The food and beverage industry is building up an appetite for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Cloud, mobility, big data, predictive analytics, Smart Manufacturing and Industrie 4.0 are more than just buzzwords – they’re technologies and concepts being used today to improve quality and safety, reduce costs and increase recipe agility to remain competitive in the market.
The question is, how can food and beverage manufacturers leverage the IIoT to achieve business value? In this blog I will introduce three best practices for implementing IIoT technology. By following these guidelines, manufacturers can drive operational excellence across global value chains, increase asset utilization, improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), lower costs, improve end-to-end product quality and increase food safety.
1. Build on existing investments
Food and beverage manufacturers have typically already invested in a number of solutions to automate processes and provide visibility into how operations are performing, but plant data is often trapped in silos and isn’t easily accessible throughout the enterprise. Hardware agnostic platforms with open connectivity add capabilities and visibility without requiring a rip-and-replace approach. Open connectivity also helps bridge the divide between “back office” information technologies (IT) and “plant floor” operational technology (OT) for improved information sharing between plant and enterprise systems.
For more on the importance of bridging the IT/OT gap, read Food Processing Magazine’s interview with Rob McGreevy, Vice President of Information, Operations and Asset Management at Schneider Electric
2. Reduce CAPEX and total cost of ownership
One of the major hurdles to plant modernization is cost. Respondents to a recent Food Processing survey listed financial constraints as their top concern when implementing a technology, citing either CAPEX limitations or uncertainty over project ROI. Cloud-based solutions for functions such as data management, analytics or OEE monitoring offer a low cost alternative to traditional installations, providing the capabilities of on-premises solutions with lower IT and system maintenance costs. If there are concerns over the safety and security of the cloud, a hybrid deployment offers the best of both worlds by storing sensitive data on-premises and pushing shareable data to the cloud.
Food and beverage companies can also reduce total cost of ownership of manufacturing operations management systems through a model-driven deployment approach. For real time production control, critical production event capturing and material traceability, a model-driven Manufacturing Execution System (MES) allows companies to standardize processes across multiple sites and leverage global best practices for low cost multi-site deployment and improved operational performance.
3. Empower people
While the majority of conversation around IIoT has focused on the effects of machine-machine communication, perhaps the greatest benefit is its ability to empower people to make more informed decisions. The IIoT offers nearly limitless opportunities to provide the right people with actionable insights on the right device, at the right time. Using advanced predictive analytics, manufacturers can get be alerted to anomalies days, weeks, or months before problems occur for proactive planning. Early warning notification and fault diagnostic techniques enable improved asset performance, reliability and availability.
Mobile technology is also underutilized in the food and beverage industry. In a recent Automation World survey, only 36 percent of respondents were using mobile technology to track production parameters. This represents a big potential competitive advantage for companies that embrace mobility – enhanced information access empowers people to be active participants in real-time work streams, giving them the information required to improve decision-making.
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Implementing IIoT technology is not one-size-fits-all and I recommend taking a step-by-step approach. At Schneider Electric our model-driven MES, industry specialized solutions, global network of partners and leading position in the food and beverage industry enable us to provide the best services to our customers with the fastest time to value.
Are you considering shifting your business strategy to take advantage of the IIoT? Share your current project, recommendations or challenges in the comments section.