Market Outlook 2017: Automation In The F&B Industry

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

The world is fast adapting to the fourth industry revolution in all sectors, including the manufacture of food and beverages. What does Industry 4.0 entail and what should F&B manufacturers know? Christian Burdin, managing director, Festo, gives his opinion.

How would you define Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things and Big Data?

Christian Burdin

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a generic vision of a connected world, i.e. basic Internet technologies that allow things to be connected to the internet. IoT is not restricted to a certain industry or application (e.g. smart home or connected cars).

The technological enabler for IoT is the internet protocol (IP) v6 with its endless range of internet addresses that allow to address each single thing. At the same time, IoT generates much more data volume as the things become ‘smarter’— more computing power and sensors to generate data, and is the foundation for big data.

Industry 4.0 is based on the same basic internet technologies as IoT, but focused on the manufacturing industry. The area of interest for Industry 4.0 is the vertical communication in the automation pyramid from shop floor, programmable logic controller (PLC), and manufacturing execution systems (MES), up to the Enterprise Planning level.

Big Data describes the exponential growth of data due to the increase of smarter devices and IoT. The data volume is too large to handle with traditional methods of data processing; innovative and statistical methods and memory technology instead are needed to analyse the data. The goal of these analyses is to find conclusions or connection in the data that was not realised before due to limited availability of data.

What should all manufacturers know at this point in time regarding these technologies, and why?

Manufacturers should know that digitalisation will be coming sooner than later. The underlying technology is advancing and fast paving the road for the digital revolution. This can be disruptive since it may change business models or bring new competitors to the market. Therefore, it is important that this topic is for the top management.

In direct connection to the F&B industry, the potential for such technologies can be seen from processing till packaging in fully-automated processes with real-time data monitoring, process control and machine condition monitoring.

These allow food manufacturers to assess real production conditions from bottleneck, downtime, current capacity, machine efficiency till machine trouble shooting; so overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) can be kept at highest level possible.

With further upward integration, food manufacturers can optimise material planning and production planning from real situation on shop floor.

What are some challenges that you see currently in the industry regarding digitalisation?

Technologically one of the biggest challenges currently is the standardisation of communication between shop floor equipment and planning level between different hardware providers.

Another big challenge is the qualification of workforce to apply new technologies or concepts to operations and to keep the operations running afterwards.

There is still a gap in understanding the ‘digital possibilities’ of the topic from a manufactures perspective. Often, this is not home turf of industrial engineers and therefore new possibilities are not explored.

This ‘revised’ qualification for engineers with the relevant knowledge and skills needs to start sooner rather than later to keep up with the market. Because it is clear that if new equipment is bought—which would likely happen—the new technologies will come to a manufacturer’s shop floor and he will need qualified personnel to run operations.

How is Industry 4.0 changing the world of automation in the food and beverage industry?

Intelligent Production

Production control will be completely transformed as different sizes, formats and shapes will become increasingly important. This change will need to be supported by intelligent manufacturing.

Requirements In Production

Our customers, i.e. machine builders and plant operators, require transparent production processes, down to each individual batch. Particularly in the food industry, this is becoming an indispensable requirement for greater safety.

With a complete integration of data, the traceability of entire food chain can be achieved (from source of raw material, batch information, production record, warehousing conditions to point of sale). This is a step forward in quality assurance to ensure a greater food safety.

Also, industry 4.0 provides the infrastructure needed for smart production, which is essentially important for raising safety levels.

For example, data communication can be integrated with automated systems (self-controlling and communicating to other machines): e.g. a robotic system can be used in a high-temperature area to avoid hot working environment (e.g. handling products at steam cooker), or areas which require high hygienic operation to prevent contamination (e.g. aseptic process room), etc.

Continuous Communication: Automation Components For Industry 4.0

A key requirement for Industry 4.0 is the transmission of data from the field level directly to the ERP system. This enables process checks, format changes and condition based maintenance (CBM) to be carried out. This data is an important basis for safe food production. Fast intervention is thus also possible when needed.

Festo components, for example, from the simple analogue proximity switch SDAT to the vision sensor SBSx, can meet these requirements. In the future, there will be a greater focus on designing our automation solutions with these requirements in mind.

Increasing Energy Efficiency And Availability—Reducing Costs

If production processes are optimally designed to meet the highest performance requirements, they should consume the minimum amount of energy. Whether this includes pneumatic or electric components or a mix of technologies, intelligent engineering tools can help to find the perfect balance between performance and economic efficiency.