A production-management MES module can help workers make sure they download the correct recipe with equipment specifications for each production run, and print accurate labels from production to palletizing. Accurate labels can be especially critical for consumer protection—incorrect labeling is one of the core factors in food recalls as outlined by the U.S. FDA.
A quality-management MES module can help reinforce food quality. The software can alert workers when they should take samples or which specification they should be measuring against. It can also provide integrated video instruction, notify operators when there is a deviation (SPC function) from critical limits, and collect any required production data in real time.
In addition, to meet new and emerging traceability requirements, food and beverage manufacturers can deploy a supply-chain, track-and-trace system. Beyond regulatory compliance, these systems can provide added business benefits, such as the ability to conduct more efficient product recalls and support customer-targeted marketing programs. They can also improve production costs through the mitigation of waste due to quality-related issues.
Mixing optimization solutions can help manage process changes and ingredient variability to improve product consistency. This can help in applications ranging from single repeatable processes to large processes that have complex sequencing requirements.
Rather than designing an in-house, track-and-trace system, which can be difficult to sustain over the long term, food producers should consider using an out-of-the-box system. Such systems can be easily integrated into a production line while providing buffering and translation to achieve interoperability all the way from the machine to the cloud. An MES system provides a reliable platform to maintain data integrity while being customizable for an application’s specific requirements.
Model predictive control (MPC) software can help improve product quality caused by equipment and ingredient variability. MPC systems take multiple, variable material or system inputs that may not react linearly and provide one or more outputs.
The MPC software adjusts the system as the materials enter the conversion process instead of adjusting based on the measured values after conversion. The reduced variance in output often allows the system to adjust target values closer to formula limits, resulting in higher yields.
Finally, food and beverage manufacturers shouldn’t underestimate the role that machine analytics can play in food safety. Scalable analytics software can be deployed as close to the source of data as needed, and track machine or device performance to see if it’s operating within specification limits. Manufacturers can then use that information to take preventive actions and resolve machine-degradation issues before they start to impact product quality.
The Security Factor
As food and beverage manufacturers bring their food quality applications online, they must also have a robust industrial-security program in place.
A security-through-obscurity approach is not sufficient for today’s vast and continually evolving threats. Instead, a multilayered, defense-in-depth security approach should be deployed as a natural extension of a producer’s production processes.
Defense-in-depth security establishes several lines of defense against all types of threats by deploying security measures at six levels: physical, network, computer, application, device, and policy. Every organization’s security strategy will be unique. However, key safeguards that every food and beverage manufacturer should consider include an industrial DMZ, data encryption, anomaly-detection software, and authentication, authorization, patch management, and accounting software.
Food safety issues reverberate far and wide. Most importantly, they can affect the well-being of consumers. From a business standpoint, they can seriously disrupt operations, damage brand reputation, and have financial consequences ranging from lawsuits to lost sales.
Food and beverage manufacturers have a lot at stake. They should leverage the opportunities offered by a Connected Enterprise to better manage today’s challenges and help protect the integrity of every product that rolls off the line.