In a Tech Update feature headlined “PLCs/PACs: Keys to the IIoT kingdom,” we looked at programmable controllers (PLCs), programmable automation controllers (PACs) and to some extent industrial PCs (IPCs), the latter of which can certainly be applied to most any level of control—e.g., discrete, PID, batch, etc. We considered new functionality in today’s controllers, internal operating systems, I/O capabilities, security and networking—both at the fieldbus/controls level (OT) and IT-side connections.
With automation and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), it’s now easier than ever to collect data and monitor production—all this in the name of managing food quality and food safety. But, with multiple sites and lines supplying data around the clock, any staff would be all but overwhelmed—without a direction in where to focus their process management efforts.
These projects show that renovations and new facilities aren't just for the billion-dollar food and beverage processors. Small and medium-sized processors can benefit from properly scaled and engineered solutions too.
Dandies Marshmallows (a product of Chicago Vegan Foods) got its start when its cofounder, President and Resident Engineer Ryan Howard, wanted his son to try a marshmallow for the first time. But his son, who was a vegan since birth, was not to consume traditional marshmallows, which contain gelatin, an animal-based ingredient. So it was time for Howard, being a food process engineer, to come up with an alternative, truly vegan marshmallow—which he did in his test kitchen in April of 2008. He called the marshmallows Dandies.
When we think of IIoT, we often consider the roles it plays in fine tuning processes to peak efficiency, minimizing downtime through predictive or prescribed maintenance, or acquiring data and processing it to improve food quality and safety. But, we don’t always think of another role IIoT can play, and that is using its capabilities to produce unique products in a very small quantity and package and ship them to individual customers.
Food Engineering's recent Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference addressed several high-tech Industry 4.0 topics, including predictive maintenance (PdM). I’d like to show how you can use IIoT tools to improve your maintenance program—and maybe even better your OEE scores in the process.
Some food and beverage plants are potentially well-suited to totally automated process control. Other applications may not be so easy to automate but can still benefit from incremental process control implementations.