How F&B Manufacturers can benefit from 4 New Technologies

Posted: August 8, 2018

Food and Beverage, CPG

How F&B Manufacturers can benefit from 4 New Technologies

Of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2018 listed by Gartner, which ones are influencing the F&B manufacturing industry the most? Now that we have crossed the midyear mark, I thought it would be interesting to examine the extent F&B manufacturers can benefit from some of these new technologies and transform the way manufacturing plants are run.  It might seem that the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) should be one of these topics, but the reality is IIoT is deeply woven into and underpins all four of these technologies. 

1. Digital Twins - Enhancing Operational Excellence

The term “Digital Twin” was first coined in 2002 to describe a virtual model that mimicked the responses of a real-life system. In manufacturing today, that definition is typically applied to physical equipment and processes, whose operation is modeled by big data collected via the IIoT or plant floor. This model is dynamic and includes both theoretical performance (process simulation) and actual operating information and parameters. The value of a digital twin is directly proportional to the fidelity and scope of the data that powers the model that underlies it; such as engineering data, operating data, production data, product data, supply chain data and environmental metadata such as temperature and humidity. While there is value in just collecting current and historical data for analytics, the real power of the digital twin is unleashed when it covers the full 360o of the assets lifecycle, making it a single repository for the information needed by both operations and maintenance in the plant, providing engineering and operational data to enable big data analytics, such as planning, optimisation and predictive analytics.

2. Cloud to the Edge – Reducing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Enabling Big Data Analytics 

In some of my previous blog posts, I’ve talked about leveraging cloud in F&B manufacturing. Today, cloud-based operations management solutions are becoming more prevalent as customers look to leverage low infrastructure and support needs on site to lower the TCO for their industrial software. Cloud-based systems can be rapidly provisioned and implemented over multiple sites, without the need for a complex IT infrastructure set-up, or support at each site, but the trade-off is latency and risk of disconnection. Given the mission critical nature of many in-plant systems, the emerging hybrid (Cloud/Edge) or “foggy” architecture is emerging as the best practice for industrial software. In this approach, mission critical elements are hosted on the edge (i.e. in the plant), loosely coupled to a cloud backend for big data storage and resource intensive tasks. To maintain the advantages of a Cloud architecture, these edge components are typically configured and managed remotely from the cloud, locking in similar TCO improvements to a pure Cloud solution; with the specifics of where functionality runs (Cloud or edge) varying according to the application. Low hanging fruit for this approach might be having real-time data systems such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) running on the edge with production performance KPI data pushed to the cloud for storage, monitoring, reporting and analysis. Another example would be using IIoT in the supply chain to filter and contextualize data collected on the edge and send it to the Cloud for advanced analysis; with the results going back to the edge for action, such as our recent WaterForce customer success story.

3. Immersive Experience - Improve Asset Reliability and Empower the Workforce

In the realm of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), the two most apparent benefits are improving asset reliability and empowering the workforce to improve productivity and safety. AR enables virtual imageries and step-by-step instructions to be overlaid onto actual equipment as viewed through a phone or tablet camera; providing visual guidance for the maintenance and operations teams. This provides a substantial benefit particularly for less experienced staff and infrequent tasks, such as machine repairs, fault finding, or exception processes for rework, or deep cleaning and sanitation. By significantly reducing the potential for mistakes that could damage equipment, delay repairs, compromise quality or even food safety, AR can be a key pillar of digitalization in the plant.

While AR can provide “on the job” assistance to staff, fully immersive VR training is an equally valuable approach for onboarding new workers and training all staff on exception and emergency event responses. With this technology, operators or maintenance workers can roam and interact with a virtual representation of a plant to learn routine tasks, or to drill on exception protocols such as fires, or environmental incidents. There are many different techniques to deliver this experience based on how much a customer is willing to invest, from a photosphere view (think Google Street View), a 3D CAD- based view, up to laser scanned photorealistic environment. These are all underpinned with the same process simulation model that provides the responsiveness to actions and events happening in the plant, bringing the experience to life.

4. Blockchain - Fueling Product Information Management Solutions for F&B

By now most people are familiar with how blockchain technology supports a decentralised ledger, recording financial transactions securely in a distributed database; enabling digital currencies such as Bitcoin to flourish. Now apply the same methodology in the F&B supply chain, and we can envisage how F&B manufacturers can benefit immensely from this new technology. Food safety has always been of top priority and with regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act in the US the responsibility falls upon F&B manufacturers to ensure full traceability including product genealogy to support recalls, investigations and even tax and excise charges. Blockchain technology might just be the key enabler of a transparent and all-inclusive system that can electronically track and trace a food product in its journey from farm to fork. Capturing farming data, supply chain data, manufacturing data, distribution data and consumer data from respective stakeholders and creating a digital record at every point makes this decentralized system highly attractive for F&B manufacturers, who rarely own the entire supply chain. This concept is starting to gather steam with new Product Information Management solutions that leverage blockchain technology to hold the entire record for a particular product, essentially a digital twin of the actual finished good.

At the AVEVA World Conference – North America, I’ll be discussing these topics further as I meet up with more industry peers from the Food & Beverage and Life Sciences manufacturing space. I encourage you to join me at the event from 10 – 13 September 2018 to learn how the next generation of industrial software innovating operational architectures are leading digital transformation; and the benefits that can bring to your business.

Written By
Keith Chambers

Keith Chambers is responsible for strategic direction, commercialization and development for AVEVA's operations management portfolio globally. Keith has over 20 years’ experience in the automation, software and MES business with a focus on manufacturing operations software in the food and beverage, CPG and life sciences industries.

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