Adding Value to Digital Data

Oct. 3, 2017
For Food & Beverage manufacturers facing unique industry challenges, the digital transformation is less about adopting new technology to share information, and more about uncovering business value.

The macro trends driving digital transformation in the Food & Beverage industry are clear: A growing population; the sustainability required to feed everyone; the quality required to meet regulatory mandates; and the consumer expectations that manufacturers produce more varieties of healthy, safe products. (See “Smart Manufacturing for Food & Beverage.”)

But how big-picture trends translate into a manufacturer’s digital journey can be unclear, noted Keith Chambers, Director, Operations & Execution Systems at Schneider Electric, during the “Digital Transformation in Food & Beverage” session at Schneider Electric’s Innovation Summit: Software Conference 2017 event this week.

To provide some clarity, Chambers outlined five operational imperatives that will drive technology deployments, including: Improving operational performance, maximizing asset reliability, creating manufacturing agility, safeguarding quality and assuring regulatory compliance.

“That’s where we see the need for digital transformation for our customers,” Chambers said.

And these operational imperatives are not just within the plant, but for the entire value chain, from farms to sourcing to facilities and distribution. “And we have ways to help.”

Specifically, the Schneider Electric IoT platform, called EcoStruxure™, can deliver digital innovation at every level with offerings that address smart manufacturing, smart food safety, smart facilities and a smart supply chain (including agriculture).

The EcoStruxure architecture is built from the bottom up with wireless sensors and assets—like industrial machinery—represented at the first level. The second level consists of edge control, such as PLCs, HMIs and SCADA systems that collect data and bring insight into data processing on the shop floor. The top layer adds in applications, analytics and services.

In addition to the EcoStruxure foundation are the digital transformational technologies that run across the architecture. These include the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), business process management (BPM), analytics, mobile devices and applications, the cloud, as well as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

“As a technology provider, we are adopting and building these into our portfolio,” Chambers said. “And the value propositions behind each solution apply directly to the operational imperatives.”

For example, in the area of asset reliability, it is important to reduce unplanned outages, which interrupt production, wastes resource and costs money. In order to create sustainable asset production performance improvement, manufacturers must be able to look at all of the data collected digitally and analyze it for more prescriptive insights into how to run the plant. If certain batches of product are jamming a machine, for example, having the data that shows what is likely to jam—perhaps due to a process—and then slow things down during that production cycle in order to get the machine operating reliably can solve the problem. While it seems counter intuitive given the need for more throughput, sometimes slower production is better than no production.

Similarly, having recipe agility is important to food manufacturers that need to bring new products into plants faster to meet consumer demands. Companies need the flexibility to move recipes between plants to satisfy demand quickly. There are regulatory reasons, as well. In the U.S., where trans fats have been regulated out of processed foods, products need to be reformulated. That causes a ripple effect on both processing, packaging and label requirements.

These are complex projects, and scalability with end-to-end security can be difficult. This is why Schneider Electric has partnered with Microsoft around intelligent devices and machine learning at the edge as well as analytics in the cloud.

As part of that partnership, this week, Schneider Electric announced a new module for its cloud platform, Insight, powered by Wonderware Online. The new Insight Performance module provides Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) monitoring, asset utilization analysis and downtime tracking in the cloud. The goal is to improve operational performance while limiting capital investment.

Insight Performance empowers operators with data-driven KPIs and real-time visibility into equipment performance through an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Built-in analysis capabilities enable cross-plant equipment benchmarking that delivers actionable intelligence to effectively increase equipment performance and operating efficiency. With greater access to key metrics – anywhere, anytime and on any device – users can quickly identify and share best practices to drive process and production improvements across their business.

The cloud deployment model leverages conventional or IoT edge devices to collect operational data, sending information directly to a hosted online environment, bypassing the usual layers while remaining secure.

Three other industry solutions that rolled out this week from Schneider Electric are also designed to help manufacturers address operational imperatives. They include:

  • Energy Performance – provides improved visibility into energy usage, enabling opportunities to reduce consumption and costs
  • Advanced Process Control (APC) – allows manufacturers to improve yield and product quality by minimizing unpredictable variations in the drying process.
  • Label Assurance – ensures compliance through 100% label inspection checks to reduce recalls.

These solutions empower Food and Beverage manufacturers to simultaneously improve efficiency, quality and performance by delivering real-time visibility, control and intelligence across all operations and functional areas.

“It’s about quality, traceability and error-proofing by governing the processes to make sure no steps are skipped,” Chambers said.

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