Digital Disruption For Smarter Food Manufacturing In Asia

Friday, April 6th, 2018

Eric Lai, regional business director of industry at Grundfos Asia Pacific, posits that a new wave of heightened consumerism today has great implications for the food manufacturing industry—a paradigm shift is needed.

Fast-growing economies, increasing spending power and greater awareness of health and nutrition are driving up domestic consumption. This is expected to continue, with the size of the global middle class forecasted to reach 4.9 billion by 2030. The bulk of this growth will come from Asia, representing 66 percent of the global middle-class population in 2030.

The food industry is facing pressure to bring more products to market faster while maintaining quality and control. In order to thrive in today’s world of myriad options, manufacturers need to find new ways to differentiate themselves from the competition.


The Road To Digitisation

To address these challenges, the digital transformation of all industries have been gaining momentum in the region. 40 percent of manufacturing leaders in Southeast Asia reported good progress in terms of adopting Industry 4.0 technologies in their factories and processes. This includes big data and connectivity, analytics, artificial intelligence, advanced interactions between humans and machines, and new production methods.

Industrial digitalisation is transforming the way manufacturers can capture, analyse and utilise data to improve business performance. Growing concerns over food safety mean that digitisation plays a bigger role in ensuring data-driven transparency throughout the manufacturing process, as well as ensuring quality control and strict hygiene standards.

The recent progress of food innovation to meet changing consumer tastes also see the need for an automated and adaptive production process that could accommodate a wide range of raw materials, while still maintaining the consistency and integrity in food products.

This is demonstrated right here in Singapore. To future-proof an industry that has contributed S$3.7 billion to the country’s gross domestic product in 2015, the government implemented a food manufacturing industry transformation map that aims to develop the use of automation, create quality jobs, and reskill the workforce.


An Era Of Intelligent Connectivity

One of the key components of the F&B manufacturing process is pumps. Prevalent across all food processing plants, pumps keep things moving during the wide range of processes and applications that occur in production as well as supplying water, managing wastewater and temperature control (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning).

Over 70 years, Grundfos has been developing pumps, and since the 90s, we have been incorporating intelligence into our products to make them more intuitive to use and more connected to an overall integrated system.

Nothing in a food manufacturing facility operates in isolation, and the advent of Internet of Things means pumps can communicate with each other and other components in real-time in order to optimise the whole system. With that, Grundfos has come up with iSolutions – a range of products with a focus on connectivity, intelligent monitoring and adjustment features, optimising efficiency across the entire system.

For example, pumps play a crucial role in dosing—a process pre-treating the process water used in food and beverage production, which ensures the food safety and quality of the product. This requires an accurate handing of the respective chemicals.

Under its iSolutions range, Grundfos’ SMART Digital XL DDA and DDE dosing pumps is able to dose in accurate measurements, which cuts out unnecessary chemical consumption, while consistently reaching processing targets. Such Industry 4.0 technology leads to less waste and more efficiency— ultimately costing less for the food manufacturer and improving safety for the consumer.

Another key part of digitalisation is big data—using advanced analytics applications and platforms to deliver operational insights. Companies can then take those insights to streamline and improve their manufacturing process.

One such example is Grundfos’ latest Multi-Pump Cascade Function, where the pumps communicate with each other via a wireless GENIair connection. Operators such as nutritional and baby food producers in Singapore today learn about the pumps’ status and operating data in real time, allowing them to take this information and make business decisions that would create a more efficient and accurate manufacturing process.


Security Top Of Mind

While an increasingly connected manufacturing ecosystem has demonstrated great convenience and efficiency, experts have warned of the potential security risks, also a rising concern amongst adopters. Research has shown that 90 percent of manufacturers are concerned with security and privacy risks, and of information getting into the wrong hands.

The WannaCry ransomware that took place in 2017 demonstrated that everyone is susceptible to cyber-attacks, even businesses and manufacturers. As more adopt new technology and innovation across the manufacturing process, solution providers need to have a robust data security approach in place in the event of an attack that would compromise production integrity.

For Grundfos to provide quick, highly secure data access for its global partners, we recently collaborated with Microsoft to adopt its Microsoft 365 E3 cloud-based services to manage the increasing amount of data and information that comes with connectivity in our products. The services utilises Enterprise Mobility + Security to encrypt all files that reside both in the cloud and on-premises, improving overall security while still providing easy access and control over data generated.


Paradigm Shift Needed

Technology has played a key role in the food industry’s growth, but it will be truly disruptive in the coming decade. We can continue to expect food manufacturers to demand faster, more accurate, and more efficient processes, including machines that give manufacturers the flexibility to be more agile in the production process, and more reactive to retail changes in real time. Processing innovation will thus be focusing on cleanability, flexibility in changeover and operator safety.

Despite the food manufacturing industry making great strides in switching to newer technology, adoption remains a challenge. Companies need to realise that while advanced intelligent technology can cost more upfront, the benefits in the long run will exceed the upfront investment.

As these innovations are further developed on a larger scale and with affordable distribution, cost will be less of a barrier in the near future. It is heartening to see financial support through the food manufacturing industry transformation map, such as the Automation Support Package (ASP) to encourage technology adoption for large-scale deployment of automation and robotics solutions.

With all this enthusiasm for technology, it can no longer be an afterthought for businesses. Companies need to look at a strategy that modernises the various components involved in the manufacturing process—from production to supply—and embark on building new and compelling ideas for products, packaging and reaching consumers.