With continuous improvement initiatives front and center for most food manufacturers, companies are under enormous pressure to find new automation platforms or tools to increase margins for their products. One push receiving attention is more efficient data entry on the plant floor.
Nestlé Wagner moved in this direction with its sizable frozen-food manufacturing plant in Nonnweiler, Germany. The 66,000-sq-ft plant produces, on average, 350 million pizza products annually, including brick-oven pizza, appetizers, and lactose-free and organic products. With such volume—and two new production lines added in 2013—the food producer is moving to standardize its data entry throughout the plant. Getac’s A140 rugged tablets are providing Nestlé Wagner the platform to increase the delivery of accurate, real-time production data to its enterprise system.
Before implementing the tablets into production, Nestlé Wagner worked with a predominantly paper-based system that required each change to the documentation of standards in food production to be printed out and filed in a special folder, says Christian Joseph, team leader operational excellence at Nestlé Wagner.
The ruggedized A140 tablet used by the company features a 14-inch screen to help operations simplify and improve production process at the plant. For example, maintenance technicians are using the camera and video technology to provide real-time communication to back-end engineering support. The front-facing camera offers full high-definition video, while the rear imaging option provides 8 MP resolution for field training, video capture and conferencing for remote troubleshooting on the plant floor.
“A crucial reason manufacturing companies choose this rugged device is to minimize downtime,” says Eric Yeh, sales director at Getac. “The production line often runs 24 hours a day and in a difficult environment, such as refrigeration areas with 14 °F temperatures in the Nestlé production plant.”
The device’s temperature rating ranges from -5.8 to 140 °F, with a storage temperature of -60 to 160 °F. Besides satisfying cold room environment demands, the tablet is also certified under MIL-STD-810G to withstand drops of up to 4 ft, vibration, and is IP65 certified to resist moisture.
The device’s touchscreen, LumiBond 2.0, uses an optically clear resin to bond the display glass to the touch panel and LCD to create a single panel interface. Advanced touch modes enable operation in the rain, with gloves or a hard-tip stylus. The A140 stylus is suited to capturing signatures or taking notes on drawings.
“Many manufacturers and our customers are focused on the accuracy of the stylus and want it smooth like they’re using pen and paper,” Yeh says. “The rugged tablet’s software provides the ability to adjust touchscreen sensitivity for either the stylus-pen or finger mode.”
Enterprise data collection
As with many food manufacturers, big and small, the use of SAP’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provides another catalyst to standardize data entry for Nestlé Wagner. It supports real-time monitoring of raw materials and work orders, and also benchmarking of production line output.
The tablets come with 4G LTE wireless network capability and provide the choice of Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology to connect to system software platforms. A slim-profile dock also adds the ability to tri-pass through antenna ports and simultaneously connect to high-gain WWAN, WLAN and roof-mounted GPS antennas.
Also helping in the transmission of data to enterprise platforms is an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. “Large food manufacturers need to retrieve and process data from multiple servers, and high computing power is needed to ensure real-time information,” Yeh says.
The device uses Windows 10 to run SAP on the device at Nestlé, and also offers Windows’ trusted platform module (TPM) 2.0. TPM 2.0 monitors the device’s system startups in the plant and ensures a tamper-free operating system before use on the factory floor. The device also offers multifactor authentication options, including fingerprint, RFID or smart card readers.
For Nestlé and other customers, Getac customizes interfaces to enhance certain features or routines for operations and maintenance teams. “Customers need to customize operating systems to ensure the stability of the device, and we work with customers to provide support in managing security update implementations initiated by Microsoft,” Yeh says.
Overall, the continuous improvement initiative at Nestlé is an example of how digital technology tools and sound data management processes can provide the next step forward with plant modernizations.
“With these rugged devices, we are taking advantage of the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0, utilizing mobile data capture to benefit from an increased level of production performance,” Joseph says.