Engineering and Manufacturing

What technologies should food manufacturers invest in?

Manufacturing is changing. Love it or hate it, there’s no stopping it. We are seeing an increase in automation and data-led manufacturing across the board, and food manufacturing is no exception. The early adopters are already reaping the benefits of increased productivity, lower costs, and better decision-making. In fact, the benefits are so great that food manufacturers that fail to adapt may find themselves unable to compete a lot sooner than they think.

The real question isn’t whether you should invest in technology, but instead, what technology should you invest in?

Will automation or control systems be beneficial to my company?

If your manufacturing process includes any repetitive or dangerous roles, then yes it will. If you would benefit from knowing more about every aspect of your processes, then yes it will. There are already countless examples of successful integration of technology in the food manufacturing industry, including in R&D, science, and production.

Tools to consider

When it comes to maximising your profit, a well-planned and integrated MES (Manufacturing Execution System) can be priceless. The real time recording of all your production related data allows you to make instant decisions that improve your productivity and efficiency in relation to current demand. It tracks all production data in detail, which allows it to instantly recognise when anything is amiss and bring your attention to it. If a piece of machinery, or part of the process, is regularly underperforming it will make you aware of the problem.

One of the most popular systems in manufacturing operations is SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisitions). This also provides real time data and allows you to use a HMI (Human-Machine Interface) to refine your processes for maximum productivity. Using the HMI can give you access to motors, sensors, pumps, and valves.

Automation mindset

Automation is the future of food manufacturing. It will replace nearly all unskilled labour in the near future. However, it also creates new skilled jobs. The real time data being created needs analysts. The automated machinery needs maintaining. The software needs to be operated. Automation frees up humans to carry out the more complex or creative tasks. Many firms incorporating automation have been able to source these roles from within their existing workforce, even when some retraining is required.

Whether the end result is fully automated factory floors that are backed up by remote data centres, or human and machine shoulder to shoulder, the end result will be the same. Increased productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

A holistic approach

Any single aspect of these new manufacturing technologies will be a step in the right direction. However, most food manufacturing plants have many complex processes that are multi-faceted. In order to successfully serve the company the systems will need to be fully integrated. This can require a more complex and well-structured installation in order to achieve the optimal levels at all stages of manufacturing. A disjointed approach could lead to standalone and incompatible systems that don’t fully take advantage of these new technologies.

This article was written by Clint Johnson, Owner and Managing Director of Control Freaks Ltd.