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Factory Automation
Batch Processing
Process Automation
Packaging Automation
On the Edge

Batch Processing Desk

September 18, 2014 | By Renee R. Bassett
Robotic cucumber harvester. Source:
Just like their food processing counterparts, U.S. food farmers are using data-based decisions to maximize production and increase profitability.

Smart machines, real-time communication, integrated networks, big data, high-speed processing—these technological advances sound familiar to today’s food & beverage processors, who are in the midst of transforming their manual and isolated operations to better compete on a global scale. But I bet you didn’t know that automation also is infiltrating food growing counterparts around the world—commercial farms, orchards, hatcheries, and the like. There are lessons to be learned from these efforts, because automating factories is actually easier than automating farms.

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September 18, 2014 | By Renee R. Bassett
The acquisition expands Maverick’s batch process and systems validation capabilities, and increases its distributed control systems (DCS) capabilities for the for life sciences, chemical and metals industries.

When searching for a main automation contractor (MAC) or system integrator for a batch control system upgrade or line expansion, pharmaceutical and chemical plants need partners with specific experience. Maverick, a global vendor of industrial automation, enterprise integration and strategic manufacturing solutions, has made an acquisition to expand it batch process and systems validation capabilities, and increases its distributed control systems (DCS) capabilities for the for life sciences, chemical and metals industries.

Maverick has acquired CQS Innovation, Inc. This Michigan-based systems integrator expands Maverick’s size and scale as a global organization with 19 office locations and 500+ engineering professionals.

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July 31, 2014 | By Renee R. Bassett
Resolution affects vision system quality. The image on the left was taken with 640x480 image sensor. The right photo is the same image taken with 1600x1200 sensor. Source: Teledyne Dalsa
Industrial vision systems can improve quality or automate production, but choosing systems that match the application and ownership requirements can be confusing. Here are factors to consider when integrating vision.

Every vision system has one or more image sensors that capture pictures for analysis and all include application software and processors that execute user-defined inspection programs or recipes. Additionally, all vision systems provide some way of communicating results to complementary equipment for control or operator monitoring. But there are many types of vision systems on the market, and choosing among them can be confusing.

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July 29, 2014 | By Renee R. Bassett
The 100-year-old company's first foray into robotics involved installation of a robotic retort tray loader for their packaging line. Says the project engineer, “This experience really changed our mindset regarding automation.”

“Our plant was not very automated. We were very much a manual operation, and we knew we needed some automation.” Many food processing facilities have said the same. And once they make the leap to automated systems, including robots, many food processors wonder why they waited so long.

In Automation World’s sister publication, Packaging World, Anne Marie Mohan, tells the story of Bell Carter Foods, Inc. a fourth-generation, family-owned company that has been in operation for more than 100 years in Lafayette, Calif., producing table olives for retail and foodservice sale. They went from zero to 10 robots in 2.5 years, with no regrets.

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July 28, 2014 | By Renee R. Bassett
Roka Bioscience is a manufacturer of food safety diagnostic systems
The manufacturing IT staff of food-safety test-system manufacturer Roka Bioscience increased efficiencies and compliance by choosing a metadata-based integration platform to pull together Oracle ERP, PLM and third-party systems data.

The work of information technology (IT) managers for food, chemical and life science product manufacturers seems to take on an added urgency given all the data gathering and reporting required for regulatory compliance. To handle the need, manual systems given way to digitized systems that then often reach into other systems—sometimes peacefully coexisting and sometimes making their users’ lives miserable. The goal of a single enterprise-level system that handles everything seamlessly is often only a mirage—despite the impressive intentions of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems

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