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How is the Industrial Internet of Things Impacting the Food Industry?

by Julia Sheridan and Jason Block | Aug 14, 2018



The Industrial Internet of Things is the capturing of information from industrial devices and then making them available to IT systems. This information is processed in real time to generate updated data throughout the manufacturing process. Industry 4.0 also known as the fourth industrial revolution, refers to this computerization of the manufacturing industry where factories are becoming connected and smarter. Learn how this revolution is bringing the food industry into the future.


The History of Industrial Revolutions in the Food Industry

Over the past 300 years, technical advances have shaped how industries compete and now, with the fourth industrial revolution, the food industry is changing once again. The Internet of Things has changed how leading companies are handling food safety, production, and maintenance.

The first Industrial Revolution began in the early 18th century as the era of mechanization came into being in agriculture. Coal became the new form of energy and allowed goods to be transported faster through the invention of the steam engine that launched other innovations. The second revolution evolved from the first in the second half of the 19th century after factories and cities began to form. New energy sources were utilized such as electricity and gas. This led to the first automobiles and fertilizers. The third revolution then began as nuclear energy was discovered in the 1970s and electronics came into focus. This revolution has led to the invention of the computer, biotech, robots, and automation. The third revolution has created the building blocks that have led to Industry 4.0.

The fourth revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, is currently underway as all the technology and innovations of the past are being merged to create a better system. Automated production is becoming smarter, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the reason why. With IIoT, leading food companies can regulate temperature, track products throughout the supply chain, and minimize delays. How is the internet of things impacting the food industry? It is making companies more competitive with access to data, remote management, and wireless solutions. This article will be walking through the multiple ways that companies are utilizing this technology and some of the dramatic results.



Figure 1: Howard Town Brewery Beer Tap


Staying competitive with the increase of regulations

Across the globe, more regulations are being passed to ensure food is safe. With this increase of regulations, many businesses are finding it difficult to access the data they need. IoT data enables companies to monitor food in the supply chain to help lower waste and protect against outbreaks. Sensors, for example, allow companies to follow specific regulations such as temperature, humidity, and product expiration.

By using remote monitoring of these sensors, they have 24/7 control of the machines and can watch over their machines anywhere and at any time. In the UK, Howard Town Brewery added sensors to their fermentation process to have full control of their site. This ensures the highest quality of the beer and frees up their resources. With remote monitoring of these sensors, it is even possible to start, stop, and adjust equipment. Furthermore, the option to produce reports via email and get online trend graphs measuring performance over time makes remote monitoring solutions very useful for optimizing machinery and raw materials handling. Read more about this example in our case study here.


The Perfect Product Every Time

After the third revolution, the food industry evolved due to automation. Products were able to be made faster and more accurately. The internet of things enables food producers to increase accuracy through weight measuring. Using these solutions, food industry leaders can receive weight data from all their checkweighers over an Ethernet TCP/IP connection. By going remote they can control and report the status of data connections, receive and reformat weight data, tag, and store in their routers memory. The solution is simple, rather inexpensive and is reliable. The IoT routers allow data to be shared on PLCs and HMIs, enabling operators with live access to meaningful graphically presented production data.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one-third of human food production is lost or wasted globally each year. This can be due to rotting food, incorrect storing temperatures, and human error. Tracking food by accessing data collected by IoT routers allows business to find issues before they happen, reach new levels of transparency, and ensure the freshness of their products. By tracking food through the supply chain, food producers can be sure that the perfect product is made every time with as little waste as possible.



Figure 2: Farmer


Maximizing uptime and reducing total cost of machine ownership

Machine failures may occur at facilities all over the world resulting in significant incurred costs associated with deploying service personnel and lost revenue due to downtime. With remote access, service personnel can fix any problem quickly over a secure internet connection no matter where the machine is located. Packaging Automation Ltd (PA) is a leading manufacturer of tray sealing and pot filling machinery in the UK. They use remote access to minimize the delays and downtimes of their machines. They can securely access, diagnose, and resolve issues on their tray sealing machines located anywhere in the world, via secure Broadband connections. All of this is possible with the IoT routers on their tray seal machines and a cloud solution from eWON. Read the full case study here.


Lower Safety Risks

Based on OSHA incident data from the United States Department of Labor, the #5 (lockout/tagout), #8 (machine guarding) and #10 (electrical) most cited violations can be tied to automated machinery. Maintaining worker safety in food and beverage manufacturing plants is critical.

Mitigating these risks can be accomplished by making machine data available so that machine owners can immediately understand when equipment has entered an unsafe state and take appropriate protective measures. Additionally, having this data available makes it simpler to predict catastrophic failures before they happen, allowing corrective actions to be pursued before worker safety is endangered. Edge gateways serve a critical purpose in making this data available for use on multiple computing platforms.

Ultimately, the best way to protect workers is to limit the physical interaction they have with automated machinery. This can be accomplished through the use of wireless machine networks to allow local connectivity outside of the machine guarding, and remote access gateways that allow service personnel to manage software changes to machinery from beyond the factory itself.



Figure 3: Peaches on a Conveyor Belt


Reducing Downtime and Flexible Factories

One of the key benefits of using networks to make data available is the ability to understand how machines fail and look for better solutions to limit downtime. This can involve using more robust machine components or even identifying alternate solutions for configuring machines.

A key reason why machine networks lose connectivity is a mechanical failure of the physical media such as cable breakage. This can be particularly troublesome in machinery with rotating systems where slip rings are used for network connectivity. Being a contact component, slip rings will eventually wear and fail to result in increased maintenance.

This has led to the use of wireless technologies for machine network connectivity. This eliminates the need for cables and slip rings and eliminates the mechanical failure that is common with physical media. Additionally, by reducing cable usage, machines become more modular and allow for flexible and easily reconfigured factories.

The Swedish bakery Östras bröd has been baking bread since 1899 and needed to maximize uptime on dough mixing machinery with rotating drums. To eliminate slip rings, they mounted a wireless device on top of their baking machines and on a control cabinet across their floor. This reduced their cabling costs and eliminated a point of failure on their machines. Read the full case study here.


Why the wait?

The food industry is one of the slowest movers in implementing IoT technology into the field compared to other manufacturers. With the increase of regulations being passed, adding IoT solutions allow many to stay competitive. The major concern holding back this evolution is security. Hacking, hostage attacks, and competitors stealing info are all fears that can cause businesses to hold off from this transition. The key to avoiding these IT crises is to trust in a certified and secure cloud solution that is continually tested. With HMS Networks security is our priority and is integrated at every level within the framework of our solutions. Learn more about our security certificates and how they are IT approved.

The next concern that companies have is that the technology may be difficult to implement. Many new machines come already equipped with the capacity for Internet access, but they fear some of their older equipment may not be able to be adapted. This is untrue with our IIoT solutions, many older machines can be easily adapted to utilizing network devices. Network devices, like routers and switches, have a direct connection to the Internet and can be used to connect sensors on existing machines to the IIoT.


Introduce IIoT at your own pace

With help from HMS Networks, we can help you find your perfect percentage of connectivity. Starting with low-cost wireless sensors you can begin to collect data from your equipment and monitor them. This also allows you to start, stop, and access the machine remotely. Additionally, wireless systems allow you to begin to analyze your data and learn from your machines. With HMS Networks, each small step is getting you closer to your customized smart supply chain. Leveraging your smart technology can allow you to save money, reduce downtime, trace products, increase safety and so much more.


Are you considering or launching an IIoT project? Contact one of our experts on how to take the first step!


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