21 June, 2018

Food for thought

27 March, 2018

Importance of hygiene

Another non-negotiable focus within the food & beverage industry is hygiene. Brueckl makes the point that to avoid contamination it is critical that all parts of machinery used as part of the production process – that is to say, all parts (such as pneumatic cylinders and valves) that directly or indirectly come into contact with the food and/or beverage products during the filling process – are constructed of corrosion-resistant, non-toxic and non-absorbent materials.

Similarly, Geoff Grant, product manager, MP Filtri UK, also points out that a high level of cleanliness is one of the primary requirements of the food & beverage industry in order to ensure the finished goods and produce are as hygienically safe as possible. “In most circumstances, much of the equipment used within this sector needs to be operated in strictly controlled environments, with use of stainless steel equipment and appropriate hygienic clothing worn by the workforce,” he explains. “This is to ensure microbial contamination is kept to a bare minimum in line with FDA regulations etc. Therefore, any technology that can offer proven, efficient cleanliness monitoring is an important consideration. For example, different types of particle counting solutions for everything from monitoring contamination in the hydraulic system used on equipment on the shop floor and filter testing, through to monitoring contaminant levels in the air.”

Automation

In the case of production-related or packaging-related machinery, Brueckl observes that many companies are aware of the importance of total cost of ownership and look to take this to the next level. Also, in places such as Europe, Brueckl has seen a drive among many of the larger manufacturers towards deploying fully automated machines within their premium factories. “Of course, with this extra equipment there is also the need for an even more proactive predictive maintenance strategy,” he says. “Again, the main point is that these companies need to be in a position to better plan maintenance cycles. At the moment, many smaller companies still focus on the cost of investment and decide to continue to rely mainly on a production workforce rather than a greater level of production automation.”

The Industrial Internet of Things and Industry 4.0

The theme of greater data connectivity and analytics is being increasingly discussed within manufacturing. Crofts picks up the topic, commenting that if the type of technology that can enable these benefits means providing more information to customers in terms of when to upgrade parts and equipment etc., then concepts such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) and Industry 4.0 have to be recognised as very valuable. “With the current shortage of skilled manpower within industries such as food & beverage, these types of automated processes can be very useful,” he says. “Many companies are so busy running the machinery that they haven’t a lot of control over how machines could be run more effectively, or how to maintain them more efficiently. So, the more valuable automated information provided that doesn't need to be manually collected is going to be a tremendous bonus to them.”

With the importance of maximising machine uptime, Brueckl comments that there is certainly a strong argument for deploying more ‘connected’ technology in order to better monitor the current condition and performance of plant and equipment within the food & beverage industry, among others. “This is where the Industry 4.0 concept, and the tools that can make it a reality, can plan an important part – for example, greater use of sensor technology, IT and analytics software,” he says.




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