantly assessing the many food choices available to feed their furry friends. Prepared pet foods are becoming an increasingly popular choice, offering a variety of food types and flavours while meeting nutritional requirements.

With a growing reputation for providing safe, consistent and nutritious pet food, the Australian pet food industry is valued at approximately $1.6 billion with opportunities growing within both Australian and export markets.

Cool Off is the pet food raw material manufacturing division of Staughton Group, which is an Australian, family-owned company with manufacturing facilities in Walget, New South Wales, St George in Queensland and its head office and main manufacturing plant located in Howlong in southern NSW.

Staughton Group oversees the manufacture of bulk raw materials for the pet food industry, as well as retail pet foods and supplements for domestic and export sales. Staughton Group also sources and processes wild game proteins through its recently acquired Wild Game Resources Australia.

Offering unique access to Australian raw materials for pet food manufacture, Cool Off delivers high-quality products including: lamb Mechanically De-boned Meat (MDM), plate-frozen offals, boutique meat meals and natural dried treats – sourcing its red meat offal raw material from more than 30 abattoirs across Australia, processing more than 150 tonnes of raw material per day.

As market opportunities continued to grow, Cool Off designed innovative new technology to help meet this increasing consumer demand.

Automated plate freezing
To help maintain a high quality product, Cool Off developed a unique offal collection process that involved installation of a customised collection and chilling unit onsite at the abattoir. This enabled Cool Off to control all aspects of quality from the onset, providing a dedicated focus on quality of the pet food products, with minimal abattoir labour input. This system has been installed at over 30 Australian abattoirs.

Once the offal was processed, it was pumped into large plate freezers, with the capacity to hold 2000 kg of product, and frozen at -20˚C. The product is then unloaded and palletised for delivery to pet food manufacturers. In the past, this was a labour-intensive process that required manual handling by operators. To increase throughput and limit manual handling requirements, Cool Off, together with VK Logic, designed a new automated plate freezing system. VK Logic has a longstanding relationship with Cool Off, resulting in a detailed understanding of the plate-freezing process. Justin Van Klaveren, managing director at VK Logic, explained that in order to meet increasing customer supply contracts, Cool Off undertook some expansion work at the plant that included building works and new freezer panel rooms.

“There wasn’t a simple, automated unload process for the large plate freezers so together with Cool Off, we placed an arrangement of pneumatically actuated panels and built plate freezer apparatus to utilise the existing infrastructure to release each block one by one down the plate onto a common conveyor belt, eliminating the requirement for manual handling,” said Van Klaveren.

“Given that margins for pet food are not near margins for human consumption, the opportunity for automation becomes more important,” Van Klaveren added.

High-performance architecture
Combining integrated control and safety, the Allen-Bradley GuardLogix was selected as the most appropriate choice for this application. The Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture system, including PowerFlex 527 drives with safety over Ethernet, offered an innovative, modular design to support fast and easy installation and configuration. These compact drives also offered embedded EtherNet/IP communications and standard safety features.

The Allen-Bradley Kinetix servo drives provided advanced motion control for the system and the capability to standardise on a single communications network for easier commissioning, configuration and start up. A FactoryTalk View SE human machine interface (HMI) was used to monitor and control the plant. To help with remote assistance and maintenance, VK Logic had VPN access to the site.

“We saw an opportunity in terms of that single platform with safety over Ethernet. The PowerFlex drives provided an integrated solution with motion, drives and safety all on the one common platform. This helped reduce engineering time and ongoing maintenance requirements,” explained Van Klaveren.

Rockwell Automation authorised distributor, NHP Electrical Engineering, supported this project by identifying the most appropriate equipment to meet the application requirements. According to Jason Campbell, business development – automation at NHP, “There’s no technology that rivals this new patented system. The solution allowed Cool Off to increase throughput, reduce downtime and redeploy operators that were doing manual labour.”

The new automated plate freezing system improved throughput and reduced manual handling requirements.

Patented innovation to meet consumer demand
Cool Off’s patented plate freezing technology was the product of intelligent engineering and problem solving – resulting in an increase in plate freezing capacity by 120 per cent. The technology and innovation around the plate-freezer design was developed together with VK Logic, a business with a growing reputation for “out of box” thinking for large and small projects alike.

The plant is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week as there is significant demand for the product. With consumer demand continually increasing, Cool Off was recently awarded a government grant to double capacity of the plant.

Edward Staughton, managing director of Cool Off and Staughton Group, highlights the significant advantages the company enjoys over international and domestic competitors via its technology: “The quality and freshness of red meat offal products collected from supplying abattoirs and delivered daily to Cool Off at Howlong is guaranteed via the unique chilling system installed at supplying abattoirs. This patented system was developed by Cool Off and VK Logic, using experience gained over 20 years of collecting offals from abattoirs located throughout Eastern Australia. The system ensures all product from abattoirs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia can be delivered in any season over long distances and maintain its freshness.”

Staughton has inspected many plate freezing systems throughout Europe and America. “The development of our patented automated plate freezing system, in combination with the abattoir chilling system, has given the Cool Off production team a massive international competitive advantage in quality and processing efficiency,” said Staughton.

“Three staff are able to fill, freeze, palletise and warehouse 50 tonnes (pallets) of product in an eight hour shift, which, combined with freeze time of two and a half hours, ensures maximum freshness of all products. With the plate freezers being fully Cleaning in Place (CIP), cleaning time is minimal. I have seen nothing internationally that compares with this system.”

“Cool Off is highly appreciative of the combined efforts of VK Logic and Rockwell Automation in enabling the development, and now the ‘bedded down’ operation, of technologies which are unmatched by international competitors. Cool Off looks forward to working with both these innovative and progressive companies to roll out further R&D projects that currently sit in the company’s pipe-line,” said Staughton.

Why send 750 million soiled absorbent pads to landfill if there is a better way?

Reducing the use of packaging materials is one of the aspects that will help lead to a sustainable future. When re-designing plastic trays for ANZ’s fresh red meat sector, Sealed Air Australia ventured beyond “reduce” and found a way to “eliminate” the need for absorbent pads. Sealed Air’s Kevin Taylor is the APAC portfolio leader for the company’s trays, films and absorbents business. Here, Taylor spoke to Food & Beverage Industry News about some of the new technologies behind the latest meat-packing developments from the company.

Why was HydroLoQ developed?
While absorbent pads solve the problem of retaining product purge, they can also be problematic for food processors and our planet.

HydroLoQ was developed to eliminate lost time associated with pad related issues for moist protein Modified Atmosphere Packing (MAP) applications that are estimated to contribute to three per cent of overall down time. Furthermore, pads comprise ‘end of life’ challenges. In fact, each year, more than 750 million absorbent pads used across ANZ’s fresh red meat sector end up in landfill.

Meat discolouration is also a challenge for retailers. Meat in direct contact with an absorbent pad is not experiencing the full colour preserving benefits of the surrounding modified atmosphere and thus can undergo product discolouration causing subsequent product mark downs.

Furthermore, the removal of the pad eliminates any risk of ingesting the contents of the pad if it leaks.

What were some of the issues when developing the products?
MAP technology has been used for more than 20 years. Forgetting what we already knew and addressing supply chain challenges with a fresh view was one of the biggest challenges. Understanding surface tension science and redefining absorbency requirements for MAP applications was critical to success.

The shape of the base design was important. Not only was it required to hold a specific volume of purge, but it could not leave any imprint or indentation on the protein which would lead to consumer rejection and product mark downs. This problem was overcome with some adjustments to tooling.

HydroLoQ is a recyclable pack. How hard was that to incorporate into the design?
All Cryovac polypropylene trays are recyclable in accordance with the APCO PREP tool. It was important in the redesign that the tray components did not compromise this. Also important was ensuring that the new design did not require the use of additional resin to perform suitably across the supply chain.

Sealed Air’s Cryovac brand food packaging is renowned for maintaining freshness and reducing food waste. Does HydroLoQ still enable this?
Yes. Cryovac HydroLoQ continues to deliver high oxygen barrier performance to keep proteins fresh across the supply chain. We all know extended shelf life means a less wasteful food supply chain. With HydroLoQ, the processor benefits by eliminating pad related downtime and product contamination due to pads breaking open during packing. Estimates suggest 500kg of meat is removed from the supply chain and down-graded to pet food every time pad related contamination occurs.

Is HydroLoQ 2025 ready?
Absolutely. HydroLoQ is fully recyclable and has no separable components that consumers need to work with. Each tray contains up to 8g of recycled resin that is recovered from Sealed Air’s “Zero Waste” tray making facility based in Tullamarine, Victoria.

How is the introduction of HydroLoQ impacting the Tullamarine plant, which also produces absorbent pads?
Sealed Air’s sustainability vision is ‘to protect, to solve critical packaging challenges, and to leave our world better than we found it’. In this case, developments such as Cryovac HydroLoQ changes the way we do things and allows our processors and supply chains to evolve. The sustainable advantages for our processors and planet are significant.
After all, HydroLoQ allows us to leave our planet better than we found it.

What has the feedback from clients been like?
Soiled absorbent pads dampen the consumer experience. Because consumers dislike touching a soiled absorbent pad, they avoid separating the pad from the tray and dispose of fully recyclable trays to landfill.

This tray is the first of its kind into Australia’s retail environment. Customer acceptance has been positive and Cryovac HydroLoQ can be found at retailers including Aldi and Coles. At this stage, retail acceptance has been limited to fresh red meats, but proteins including poultry and seafood are also on the radar.

Brand owners can also leverage a strong sustainability story by making the switch to HydroLoQ and meet consumers’ growing demands for sustainable packaging.

What makes these products different from similar offerings in the marketplace?
This tray design is new for ANZ, and padless tray formats have been used in Europe.
This is the first padless barrier tray used for ANZ’s modified atmosphere packaging market. The base design not only retains purge, but offers additional rigidity which is an important design parameter for our distribution chain. Rigidity is also important for packs using retail lidding film – get them both wrong and lid film energy can distort the shape of the tray.

Is there a limit to the size of the produce that can be used with these products?
We have matched the retention capacity of the base of the tray to the current retailer specifications for the products the trays are used for. Water purge for poultry is higher because it uses water chilling technology and subsequent tray designs will take this into account.

Digital streamlining to drive food export path

Australian agricultural and food producers will get an easier path into international markets with digitisation of export processes to lift their global competitiveness.

Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, said changes to streamline and digitise export certification processes necessary to ship Australian products overseas would benefit meat, dairy, seafood, horticulture, grain, wool and other producers, boosting both profits and productivity.

“Certification of food safety is a necessary process for our agricultural exports to be accepted by importers overseas, through a process that currently focuses on paper records. In 2017-18 my department issued over 461,000 export certificates to support $48 billion in agricultural exports,” said McKenzie.

“The changes…will modernise and speed up that process, removing paper trail management, as well as improving the ability of producers to track progress through the online system.

READ MORE: Input sought on Middle East sheep exports

“The system will replace use of paper documentation wherever it is used to support, apply or be issued in relation to export certification, with the system expected to begin initial operation before mid-2020 and be fully completed within three years.

One meat exporter alone has estimated that the ability to amend export documentation online will save $120,000 a year in detained consignment costs.

By moving to a paperless system, brand Australia and the country’s reputation for ‘clean-green’ food will be further protected. A more secure system will provide  assurance of the authenticity of Australian products and brands, according to McKenzie.

“This initiative underpins Australia’s target to build agriculture to be a $100 billion sector by 2030 and our commitment to develop a streamlined, effective and efficient certification process to drive more agricultural exports to profitable markets.”

 

Sunny Queen celebrates 50 years

When Sunny Queen Australia managing director, John O’Hara, joined the company more than 17 years ago it was predominantly a one-channel, one product business, selling shell eggs primarily to Queensland supermarkets.

Today it is a multi-faceted business that turns over $350 million and employs 140 people.

The Sunny Queen Farms brand is represented in every Australian state. Its diversified Meal Solutions product range of innovative value-added, egg-based products for food service channels now represents around 20 percent of the business.

In 2017 Sunny Queen invested $40 million in a food service factory at Carole Park near Brisbane to begin producing omelettes, fritters, patties, poached eggs, and egg bakes for the out of home breakfast market.

In June 2019 Sunny Queen finished commissioning a new $800,000 robotics line for omelettes that was specifically designed for the company.

In April 2019, Sunny Queen was recognised as the winner in a Canstar Blue survey of 2,000 Australian adults, which recognised them as the number one egg brand in Australia for consumer satisfaction, achieving five-star reviews on taste, freshness, packaging and overall customer satisfaction.

Celebrating 50  years of the Sunny Queen Farms brand, John O’Hara says the it has come a long way in the last five decades.

“Providing Australians with a hearty egg breakfast has always been part of Sunny Queen’s DNA, but when I came into the role, I thought there had to be more to eggs than just a shell,” he said.

“We looked at supplying to the ingredients market for manufacturers with other companies such as biscuits and cakes.

“But the great opportunity we saw was for convenience; portable, nutritious food because no one is really presenting a healthy breakfast alternative.

“We pushed into hospitals and aged care and eventually airlines and quick service restaurants for people looking for quick simple solution to their cooking needs.”

He said the fact that so many people don’t have time to eat breakfast at home has seen Sunny Queen set its sights on the out-of-home breakfast market, which is worth $7.4 billion.

“So, we just think there’s a fantastic opportunity for great protein products for breakfast through our value added business offering convenience, food safety and taste.

“French Toast is our newest product offering for Foodservice – a café breakfast favourite, made easy for food service outlets by Sunny Queen. It is the only snap-frozen French Toast option currently available in the Australian market.”

O’Hara said Sunny Queen were continuing to invest in free-range egg farms to meet increased consumer demand.

Why batching is crucial when it comes to brewing

The art of brewing a fine beer demands time and patience. Equally important, selecting the right processing equipment will ensure that the taste is always as expected.

Although the craft beer market in Australia is still new, the beer brewing industry is expanding rapidly across the country. As reported by The Independent Brewers Association, local brewers are a small but increasingly significant part of the $6.5 billion Australian retail beer market, not to mention that the number of smalls breweries in Australia has remarkably increased in recent years, with a new brewery opening every 6 days. According to Craft Beer Reviewer, a body that provides data about craft beer breweries in Australia, there are more than 690 craft beer breweries in the country; and just since 2017, the Australian beer market has seen the launch of 230 new breweries nationwide. New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland are the biggest contributors with a total number of 494 craft beer breweries shared among them.

For microbreweries who pride themselves with producing unique and personalised flavours of beer, any slight change made to production process whether it is the ingredients used or the cooking time, could have unfortunate consequences for a particular and distinguished taste. To ensure that the taste is always as desired, it is critical to have the right equipment to accurately measure and batch the correct amount of ingredients with perfection.

JSG Industrial Systems has introduced into the Australian beer brewing market the Flomec G2 Stainless Steel Flowmeter. A cost-effective yet reliable fluid meter designed to suit a variety of brewery installations. Breweries report that using the Flomec G2 meter improves the quality of beer by making each batch consistent and highly controlled, which is considered one of the most critical procedures during the brewing process.

This reliable flow meter is highly accurate with an inbuilt display unit that does not require power to operate, which simplifies the production process greatly and enables seamless operation. The Flomec G2 is suitable for a variety of batching applications as it is available in different sizes to suit various process lines. The reasons to why this accurate and reliable meter is finding a perfect fit in breweries across Australia are due to the fact that it is quite a cost-effective solution suitable for any type of brewery, offers excellent fluid compatibility in the brewing process, and it’s easily removed, cleaned and maintained.

JSG Industrial Systems designs, develops, and supplies engineered industrial systems which increase assets lifetime, reduce operational risk and contribute to environmental sustainability. The company provides access to products and services for a variety of global sectors including food & beverage, mining, transportation, agriculture, marine, energy, construction, and manufacturing.

For more information
Contact your JSG Industrial Systems representative on (02) 9914 8720 or visit www.jsgindustrial.com

Conveyor components designed to increase productivity

Marbett is one of several Rexnord global brands with production facilities in Italy offering a range of complementary conveyor components to meet a factory’s application requirements. Whether it is a chain guide, product handling, frame support, or balancing and supporting components, Rexnord has the parts to optimise a conveyor system.

When it comes to providing highly engineered products that improve productivity and efficiency for product-handling applications, Rexnord offers a portfolio of MatTop and TableTop conveyor chain and Marbett conveyor components. These solutions are designed to continuously improve productivity for customers in a variety of industries including automotive, food, beverage, warehouse/distribution and container handling. For instance, Rexnord’s FlatTop chain performance is maximised when used with low-friction, low-wear Rexnord Marbett chain guide-return solutions.

The Marbett product line can be split into application segments:

Chain guide components
• low wear for extended chain and wear strip life;
• low friction for low chain pull and energy savings;
• high-speed capability for increased productivity and optimised performance;
• bi-material return rollers for reduced noise and high-speed capabilities; and
• low total cost of ownership through reduced downtime, maintenance and replacement costs.

Product handling components
• low friction roller side guides increase efficiency by preventing costly container damage and discards due to product tippage;
• specific profile design to ensure product stability and throughput; and
• ideal for container, package and beverage handling applications.

Frame support components
• modular design eliminates need for welding, minimises assembly time and reduces conveyor construction costs;
• strong and rigid design with declared mechanical values;
• high-performance materials designed to meet the most demanding and unique applications;
• easy-to-clean design meets sanitation requirements; and
• high corrosion and chemical resistance.

Supporting and levelling elements
Different materials in plastic or steel, fixed or articulated, with or without gripper base and vibration absorbing feet.

Self-aligning bearings
Square, oval, pillow-block, side flange and multiple other variations, with open or closed options, waterproof housing, capable of compensating misalignment up to two degrees.

Miscellaneous
A range of fixtures and fittings, from hinges to locks to roller transfer plates.

Avoid unplanned downtime
Nothing costs a business like unplanned downtime. When a conveyor belt goes down, the entire operation grinds to a halt. Rexnord’s specialised components are built to withstand common issues like belt degradation, abrasive wear, and belt damage caused by high heat and sanitising procedures. Its conveyer products are designed to help users avoid unplanned downtime, improve energy and water consumption, maximise productivity, reduce waste, and increase safety. They are easy to install and operate, with the company’s highly engineered conveying solutions designed to extend the life of components, while offering smooth running conveying conditions.

Why the food packaging industry needs to sell itself better

Keith Chessell is a packaging evangelist. Being in the industry for the best part of 50 years, he was there at the beginning when consumers and manufacturers alike knew that packaging sustainability was going to be an issue going forward for many industries, including food and beverage. He was there when the Keep Australia Beautiful campaign was launched and knows that the image of the packaging industry isn’t what it could be.

As well as being a consultant at Sustainable Packaging Design, Chessell is also heavily involved with the Australian Institute of Packaging (AIP) and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) – you could say that packaging and all its issues are in his blood.

Generically, packaging doesn’t have the greatest of reputations among consumers these days. At best, it’s seen as a necessity to transport products from the factory to the retail outlet, while others at the other end of the spectrum see it as an unnecessary pollutant that chokes our waterways, oceans, parks and other recreation areas.

Being in an industry for five decades gives Chessell a unique insight into the issues, not just on what they are now, but how far the industry has come. And while he’s not about to sell packaging as a brilliant accessory to human endeavours, he said that the industry itself needs to do a better job of informing the public of its true role in the wider scheme of things.

At a recent SAI Global Food Safety conference held in Sydney, Chessell outlined some of the issues facing the packaging industry. One of the key discussions at the moment is in the area of reducing packaging. For example, Chessell compares opening up some toys to that of unpacking a piece of IKEA kit. While some may nod in agreement, a large number of companies have spent years reducing the amount of packaging in a product – not that the public would know.

“The focus from many in industry over the past 20 years has been on removing and reducing packaging where possible,” said Chessell.

“ Some companies are now at the stage where they have reduced everything they can. I can remember eight years ago saying, ‘I can’t take any more out of my packaging with my products’. If the boss wants me to save another $2 million, I’ll start having other issues, such as maintaining the integrity of the packaging.”

Chessell also pointed out that most companies now do not want to overpack a product because it is becoming economically unviable to do so. This is where it is necessary to start educating people on the why. He cites the examples of cucumbers and bananas that have plastic packaging.

“Why are some cucumber wrapped in plastic? I know the answer, but most people don’t. Why not put a sign above that cucumber saying, ‘We’re doing this because it extends the shelf life of this cucumber’. It’s the same with wrapped small bananas. People ask ‘why?’ Well, it protects the fruit, stops it from bruising and is designed to reduce food wastage and spoilage.”

However, lauding the innovations that packaging can sometimes have unintended, negative consequences. He talks about a recent entrant into the AIP’s Packaging Innovation and Design (PIDA) awards.

“One of the companies that entered this year’s awards was a fish company with a fabulous innovative pack that extended the shelf life by 15 days,” he said. “But the company chose to not communicate this significant benefit to the consumers on-pack as they did not want a perception that their fish wasn’t fresh. For this company by promoting the extension of shelf life to the customer potentially offered a negative connotation.”

And it’s when Chessell starts throwing out stats on food waste that you begin to appreciate his frustration at how packaging is undersold. Globally, 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted at an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion.

According to the National Food Waste Baseline Executive Summary, Australia generates about 7.3 million tonnes of food waste annually. Of that, 1.2 million tonnes is recycled, 2.9 million tonnes is recovered, while the remaining 3.2 million tonnes is disposed of at landfills. Households contribution is 34.3 per cent and primary production 31.3 per cent, while manufacturing comes in at third with 24 per cent. With figures like that, it is no wonder Chessell is passionate about reducing food waste.

“Unfortunately, many consumers see all packaging as a negative. They don’t see any useful purpose for it and don’t understand the true role of packaging. I believe we can change that if we start to communicate better to customers about why we use certain types of packaging. They might then understand there are other benefits of packaging if we start to put more information on our packaging.”

Are there other answers? How can food and beverage companies sell the role of packaging in the food chain to the public? How do we better communicate that packaging plays a huge role long before the pack needs throwing away once the food has been extracted? There are several things, according to Chessell, and it’s all about education, education and education.

Packaging’s main role is to contain and protect goods and keep them in perfect condition until they are consumed. It also carries important information on the label that gives insights into the ingredients. Adding the Australasian Recycling Label on-pack to communicate the true recyclability of the pack is also important.

The final part of the jigsaw is the on-pack communication, that allows the manufacturer to expound the virtues and benefits their food or beverage encompasses. These criteria need to be explained loudly and often, said Chessell. Getting the public educated is one way of reducing stigmas surrounding packaging, and Chessell points out the AIP itself is taking the initiative by developing a set of Save Food packaging design criteria for reducing food waste for the industry. This criteria includes improved barrier packaging and processing; retaining nutrition; active and intelligent packaging; utilising skin (vacuum), MAP and EMAP packaging formats; portion control packaging; easy opening/resealable packaging; and controlled dispensing, which will mean all the product will be consumed as opposed to leftover product being thrown out (i.e. sauce bottles etc).

Chessell believes that the AIP has started the conversation and he wants it to continue.
“Packaging is a difficult topic these days and the important question we need to ask is, ‘What is the consumer’s view on packaging and how can we help change the perception so that they start to understand that intuitive packaging can actually help minimise and prevent food waste?”

This is something the AIP and Chessell are well on the way to doing.

Drought impacting on beekeepers

Hive + Wellness has warned that Australia faces a potential honey shortage, as the nation’s beekeepers grapple with some of the most difficult conditions in the industry’s history.

Honey production in the current season is forecast to be the lowest on record, with further declines predicted for 2020/21 if we see no improvement in Australian weather conditions.
A survey conducted by the company amongst its suppliers found that 98% of respondents had been adversely impacted by the ongoing drought, with some beekeepers seeing their production drop to zero. Bushfire and heat had exacerbated already difficult conditions, devastating bee populations as well as their source of food.

READ MORE: A2 Milk expands range to make milk powder with Manuka honey

Ben McKee from Hive + Wellness said: “Australian beekeepers are the forgotten farmers in this drought. Just as livestock farmers have faced challenges in feeding their animals, a lack of flowering trees means beekeepers have struggled to ensure sufficient food for their bees.”

“They are experiencing significant declines in both the population of their hives and in production levels as there is simply not enough nectar for bees to collect. The bees are also affected by water scarcity and the relentless heat.”

The outlook for the 2019/2020 honey season is grim, with expectations of the lowest national crop on record, which has been aggravated by poor honey production in previous seasons.

Bert Seagrave, an Emmaville based beekeeper from the New England region of NSW, and supplier to Hive + Wellness, said: “We are facing the worst honey production in my lifetime, and we are working tirelessly just to keep our bees alive”.

Hive + Wellness is the largest honey packer, marketer and supporter of beekeepers in Australia. Its beekeepers account for a significant proportion of the nation’s honey production.

Axereal acquires Cargills’s malt business

Axereal, France’s largest grain cooperative, has announced the acquisition of Cargill’s malt business on behalf of its subsidiary, Boortmalt.

This acquisition strengthens Axereal’s position globally, and makes Boortmalt the world’s leading player in the production of malt.

Jean-François Loiseau, President of the Axereal Group said “This acquisition meets our two strategic objectives:  Firstly, to invest in the downstream of barley to increase the value of our farmers production in France and internationally, and especially in growing markets.  Secondly, we have a long-term vision for our cooperative farmers.   This acquisition will help ensure that our trajectory is competitive. We at Axereal are leading the way for the agricultural transition with industrial innovation that provides quality food whilst respecting the environment.”

READ MORE: Barley variety honours historic brewery

Paul-Yves L’Anthoën, chief executive officer of the Axereal Group declared “This acquisition is a major step in our cooperative’s strategic plan: it allows us to diversify our sources of value, and it bolsters the group’s position in a growing sector. It also strengthens our relationship with the financial community.”

This acquisition sees Boortmalt taking over all Cargill Malt activities: 16 malthouses in 9 countries, nearly 600 employees, and with a total production capacity of 1.7 million tonnes.

This will bring the total capacity of the Boortmalt Group to three million tonnes with 27 malting plants on 5 continents making Boortmalt the world leader in the production of malt.  The headquarters of Boortmalt will remain in Antwerp, Belgium as well as the R&D centre, making the Antwerp malthouse the biggest in the world.

Yvan Schaepman, chief executive officer of Boortmalt added “Such a takeover offers us new growth prospects and will enable us to better mitigate risks, particularly those linked to climate change. It also allows us to accelerate the development of new malting barley varieties and to create new malts. With this acquisition, we are pursuing our primary ambition: to become the best Maltster in the world.”

Murray River Organics offer price increases

Murray River Organics has announced up to $200 per tonne increase in prices for third party grower dried fruit as part of their Sunraysia Grower Water Support Package for 2020 Crop.

MRG chief executive Valentina Tripp said given the severe drought conditions in Mildura and the increasing expensive price of temporary water the Company wanted to provide Sunraysia growers with certainty for the coming season.

“We recognise the impact that the ongoing drought and water is having on growers in the Mildura area and as significant grower ourselves we understand the issues they are facing. As a result, at this critical time, we have decided to initially offer up to $200 per tonne on top of last year’s pricing increases to source irrigation water for key in demand varieties. We believe this will deliver much needed confidence to our growers.”

READ MORE: Dried vine fruit industry welcomes funding

Last year Murray River Organics led the industry when the Company increased prices to third party dried vine fruit growers by up to 25 percent as part of its plan to ensure a fair return for fruit commensurate with global pricing trends.

The price increases are part of the “Growing Together” program which has been very successful for MRG, with the intake of third-party grower dried vine fruit reaching 1240 tonnes in 2019, an increase of 15% on 2018.

This was a significant achievement considering the challenging growing conditions in Sunraysia in 2019 with many growers experiencing lower yields of up to 40 per cent.
Valentina Tripp said the current water issues in Mildura are still challenging for the agriculture industry with irrigation water from the Murray costing up to $950 a megalitre nearly double the average price paid last season.

“Encouragingly, demand fundamentals for dried vine fruit remain strong, with the global fruit market experiencing growth in demand.”

MRG is the largest dried vine fruit grower in Sunraysia with over 1000 hectares planted and is part way through a major transformation and turnaround journey. It has identified significant sales growth opportunities in Asia, Europe and the USA.

MRG’s Sunraysia Grower Support Package is open to Sunraysia Dried Vine Fruit Growers who sign up prior to Friday, 29 November 2019.

MRG also commits to hold 2019 pricing for the 2020 Harvest.