Smart Manufacturing: Creating Improvements For F&B Businesses

Thursday, August 16th, 2018

To stay relevant and competitive in manufacturing, all businesses need to be smart. Mike Matabuena, end-user business manager, Southeast Asia, Rockwell Automation, shares more.

When you think about the challenges your company faces today, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s the need to quickly respond to changing markets and the tastes of consumers who are more connected, outspoken or informed than ever before? Perhaps it’s the pressure to contend with the ever-growing list of competitors—whether online providers or speciality producers? Or is it the need to comply with new regulations for greater traceability?

Whether it’s all or some of these challenges that your business is tackling, one thing is for sure, this is not the food and beverage industry of yesterday. Key to tackling this complex, consumer-driven and fast changing environment is the continual improvement of productivity and efficiencies.

The ‘once and done’ fashion no longer cuts it but luckily the manufacturing world is rapidly evolving too. Connected, information-enabled manufacturing—or smart manufacturing—is creating new opportunities to help better understand operations and get more from them.

Connecting previously siloed processes, smart manufacturing enables a single view of operations within an organisation and seamless communication across people, data and assets. With improvements to real-time collaboration and continuously optimised processes, smart manufacturing keeps operations moving and frees up time to deal with external issues.

Harnessing The Power Of Information


Smart manufacturing capitalises on the latest technological advances to re-define what manufacturing can be and gives the ability to access, analyse and act on data from operations. In order to get the most from them, however, IT and plant-floor systems must first converge into a single network architecture.

A converged network architecture helps simplify how systems operate and streamlines the coordination of data from a variety of sources across operations. Called ‘The Connected Enterprise’, this can be enabled using the following:

  • The Internet of Things: the proliferation of smart devices connected via the Internet Protocol which allows access to data that until now has been trapped in machines, processes and supply chain.
  • Wireless and mobility technologies help to enable data to be accessed and captured from nearly anywhere, and create new ways for communications and collaboration to occur.
  • A secure network infrastructure based on industrial Ethernet protocols, such as EtherNet/IP, supports seamless, real-time data sharing and communications across an enterprise.
  • Big data and data analytics help manage massive amounts of data from across an enterprise and contextualise it into actionable information.

What Can Smart Manufacturing Do For A Business?


Improve Asset Utilisation

When it comes to improving operations, driving efficiencies and ultimately transforming food and beverage production, analysis of integrated systems and data from a variety of sources can provide the answer. So how exactly does smart manufacturing achieve this?

  1. Better intelligence: The ability to access real-time information on parameters, such as temperature, pressure, cook time and clean-in-place, can help to create a more proactive approach to food safety and quality. Automated data collection, logging and reporting also help to reduce the regulatory compliance burden.


  1. Enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI): EMI software organises, correlates and presents production information to help operators spot issues and adjust in real time. Data-rich dashboards display how a machine or line is performing, and notifications alert workers if production parameters exceed pre-set limits.


  1. Enhanced Control: A modern distributed control system (DCS) integrates all automation processes into one plant-wide system. DCS features, such as model predictive control (MPC), alarm management and batch management, can help improve plant efficiencies and operational performance. Virtualised servers and workstations can help reduce IT investments, improve uptime and extend life cycles.


  1. Smarter Machines: Smart machines and devices can provide unprecedented access to the most powerful element that too few food and beverage producers fully capitalise on: their own data. Real-time data can be logged and analysed to help workers make better decisions and ultimately optimise not only their machines, but their entire manufacturing process.

Increase Yields


When it comes to the need to improve yields, smart manufacturing provides opportunities to not only follow the flow of ingredients and track yield throughout production, but gives deeper insights into key production areas that can help to show where operations can improve.

It can also give businesses flexibility and help them respond quickly to changing scenarios and external pressure, including the ability to respond to supply chain developments to improve on-demand production as well as help prevent, and should the need arise, manage, recalls.

The key pieces of software used within smart manufacturing operations that help increase yields for food and beverage producers include:


  1. Manufacturing execution system (MES) software automates data collection for deeper, more immediate production visibility. It can assist in better decisions based around operations, the commodity market and raw ingredients to help manage material variance and improve yield. It can also provide the foundation for a strong food safety/quality system and help track ingredients. Traceability within the food supply chain is becoming essential to efficiently respond to consumer demand, and prevent or manage recalls.


  1. Engineering manufacturing intelligence (EMI) software consolidates data from many sources within operations, and provides reporting and analysis to help drive yield. Quality managers can review production events and monitor work cells to track first-pass yield. Plant managers can monitor yield as part of their plant-wide data and metrics tracking.


  1. Line-integration systems help to enable configuration, control and analysis of line performance from a standard operator station so production equipment can quickly be deployed and optimised.


  1. Model Predictive Control (MPC) software uses predictive models to calculate optimum set points during production. It continuously monitors multiple parameters to maximise equipment performance and better manage complex processes.

Increase Workforce Productivity And Manage Workforce Availability


The applications and resulting advantages of smart manufacturing aren’t just confined to machines—it can also create real benefits when it comes to managing workforces. All food and beverage producers—regardless of size—are under the same pressures to improve productivity and protect workers. In addition, there is a need to future-proof organisations as older, more experienced workers retire and younger, less experienced workers take their place. Smart manufacturing can manage these challenges.


  1. Workforce utilisation: smart manufacturing can give access to real-time data that is contextualised and relevant to the work being performed in order to create 'frictionless' productivity. The result? Food and beverage companies are more responsive to work-flow needs and reduce time-to-market.


  1. Workforce safety: safety systems that are integrated with machinery control systems can help mitigate risks and are not as prone to nuisance shutdowns as older hardwired systems. Additionally, data on safety incidents can identify risks and adjust areas where safety related shutdowns are occurring.


  1. Workforce availability: Worker-specific instructions and contextualised production information can help reduce complexity for new workers, and mobile devices can deliver information to them in an interactive, familiar format. Digitising processes can also capture critical ‘tribal knowledge’ of experienced workers before they retire.

    Smart manufacturing operations also allow food and beverage producers to leverage outside services to complement the existing workforce when qualified talent isn’t locally available, including:


  • Third-party, remote-monitoring services providing continuous machine monitoring, data collection and live support if a maintenance team is understaffed and overwhelmed. These services can be especially valuable for critical processes, round-the-clock operations and operations that are based in remote locations.
  • Embedded engineering services to keep operations running smoothly should staffing challenges arise. Factory-trained field service professionals can provide dedicated engineering support and maintenance services, and complement the skills of the existing workforce.


  1. Creating a future-ready workforce: in smart manufacturing operations, productivity is increasingly dependent on the network technologies and data analytics. Workers must have the knowledge and skills necessary to design, maintain and support the network infrastructure. They also must be able to capitalise on the data that can keep lines running longer and improve productivity.

The convergence of IT and plant floor systems combined with the changing technology landscape is blurring the roles and responsibilities of IT and operations personnel.

Training and certification services can help re-skill workers for converged environments and an influx of data. Introductory level courses give workers the foundational skills they need to manage and administer networked industrial control systems. More advanced courses dive deeper into topics, such as industrial Ethernet protocols, wireless technology implementation and advanced troubleshooting.

Optimise Resource Management


Improved productivity can be a corollary benefit when smart manufacturing is used to address other areas. The management of resources, including water, air, gas, electricity and steam (WAGES) will also benefit.

Take for instance, the impact on energy management. Food and beverage consistently ranks high among US manufacturing sectors when it comes to energy usage. As a result, organisations want to maximise their return on this controllable cost. Smart technologies can make energy data more easily accessible and increase visibility to help make smarter decisions when it comes to controlling energy usage.

Armed with these capabilities, food and beverage manufacturers can proactively manage load requirements, improve system performance and reduce costs.

What Security Considerations That Need To Be Addressed?


While smart manufacturing offers multiple benefits, it also requires a more comprehensive approach to security. Seamless connectivity and smart devices are the catalysts to smart manufacturing—but they can also be a conduit for security threats.

There is a clear need to protect the uptime and intellectual property. However, for the food and beverage industry, security must also be in place for the processes, equipment and people responsible for keeping products safe and ensuring high quality.

A security program should be holistic. It should extend from the enterprise, down to the plant level, and out to all end devices. It should address risks across people, processes and technologies. Some considerations to keep in mind when developing an industrial security program include:

  1. Begin with a security assessment to identify risk areas and potential threats.
  2. Apply a multi-layered security approach such as defence-in-depth security to establish multiple fronts of defence using physical, electronic and procedural safeguards.
  3. Leverage the technologies across operations in a way that optimises security.
  4. Deploy the appropriate security efforts for new technologies, such as using mobile device management to restrict and monitor mobile access

Ready To Take The Next Step?


The bottom line is that smart manufacturing has the potential to wholly transform food and beverage manufacturing operations, but its benefits also extend far beyond this.

The ability to access relevant, real-time and role-based information can help to enable more informed decision-making at every level and create nearly endless opportunities for to improve processes. Advances in equipment, control systems and information systems can help establish more flexible and more responsive operations. It can offer clear advantages and insights when it comes to managing the workforce both now and in the future.

In short, smart manufacturing is key to staying ahead in a fast-changing industry and world.