The food industry is reveling in the digital age with the continual improvement of new technology. More snack producers and bakeries aspire toward alignment with Industry 4.0 ideals—seeking to converge real-world data with digital management—making improvements and adding capabilities to streamline operations and foster growth.


The potential of 4.0

“Whether it is called the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet, the concepts and the technologies that these terms encompass are rapidly changing manufacturing,” says Mary Burgoon, market development manager, Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, WI. “Factories and plants will connect machines and production systems via the internet, allowing information to be exchanged, triggering actions that can enable each entity to control each other independently.”

Easy data exchange and access to that information can provide more customization for manufacturers and their customers.

“Many in the industry are interested in data and data analytics, and how that can improve production, but another interesting aspect of Industry 4.0 is the notion of individualized ‘small batch’ product offerings. For example, a cookie manufacturer could theoretically offer a box of cookies with the cookies selected by the user, even in a lot size of one,” explains Bob Trask, senior systems architect, Beckhoff Automation, Savage, MN. “The most basic necessity to make this manufacturing scenario a reality is the modern acquisition and analysis of data throughout the enterprise.”

At the same time, companies first need to understand consumer desires their readiness to support the desire of 4.0, says Doug Hale, executive vice president, Dunbar Systems, Lemont, IL. “Bakery operators as a whole want what 4.0 can deliver, but are not prepared to spend the required capital. As the technology continues to evolve and becomes part of the base design for the industry, the costs associated will also come in line.”

Companies should also investigate how to practically use the data they can mine.

“Koenig considers how to provide better availability and use of relevant data,” notes Richard Breeswine, president and CEO, Koenig Bakery Systems, Ashland, VA. “These data include ambient temperature, dough temperature, mixing intervals, dough yield and more.”


Smart factories

“For today, a ‘smart factory’ mostly means deep access to data and heightened cross communications among processes on the plant floor. This helps greatly in the measurement of operational effectiveness, as well as for recipe and product management,” says Trask.

“A smart factory is one that is connected, information-enabled, secure and flexible to respond to dynamic consumer preferences,” says Burgoon. “Smart manufacturing plants offer operators and business teams greater visibility into their operational performance, and operational improvements result from better control of a production process and information-enabled manufacturing.”

Burgoon notes that operators at Barry Callebaut, which focuses on being a cost leader as a supplier of chocolate and cocoa products, pull manufacturing information to identify and address material usage variance. With this intelligence, they are able to verify the correct quantity of materials that went into each product and react immediately to any individual box that is off-weight, she explains.

Analysis of key performance indicators (KPIs) can help smart factories reduce downtime. “Eliminating unplanned downtown by monitoring each of the processes for key indicators like run hours, heat and amp load is a huge benefit,” says Hale. “To be able to monitor a system and track productivity in real time aids in the planning process and turnaround time, from order taking to order filling.”

By networking their data, plant operators can act or react autonomously in the future, notes Breeswine. “The priority is the creation of a production environment in which human intervention can be minimized.”

Koenig is working to build in capabilities to analyze dough variables to improve operations. “The dough is a living mass, and its temperature and consistency can vary,” says Breeswine. Comparing dough data at the beginning and the end of a dough make-up line can help operators with quality control.

“The current landscape is one of the industry driving toward much greater connectivity, even for those who believe the air gap—data island security—is a necessary strategy,” says Trask. He explains that for Industry 4.0 discussions, security is still the main concern, and the resulting uncertainty determines how quickly companies adopt these concepts.

“The good news is that the automation community is learning from the rest of the world on how to handle data security,” adds Trask.


Streamlining automation

Industry 4.0 is providing a “way to support the operating staff,” says Breeswine, noting that Koenig is currently working on Industry 4.0 principles regarding its Menes-H high performance dough sheeting line. “The aim is to create an intelligent dough sheeting line, which can even autonomously regulate its modules with the data,” he says.

Breeswine mentions Koenig’s AWS belt weighing unit, released in 2016 to accompany the Menes dough sheeting line, which is also available in hygienic design “H.” The unit brings higher weight accuracy for optimized use of resources (such as flour savings), reduction of scrap dough, shorter production cycles and overall cost savings.

Burgoon says Rockwell Auto-mation is approaching automation by offering equipment that can help companies adopt the right mix of new technology, new processes and support. “These offerings help snack and bakery plants build and maintain a secure and scalable information infrastructure that can best collect, present and act on data,” she explains.

Software, execution systems, and applications are also important in this endeavor.

“Scalable analytics software helps companies quickly and easily derive value from their data with access to actionable information at every level of their organization. Manufacturing execution systems (MES) and applications are key to data integration and the development of meaningful and useful information. And our focused MES applications, such as for quality or performance, provide a way for producers to more easily configure their environment and build out workflows without extensive programming,” notes Burgoon.


Improving responsiveness

Industry 4.0 can also help improve traceability and the recall process. “Because you have real-time information at your disposal that is automatically documented, you have a quicker process to source the information related to the questionable product. There is less reliance on manual logbooks or batch sheets, all of which are prone for error,” says Hale.

“Once machines get connected to each other and to the plant systems, the collection and management of data is simplified,” says Trask. “The concept of ‘meta data,’ where additional information can be added to any process data, is increasingly being used. Then, rather than recalling large numbers of items if a recall is called for, perhaps only the immediately affected items need to be recalled. Much more data is available to give a very precise history of all the ingredients and the process.”

This is a huge benefit to food companies, and it presents an opportunity for them to gain better insights into food production processes, and to resolve or help prevent food-safety issues in new ways, says Burgoon. “Real-time data can be collected from virtually any aspect of an operation and contextualized to provide actionable information when and where it’s needed.”


The expanding data universe

“Manufacturing in the baking world has been tediously manual in the past,” says Hale. “This information can now be sorted and stored in a variety of ways and can be easily accessed from multiple locations.”

The aim is to optimize future processes, adds Breeswine, which will enable a company to offer additional services, such as scheduled preventative maintenance. “In addition, unplanned machine breakdowns can be avoided, and thus, higher customer satisfaction can be reached.”

Burgoon suggests integrated architecture systems, which can help manufacturers access real-time data, helping them monitor and improve machine and system performance. “Big data can only add value to an organization when available in a relevant, consumable format,” she says.

“Once the most-relevant information has been identified, providing access to the right users is integral to getting value out of the information,” adds Burgoon. “Mobile solutions provide real-time reporting anywhere on or off the plant floor, allowing operators the ability to customize their workflow to the device of their choosing.”

Such reporting can only benefit companies and their consumers.

“We benefit from using modern technologies that empower our daily life: the connectivity and data security behind social media, online banking, online purchasing, etc. Now, the areas of data analysis and interpretation are wide-open fields in production. A great deal of effort is being channeled into the advancement of data analytics,” says Trask.

“Machines that have always existed alone are now being interconnected with each other, and up to plant supervisory systems,” continues Trask. “These developments, plus the increasing prevalence of low-cost sensors, enable endless possibilities.”