By 2050, 10 billion people will live on the planet. More people means greater food production, with pressure on land usage, meaning increasing pressure to deliver more for less. There is a rising demand for convenience food products, as people work longer hours coupled with urbanisation. There is a lot of waste in food manufacturing – 25 per cent by some estimates. Emerging trends include developing food processing technologies that reduce detrimental changes and maintain the nutritional value, the rise of veganism and new, less damaging sources of protein like farmed fish and insect protein. Food companies are under constant pressure to reduce waste, lower energy bills and maintain margins while powerful customers, locked in price wars, look to squeeze prices.
Food production has among the lowest margins of all manufacturing sectors, particularly for bulk volume, low value goods like cereals, bread, milk & dairy and vegetables. Manufacturers are seeking to apply new technology such as IoT to increase yield and track and minimise waste, from the “farm to fork”. Tracking yield and machine performance in such a price-sensitive business is vital.
Food manufacturers need to see waste – material, machine and employee – more than any other sector. Resource management, execution management and performance analysis tools combined will paint a much clearer picture of the wastes and their location in the food factory.
Quality and safety
Food is perishable, travels long distances and has high safety standards. Many aspects of MES functions are essential in the food & drink industry: Detailed scheduling, job loading and prioritisation, finite capacity planning, dispatching and tracking are some of the most important ones. Companies strive to improve and guarantee the quality and safety of in-process and finished product materials through the application of Good Manufacturing and Handling Practices.
Quality control checks are programmed into several features of MES. In Performance Management, a dashboard can render OLE and OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) values, availability, performance and quality. Having these checks at multiple stages is effective and reassuring.
Technology, hardware and software, is getting cheaper. Sensors that costs tens of dollars can monitor field conditions and inform the farmer, via the cloud, when to irrigate and when to harvest. Ditto in food production, where sensors can together show bottlenecks, wastage and quality failures.
Reducing waste in this chain can be assisted by monitoring the physical condition of food as well as using manufacturing execution systems. Any feature of MES can show the manufacturer information about their operation that they were potentially unaware of, from yields, shift outputs, capex bottlenecks, to employee, equipment and product analysis.
Regulations and trade
Regulatory alignment in trade and food standards is essential if global trade in food is to prosper. Countries that impose tariffs on imported, low cost food risk higher consumer prices which damages competition. Meanwhile, there is pressure to reduce the carbon miles of food in transit, so more countries are trying to increase their food self-sufficiency – better productivity and smarter manufacturing will help.
A good MES and ERP system working in sync should inform the production staff the provenance of materials, and the destination of the finished product. This information can help schedule production of batches for markets with specific quality, labelling or packaging regulations.
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