3 Digital Transformation Strategies Driving F&B Manufacturing Competitiveness

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

Why are so many food and beverage firms increasing their level of investment in digital transformation? Public perception in the press seems to be that digitising operations makes a traditional industry appear to be more modern.  The reality, however, is far from that. The deeper story is that industry thought leaders recognise the power of digitisation to bring producers and consumers much closer together.  In fact, digitisation benefits start by enabling food and beverage firms to demonstrate to consumers a higher level of agility, and more precise control and traceability of the goods they purchase and consume.

Consumers are now demanding access to more data regarding the raw materials that make up the food and beverage products they buy. Specifically, they want to verify where those materials are sourced and whether they have been processed in a safe and sustainable manner. As a result, a new mentality for remaining in business has emerged:  accelerate the push to digital transformation. Digital solutions now offer food and beverage enterprises a path for achieving the end-to-end product and process traceability requirements that their customers seek.  Digital solutions that open up access to data help plant management to accurately gauge raw materials availability and traceability across all food processing, storage, and delivery life cycles.

Many businesses who were early adopters of digitisation have found themselves in a much better position to remain resilient and to compete.  The ability to quickly alter production lines to better accommodate sudden surges in demand for particular products (like soft drinks, flour, soups and canned beans), has proven to be a godsend to organisations who have found themselves in the vortex of rapid marketplace changes. In such an environment, building a resilient business results in supply chain continuity, improved food safety, and easier traceability


3 Food and beverage digital transformation success strategies

Although no one can predict the future of food and beverage manufacturing, for those organisations wishing to build up their resilience and agility through digital transformation, a number of strategies can serve as effective enablers.  A good illustration of this is the way Molinos Florencia Argentina, a leading South American producer of wheat flour for domestic and export markets, deployed digitisation-enabled strategies to better manage their grain flour production facilities. Below are some highlights of their digital implementation:


1.Use of an Integrated Control Automation system to facilitate engineering and programming

Molinos Florencia was commissioning a new mill, with a production capacity of 300 tons of flour per day, which required an open systems architecture that enabled seamless integration of batch and historian software, and an easy integration between devices, control systems and supervisory systems. Through use of a Schneider Electric and AVEVA Integrated Control Automation system, library-based system configuration and engineering approaches were used to increase the benefits of collaboration and reduce the time it took to engineer and modify control systems during project design phases.

The ability of engineers to encapsulate and reuse coded objects, allowed them to share these objects across disparate systems. In fact, a combination of application, system and device/resource models enabled the application to be designed independently of the underlying automation hardware. This means applications can be distributed across heterogeneous devices without additional programming effort, and those devices can interoperate following standardised communications/data models across networks. This single change can decrease engineering cost and commissioning time by up to 20 percent.


2. Seek out MES tools that better Integrate control systems

New software tools, such as the Schneider Electric Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for CPG and Batch & Recipe Management, a complete control and supervisory system that enables remote control and monitoring of widely distributed, linked assets, helped to increase Molinos Florencia’s operational efficiency in a way that enables operators to make faster, error-free process decisions, while maintaining the integrity of the system. By accessing a seamless, reliable, and accurate data flow, operators see a complete picture of plant and network operations, enabling them to manage continuous improvement while providing the flexibility to adapt to changing market demands. Such agility can lower operations cost by up to 20 percent through saved workforce hours and optimised production.


3. Align with the right partners

In the new digital world, the role of systems integrators with expertise in industrial automation becomes more important than ever. In the case of Molinos Florencia, the digitisation solutions were implemented by local Schneider Electric Alliance Partner, Aumax, who performed the tight control systems integration. This enabled Molinos Florencia to initiate nimble reconfiguration in response to changing new product development (NPD) needs and inventory levels. In deploying their new system, the Molinos Florencia team experienced 20 percent faster engineering and programming. As a result, product quality and traceability were ensured to meet compliance requirements as well as maintain preparedness in the case of food recalls.

Technology manufacturers, like Schneider Electric, have established global networks of such certified Alliance Partners. These are independent businesses staffed by engineers who are accredited to work within specialised technology environments and specific industry segments and who are sponsored by the local in-country Schneider Electric management teams.

Article by Eric Lemaire, Food & Beverage Solution Marketing Director, Schneider Electric 


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