© Porter Novelli
BY KEVIN HILL
TECHNICAL EXPERT, QUALITY SCALES UNLIMITED
It is ideal for food manufacturing and processing industries to completely automate their processes to achieve high productivity and efficiency. However, it may prove to be quite tricky to achieve 100% automation. However, a few steps can help you in achieving automation in various areas of your food manufacturing and processing plant. Let’s look at some of them.
Increase connectivity and integration
In most food manufacturing and processing industries, the systems are integrated well on a common platform and network. However, they won’t add any valuable output if the systems are not fully integrated or connected. For example, an energy drink company has a manual data system that generates useful data, but its systems are not integrated properly. Due to this, you can’t put the generated data in context, thus making the data and the system useless. If you install a manufacturing execution system (MES), you can significantly increase packaging efficiency.
Implement overarching integration
The packaging segment of the food processing plants consists of several machines and components working together to run a functional packaging line in an efficient manner. If integration is not fully implemented across all these components, you risk reducing your processing system to a vulnerable state, as the malfunctioning of one equipment process leads to a domino effect whereby the entire system can eventually stop working. By tying the equipment together in an overarching system, the whole system won’t come to a halt when one element stops working.
Implement automated weighing scales
The importance of weighing ingredients accurately cannot be questioned in a food manufacturing industry. One mistake and it may change the composition of the food product, and it may even put the consumer’s health at risk. Using automated weighing scales in the facility will ensure that everything is weighed with high accuracy and precision. Since conveyor belts are quite commonly used in the food manufacturing industry, it would be wise to invest in conveyor belt scales.
Use software to connect processes
In most food processing plants, it has been observed that there is a lack of connectivity between the packaging and processing areas. This causes several blind spots, which can negatively impact your overall system. It is crucial to connect the equipment of one area to the other, using software to make communication transparent, fast and effective. Newer food processors should consider having a more integrated system. It will deliver faster return on investment as well.
Have a clear vision for the future
As food plant owners, you should not get distracted by focusing on just the present automation needs. Having a clear vision of what you want from the future is equally important. Define the scope of the current projects and determine what measures can be taken to extend the results of those projects into the future. Sit with the management and make informed decisions on how capital can be spent on current projects to support your company’s vision for the future. Decide on a standard for both the hardware and software components which can be directed towards a fully integrated system. Take into account how technology can develop and change in your future. Investing a little now can give high returns in the future and also help in future-proofing the automation system, but be careful of not adding any extra costs to any project to build functionalities that won’t be useful in the next five years. Maintaining a fine balance between the two is extremely crucial.
Encourage a data-driven business
The latest technology allows the food manufacturing and processing equipment to generate data which can be extremely valuable for your business. Use this data to your advantage and encourage a culture of data-driven processes. Implement systems and tools to gather and analyse this data. Tracking and documenting in real-time increases the efficiency of daily processes.
Simple automation measures such as connecting checkweigher scales or conveyor belt scales with digital output display can also help a lot. Check the areas that can be automated and adopt automation quickly to increase your production and efficiency.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018