The good oil about redefining modern F&B operations

Rockwell Automation Australia

By Pierre Kardasz, Asia Pacific Regional Industry Manager, Consumer Packaged Goods and Life Sciences, Rockwell Automation
Monday, 29 March, 2021

The good oil about redefining modern F&B operations

Every industrial sector, from life sciences, consumer packaged goods, food and beverage, to mining and chemicals, finds itself undertaking, or on the verge of, massive digital transformation projects to modernise mission-critical elements of their operations. For most, it can be a complex maze of software patches and employee upskilling, a winding journey with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Well, the answer to taking that complexity away lies in automation, which can streamline workflows at the click of a button. This is the new reality afforded by technology that is fundamentally redefining the operation and shape of factories.

The modernisation of technology is not an entirely new concept, but automation demands a rethink of our old approach. A reliance on outdated ways of working or legacy infrastructure and fears of over-expenditure has seen a rise in siloed businesses that do not communicate and risk disaster on the product line.

In the food industry, the slightest period of downtime quickly results in lost production. This makes traceability throughout the entire supply chain of a business mandatory, with the need for real-time continuous data now essential.

The case for automation

As we come out of the largest business disruption in modern history, food and beverage companies have been faced with a variety of challenges that caused some to pause investment and others to accelerate digital transformation initiatives.

We know running a plant or manufacturing area with multiple systems that are not natively connected is like running a tap without a handle: you have a huge outpouring of data, with little means to control or measure it.

It is not enough to just have the technology, and in many instances, legacy infrastructure can ultimately hinder productivity and quality of produce. This critical need to have visibility over autonomous operations means the entire sector is exploring digitisation in some fashion.

Every time a bottle of soda is labelled, butter is digitally churned or a steaming tray of bread rolls emerges from an automated oven, your plant has communicated everything you need to know in the process, from the control room to the board room. Ensuring a process is there to translate it is integral.

By literally connecting the entire enterprise, unifying control systems into one fully integrated system, interconnecting all applications and devices involved in the manufacturing process to provide meaningful data, analytics and insights that enable real-time decision-making, will ensure manufacturers are better positioned to maintain business continuity and resilience, while improving operational efficiencies.

We see it in other industries, where this control and visibility of data improves security and allows for finite improvements to overall processes.

The oil that drives the engine

No sector is held to greater quality standards than food and beverage manufacturing. A mistake or factory error in the production line can have significant ramifications.

Through technology, we have helped food and beverage manufacturers develop a more agile response to changing consumer tastes and industry standards. With the right level of investment, food businesses have harnessed the benefits of smart manufacturing to revolutionise the way they manufacture their products.

An example of the power of information-enabled manufacturing can be found in a producer of a certain gold liquid that makes the creation of other foods possible — olive oil.

The Conde de Benalúa oil mill in Southern Spain comprised non-integrated, isolated systems that were unable to offer any real-time data or predictive maintenance. Worse yet, the mill was ill-equipped to stave off short electric breakdowns in an industry where product quality is measured at the highest standard. The oil mill rolled out an automation system based on control sections, developed with proprietary tools by industry integrators that supply specific solutions to automate oil plants. This extended across the entire oil mill giving the operators a vastly improved pipeline of information and higher machine efficiency.

By eliminating these bottlenecks, Conde de Benalúa was able to ensure a consistency with each bottle. Thus, the connected oil mill 4.0 was born, offering employees leading data visualisation that allowed them to easily monitor every stage in the production process for both idle and operational machines. This generates data that can be instantly checked to improve decision-making in a sector that demands lots of quick and informed decision-making.

In a climate where the difference between making money or facing disaster is measured in milliseconds, food manufacturers need to invest in technology and rethink what it can really do. A well thought out and integrated solution can be the difference in greatly reducing downtime, responding swiftly to outages or unforeseen circumstances, an uplift in performance and making operations more flexible.

Food and beverage industry leaders have found innovative ways to use technology and digital strategies to improve operations, overcome security concerns, manage remote work and meet changing consumer demands. Those manufacturers who have embraced automation are already reaping these benefits. So, if you need a technology upgrade, now is the time to make the switch and modernise mission-critical elements of your operations.

Pierre Kardasz

Top image credit: ©

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