The face of the Food industry is changing. With the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, cloud computing, cognitive computing and virtual reality helping bridge the gap between the cyber and physical realms, there is greater innovation and automation in the Food & Beverage industry.
Industry 4.0 is the new trend that’s pervading industries across the world. Greater automation is creating smarter factories with even smarter operations. Cyber systems are being introduced to control physical processes. Control and traceability are largely possible due to virtual blueprints of operations available on centralized networks.
In the Food industry, Industry 4.0 is changing the way raw materials are procured, food is manufactured, packets are packaged and items are sold. Essentially, the entire journey from farm to table is being analyzed, controlled and is continuously evolving through virtual systems.
Cyber-physical systems communicate with the machinery and software put into place by manufacturers, suppliers and retailers. This allows greater collaboration across divisions and even organizations. Additionally, these systems offer organizations multiple benefits such as:
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- Automated tracking of materials and packaged products through utilization of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and ERP systems
- Quality maintenance of products through horizontal integration of processes across divisions and organizations
- Waste management and carbon footprint reduction through resource management software
- Increased production rate and reduced downtime due to interoperability of systems
- Greater transparency in data sharing through collaborative platforms
Food Production in the Digital Space
Industry 4.0 works based on four tenets:
- Decentralization of decision-making
- Technical support
- Information and process transparency
Moving food manufacturing into the digital space allows organizations to control their processes up to the minutest degree. The ability to chart each step in advance and control the output allows organizations to tackle macro-level world issues such as global hunger, changing food safety requirements and evolving customer tastes.
At the micro level, manufacturers can improve resource distribution and utilization, set up productive workflows and create the least environmental impact. Here are some ways Industry 4.0 will create an impact on organizations functioning within the Food & Beverage industry:
Product information sharing
Product information sharing has always been an integral task for organizations in the Food & Beverage industry. Global compliance requirements require manufacturers to share key product information with other parties. With the integration and overlap of cyber-physical systems, Industry 4.0 will allow manufacturers to share their product data with ease.
In fact, a hallmark of Industry 4.0 is collaboration and shareability. Every piece of the data, from raw material specifications to compliance-related product information, will be available on virtual platforms which will be accessible by every stakeholder.
Management of business analytics and implementation of business insights will be on the forefront of the Industry 4.0. The integration of cyber-physical systems enables greater access to data. Both current demand requirements and historical supply data can be integrated to understand future projections of demand and supply.
Interconnected systems create multiple touch points which facilitate data sharing. Data analysis and generation of business insights can be easily streamlined, considering the greater accessibility to information. Gamification, AVA-triggered content and edutainment will allow for better information sharing.
However, data management in the digital space is not without its fair share of problems. Industry 4.0 in the Food & Beverage industry is still in its nascent stages and there are bound to be many operational and strategic issues that will create obstacles for organizations. With the prospect of change comes the threat of security. Data security will take center stage in the world of Industry 4.0. The challenge and rewards lie in making proprietary operational knowledge secure. While the risks are great, the rewards are greater. Restricting personnel access to specific data, for instance, will allow for greater data security.
Personnel development and workplace safety
Industry 4.0 will bring with it the ability to create safer workplaces. The Food & Beverage industry, with its hazardous machinery and complicated manufacturing processes, can be a minefield for untrained and inexperienced workers. Greater integration of systems allows manufacturers to exert safety controls on the factory floor. Technology can help floor supervisors identify danger times and zones and ensure that adequate safety measures are in place. Machinery can be programmed to identify critical limits and can be designed to rectify problems themselves. Tasks which are manual today can be automated tomorrow, further reducing threats to life and limb. This will also help manufacturers reduce production, technology and legal costs.
Additionally, managers can identify key personnel who have the specialized skill set necessary to drive innovation on the factory floor. Employee development is an added advantage, with staff being trained to use the new technology to optimize production, packaging and transportation. Production-line downtime and the associated costs can be reduced exponentially, as employees are trained to react quickly and safely when new systems fail or break down.
One of the best benefits of Industry 4.0 is its large scope –from helping a mechanic identify the machine part to be replaced to assisting the production manager in finding better ways to make workflows more operationally feasible, making this technology extremely beneficial.
The Food & Beverage industry will see a change in the way ingredients are mixed and used to manufacture products. Synthetic food will come into the limelight, with technology enabling production of safe and edible synthetic materials.
Sustainable production practices can be adopted with the support of technology. The entire farm to table process can be controlled from growing and harvesting the raw materials to processing them. The prevalence of food contaminants will be reduced by setting up preventative procedures. Both quality and quantity of incoming materials can be charted, as well as recalls of soiled products tracked with ease.
Compliance will also become easier as organizations can track their readiness to meet and fulfill compliance requirements. At the end of the day, organizations will find it easier to reflect the values of their customers through sustainable business practices powered by Industry 4.0 technology.
A revolution or an evolution?
Whether Industry 4.0 is a revolution or an evolution depends on the readiness of organizations to adapt to the coming changes. The fourth industrial revolution is almost upon us. By being proactive and accepting change, organizations can transform this revolution into a positive evolution.