The food manufacturing industry stands apart due to its continual reliance on people. No matter how much automation exists in a plant, people still need to oversee things. Employees will not become obsolete with the introduction of IIoT.

How Will Food Manufacturing Adapt to IIoT

Megan Ray Nichols | Schooled By Science

The next phase of food manufacturing will include the Industrial Internet of Things – IIoT. To step into the future, managers must fully embrace the use of this technology, but some still harbor unfounded fears about using IIoT. Breaking the myths behind this technology will alleviate the fears behind implementing IIoT.


How the IIoT Will Revolutionize Food Manufacturing

The IIot is no longer an option. This technology is the next step in the evolution of food manufacturing, and those who do not embrace it will see reductions in profits and efficiency. In fact, now may be the time to make changes to the manufacturing process. Of industry leaders, 63 percent see IIoT as currently ready or ready for use within the next five years.

Currently, many food manufacturers use automated systems for packing. IIoT goes beyond just packaging though. Connectivity allows manufacturers to trace both ingredients and products. Electronic tracing helps food manufacturers more easily adhere to new FDA regulations. These laws require manufacturers to trace their material sources. Improved tracing gives food companies an edge with environmentally conscious consumers concerned about fair-trade products and GMOs.

IIoT will also dramatically reduce the incidence of recalls. Instead of identifying a problem after consumers report it, IIoT allows manufacturers to spot issues long before the product gets released to the public. While beneficial overall, putting IIoT into practice will require managers to make changes to their workforce.


Employees Will Still Matter

The food manufacturing industry stands apart due to its continual reliance on people. No matter how much automation exists in a plant, people still need to oversee things. Employees will not become obsolete with the introduction of IIoT. Adding new machinery to automate the processes in food manufacturing will increase the importance of skilled labor.

As more companies use automation beyond traditional packing, specialists in servicing and operating these machines will become the new face of the workforce. Instead of firing workers, managers should opt for retraining. Part of this training will involve restructuring roles from problem solvers to solution seekers. The difference in these lies in whether the employee reacts to a situation or prevents future issues.


Training Employees in New Technology

Up to 50 percent of the current food manufacturing workforce classify as baby boomers, who in a few years will retire. This opens jobs for new and existing employees. Managers need to take responsibility for training their employees in using the new equipment. This will be easier with new employees who have already taken courses for technology operation. Existing employees need to learn how to shift from labor-intensive work to supervising the plant's machines.


Integrating IIoT

Bringing IIoT into a plant may be easiest with a slow introduction of pieces. Taking an all-at-once approach will put production at a standstill until all the new equipment comes online. Upgrading existing equipment and pieces that will soon wear out makes IIoT a natural progression. But for each piece added, sensors must get connected to the data stream. Failure to do so could cost the company.

Managers may opt to not connect their manufacturing equipment for fear of hacking. Yes, this presents a real danger, but with competent information technology and operations technology departments, the likelihood of hacking dramatically reduces. Leaving a system unconnected reduces its efficiency through a lack of communication with suppliers. The losses from not being connected far outweigh the minor chance of a system hack.


Start With Maintenance

Many companies already embrace IIoT in their maintenance departments. Aggregating data in the cloud about the servicing of machines at the plant allows multiple people to see when problems arise and to add their own information. Maintenance workers get their jobs done faster by using their phones or tablets to download the information they need. Faster response and repairs reduce the downtime of machinery at plants, thus improving efficiency. Improving maintenance with IIoT is a minor change that can make a significant impact on operations.


IIoT and the Environment

IIoT can improve efficiency at a food manufacturing plant. This reduces the operating costs through energy savings. Consequently, profits increase. For instance, keeping track of operations costs such as energy use allows losses to become for visible and corrected. This reduces the environmental effect of the plant's electricity use and waste.

Selecting efficient, environmentally conscious equipment when upgrading to IIoT can also lessen costs and ecological impact. Examples include products that use environmentally friendly refrigerants and operate with less energy. The more energy efficient devices a plant has, the less power is needed for operations. IIoT technology can uncover these savings.


Recall Reduction

No company likes recalls, but these happen regularly. IIoT reduces the likelihood that potentially tainted or mislabeled products get sold. Just as remodeling an entire plant to integrate IIoT is unfeasible, so is following supplies throughout the entire manufacturing process. Don't waste time and money by poorly implemented IIoT for recall reduction.

Hazards Analysis and Critical Control Points – HACCP – are the best places to get the biggest return on an investment in recall reduction. These sites include places in the plant where products typically fail the process and require recall. Manufacturers can pull the products from the line before distribution and consumer sales. With experience and increased profits, more points along the process can integrate IIoT to follow foods from their source to the customers.


IIoT Is the Future

The integration of IIoT is already happening across the industry. Slow changes in operations by adding IIoT components can improve efficiency and pave the way to the future.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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