The food and beverage industry today faces a number of challenges. As the population grows and ages, we have seen shifts within the market and changes in consumer demand. Consumers are growing more health-conscious, leading to increasing demand for healthier and more complex product variations. Also, increased environmental and safety regulations are pushing food and beverage manufacturers to reduce energy consumption, increase sustainability, and provide consumer traceability.
Tight operating margins further complicate the situation. The shift in regional demands and slow growth in the market limits opportunities to invest in new equipment. Facing these capital expenditure constraints, food and beverage manufacturers are expected to meet consumer demand without significant new investments, working with primarily legacy equipment.
Manufacturers also operate under tight food safety constraints, where any error can lead to costly regulatory action. In addition to the financial penalties, violations can lead to immediate backlash from digitally-connected consumers, instantly affecting a brand’s reputation and sales.
New technologies such as cloud, IIoT, BPM and predictive analytics and concepts such as Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing offer the potential for companies to meet these challenges by leveraging on these capabilities to digitally transform their businesses. Forward-thinking manufacturers are implementing digital transformation strategies to maintain competitive advantage, optimise their operations, improve asset reliability, improve manufacturing agility, and enable regulatory compliance.
Fundamentally, digital transformation is the process of embedding digital technologies and concepts within the physical production process. Many companies are currently in the process of digitising their businesses, but it’s worth considering how those strategies can be enacted on the plant floor specifically, as the plant is the largest contributor to any manufacturing companies’ value chain.
There are multiple benefits to implementing digital transformation. Digitising operations enables manufacturers to improve agility, productivity and performance across sites and production lines while maintaining and enforcing consistent standards throughout operations.
Digital transformation gives users the tools and insights to dive into the factors driving operational efficiency, going far beyond basic data to discover the real metrics that are driving plant performance, equipment availability and product and process quality. Implementing OEE measurement and lean manufacturing principles is a good first step, but without more in-depth data and analytics, it’s impossible to tell the true factors driving plant performance.
Powerful modelling tools, visibility into plant performance and drill down analytics allow users to discover bottlenecks, and understand how to design operations in a more efficient manner. Predictive analytics solutions enable a more proactive maintenance strategy allowing manufacturers to reduce unscheduled downtime, increase uptime and better plan capital expenditures.
On the quality side, manufacturers can avoid recalls and improve end-to-end quality by digitising and automating quality operations, sample plan execution and workflows for corrective actions and quality control on the plant floor. Automation, standardisation and enforcement of inspection, data collection and quality sign off procedures help reduce costs while ensuring quality and maintaining regulatory and product safety compliance.
Serialisation solutions enable users to electronically track and trace a product as it passes through the supply chain. This means that at any point, companies are able to identify and stop the distribution of poor quality or contaminated product back to its source, prevent product mix up, optimise product recalls, and ensure only good products reach consumers.
In order to tackle the increasing variability of consumer demand, digitising and standardising formula and recipe management is critical. Electronic recipe management helps with faster changeover of products and secures consistency in product quality through automation of equipment setup processes and recipe execution. This allows food and beverage manufacturers to increase business agility by managing more variations with reliable quality consistency, giving companies the ability to take new products to market faster.
Implementing digital transformation doesn’t have to involve heavy weight and costly software installations. Lightweight cloud deployments for functions such as data management, advanced analytics and OEE monitoring allow food and beverage manufacturers to quickly deploy solutions for fast time to value and reduced total cost of ownership. When implementing a production control system, a model-driven Manufacturing Execution System (MES) facilitates the implementation of multi-site digital transformation.
Digital transformation will also reveal additional areas where digitisation will benefit your business, as once comprehensive process efficiency models have been created and deployed, it will be easy to notice which equipment, processes, or teams are underperforming, leading to natural areas to deploy increased digitisation.
Digital Transformation In Action
These benefits are more than just academic—they’re providing companies real benefits in the marketplace today. As an example, F&N Dairies digitised their quality management to improve product quality and regulatory compliance. Prior to digitising their operations, F&N Dairies tracked all quality parameter deviations manually on paper-based operations sheets. This led to a significant time burden at their Rojana factory, a major facility producing 24 million cases of canned milk a year. Quality traceability time could take hours as staff searched through piles of archived sheets in order to determine the root cause of an incident.
The company turned to Schneider Electric for a solution. By implementing Schneider Electric’s Manufacturing Execution System (MES), the company was able to monitor product quality in real time, allowing operators to respond to incidents quickly in order to prevent overfill and material loss.
In addition, a fully digitised system allowed operators to quickly retrieve product quality information, reducing traceability time from four hours to one minute. After digitising their quality management function, they achieved 100 percent first-time quality, an internal lean metric that indicates when products are manufactured correctly the first time, without needing inspection, rework or replacement.
Drive Operational Excellence with Digital Transformation
In an increasingly crowded and competitive market, digital transformation gives food and beverage manufacturers the tools to maximise profits. To learn more about digital transformation, download our whitepaper on Manufacturing Operations Transformation.
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