Food manufacturers are slowly beginning to implement the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), but the industry is slower to adapt to the technology than other industries. It’s imperative to remember that today’s buyer is driven by the ease technology provides. In fact, many people use devices like Amazon’s Echo to play music, order products, get the news, and much more.
However, IIoT for food manufacturers is a bit more complicated than using Echo or Google Home. While there are many benefits to embracing technology, it’s fair to say there are also challenges when it comes to implementation.
The first obstacle for the food industry is knowledge. A survey conducted by the research firm Quocirca of 400 executives in the food supply chain revealed that only about 35% of them had a basic understanding of the IoT and only 21% had a deep practical knowledge. Ironically, some manufacturing processes may actually be part of the IIoT. The lack of understanding may keep food manufacturing executives from understanding how they can use it in their businesses to gain positive outcomes.
(Video Source: TechRepublic)
IIoT for Food Manufacturers is Data-Driven
Food manufacturers are already using IoT in the distribution process. GPS devices in trucks are part of IoT, but just a small part. For example, let’s say a produce company has several refrigerators to keep their goods cold.
Using IIoT technology, phones and tablets can be used to monitor refrigerator temperatures and give employees remote access to make adjustments without having to be there physically. The temperature data is collected and can be acted up in real-time to prevent issues like several heads of lettuce from rotting. The data collected can help to pinpoint the problem that caused the change in the refrigerator’s temperature and help prevent it from happing again.
IIoT technology can also be used to monitor the efficiency of equipment in a food manufacturing plant. Data collected can indicate malfunctions and even predict them. The ability to have access to this type of data can save food manufacturers time and money.
Protecting and Storing the Data
All companies worry about cybersecurity and having their trade secrets stolen by hackers. The research from Quocirca determined the easiest way to store the data and keep it safe is through a cloud-based system. Some companies have concerns about cloud-based systems, but recent advancements have made these systems as secure as most in-house IT systems.
Using a cloud-based system will also guarantee that the information is uniform and will only be shared with everyone in the food supply chain. With this approach, reports and analysis are less complicated. Perhaps what makes a cloud-based system most attractive to executives is cost. The price can be shared across the supply chain and even with partner companies that use the data.
How SugarCreek Used IIoT to Stay Relevant
SugarCreek, a company that makes bacon products, opened a facility in 2015 after an 18-month project to implement IIoT technology. According to TechRepublic, some of the major components of the plant, located in Cambridge City, Ind., are:
- Cameras get monitored off-site allowing maintenance to be done off-site as well.
- All employees wear hats that have tags with radio frequency identification, or RFID. These tags keep company officials informed to where the employee is at all times. The tags also collect data that measure employee productivity.
- Processing areas have television screens that show company data.
“Digital disruption has had a tremendous impact on all markets, and in food it’s been fairly significant,” Rodden said. “The goal for us, for our business, is to be a proactive change agent in the business and provide a secure, stable, and agile environment and manage costs as growth occurs.”
Here are some of the benefits of the project:
- Provides automation, network and developers
- Increases utilization
- Improves uptime and recovery time
- Reduces future storage costs
- Scalable, into the cloud as well
- Highly secure – micro segmentation and next-gen firewalls
The IIoT technology improvements enable collaboration and improve data access, which will help keep them in business.
This is just a brief look at what IIot can do for food manufacturers. An often-quoted study by McKinsey & Company says that the potential economic impact of IoT will go from $3.9 trillion to $11.1 trillion a year by 2025. Machine technology will continue to advance and food manufacturers that do not adapt will be left behind. Now is the time for food manufacturers to embrace technology.