Many leading food manufacturers recognize the need for a vastly improved and more global automation infrastructure than currently exists in even the most automated facilities, says a study from the ARC Advisory Group. These companies need better tracking and tracing capabilities, cost-effective production management solutions, methods to maximize asset utilization and solutions for improving quality and safety.

The study, entitled “Food and Beverage Industry Automation Worldwide Outlook,” suggests there is a paradigm shift in the design, selection and deployment of process automation systems, from automation software to plant floor control hardware, to the use of more international automation standards and practices.

Recent and continuing consolidation in the food manufacturing industry plus international quality standards have placed initial emphasis on standardizing common, enterprise-wide financial systems with global deployment of these business systems from both large and small technology suppliers. In addition, the need for automated traceability worldwide and the coming together of industrial automation standards are putting the pressure on food processors to find automation products and solutions.

To simplify automation and enterprise system connectivity, many larger food and beverage manufacturers are specifying adherence to ANSI/ISA-95 (ISO/IEC 62246) for enterprise to control system integration. This specification is important because it helps define the data types exchanged between business (ERP) and plant floor applications.

Food processors must also consider control systems adhering to the ANSI/ISA-88 (ISO/IEC 61512) batch specification as plant floor automation supports a more highly automated and information-driven system requiring minimal manual data entry. Most ISA-88 compatible solutions support automatic track and trace and electronic signatures and record keeping.

Several food processors already have food safety programs such as HACCP and good manufacturing practices in place. However, work still needs to be done in increased plant security measures and anti-counterfeit packaging activities. While most packaging line machinery is highly automated, most labeling and inspection operations remain manual and semi-manual, open-loop systems. As a result, allergen mislabeling and non-readable date and bar codes still occur too frequently. Many of these systems are being replaced with automated, closed-loop systems that ensure accuracy, reduce returns and recalls and improve the assurance of food quality, safety, and security.

For more on the study,