News Sectors Food

Food

Industry 4.0 solutions: increase efficiency, reduce costs

2017.08.24


Further increasing urbanization, growing middle class, rising incomes as well as orientation towards western consumption habits contribute to the rise in demand for modern processed and packaged food products in China. The trend is towards high-quality and safe food products. Market experts expect that the sale of packaged food will rise by 19 percent totally by 2021 to reach 121 million tons.
 
Chinese food processing companies are forced to launch new, innovative products even faster than before in order to survive in the increasingly competitive environment, both national and international. However, at the same time this approach also increases the range of products while the batch sizes decrease. There is another trend to which the Chinese food industry must also respond: the development away from a mere volume growth towards more quality and constant reasonable prices. Furthermore, the trend to order packaged food online is continuing. It is expected that internet retailing in China will show an annual compound growth rate of 10 percent for the coming years, as more and more consumers choose internet platforms when shopping for packaged food.
 
Beside a growing predatory competition food processing companies are struggling with rising wages and prices for raw materials. This is driving costs and makes margins decline. Flexibility, efficiency and conservation of resources are key elements which the Chinese food industry has to tackle while being faced with changing consumer needs and the effort to reduce costs.
 
Industry 4.0 with many facets
The independently working food factory is still far in the future. But many applications in the areas of product and process monitoring, labelling, packaging, distribution and logistics, as well as maintenance and repair already show where we are headed today. The main actors here are software, sensors, data and networking.
 
Industry 4.0 solutions have found their way into the food industry. They offer the chance to produce in a more cost efficient way and to control the increasingly complex production processes flexibly and individually. Furthermore, they guarantee the hygienic processing and packaging of products and secure the competitiveness of the companies.

Personalisation is a megatrend of our time. The desire for an individual diet is increasing. More and more consumers want tailor-made products at reasonable prices. Processing and packaging machinery and equipment must be adaptable in a rapid and flexible way to meet customer requirements. This requires complete new concepts for machines and equipment. Key elements for this are modularization and standardization, robot-based automation as well as digital printing systems as individualization should be noticeable from outside. Here Industry 4.0 allows an automated production down to batch size 1.
 
The networked factory is beginning to take shape in the processing and packaging industry. The communication between man and machine as well as directly among machines plays a central role. Human-machine interfaces (HMIs) are the key to a sustainability-oriented process management. HMIs of the industry 4.0 generation serve as an interface for the data acquisition, transfer and visualization of individual machines as well as complete lines. An intuitive guided operation with multi-touch technology – similar to that of smartphones or tablets - facilitates the operator's work. Step by step, they are guided through the individual production workflows. The same applies to format changes, cleaning and maintenance processes as well as other processes. In the event of a system stop, operators will immediately receive a notification with a description of the causes as well as a detailed guide for correcting the error. Thanks to networking, employees have access to other machines and systems from one operator panel without having to be on site. This saves time andmoney in the field of service and maintenance.

Industry 4.0 already leads to a paradigm change in maintenance. Unplanned production losses due to a sudden component failure of machine elements are now a thing of the past. The tools required for this are condition monitoring, remote control and, based on this, predictive maintenance. This offers significant benefits like for example a higher machine andequipment availability, substantially reduced downtime risks, higher operational and production safety, as well as considerably lower maintenance costs.
 
Recommended Reading
The Virtuous Circle

Food

The Virtuous Circle

More
Fitting Rounds into Square Spaces

Food

Fitting Rounds into Square Spaces

More
When you do the numbers, food packaging saves on waste

Food

When you do the numbers, food packaging saves on waste

More