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Food & Industry 4.0

May 8, 2020.

The business of bringing food to the table involves huge production processes not unlike that of a smartphone factory or textile mill. As such, the food industry is not immune to shifts in manufacturing trends. Industry 4.0 has become the latest buzzword for the integration of industrial machinery, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). Let’s see what that means for agribusiness and food processing.

Faster production lines
The food industry depends on freshness and speed. Which is why keeping tabs on exactly what and how much we produce can be a challenge for large and small processing plants alike.

Thankfully, innovations in Industry 4.0 have found a way of pinning down production output. For example, Factbird collects data from sensors and uploads it to a secure cloud server From here, a number of KPIs (such as production speed, temperature, downtime and others) can be recorded and analyzed.This information significantly improves managers’ decision-making ability and production efficiency.

Automatic sorting and yield estimates
Sorting machines save personnel the job of going through crops one by one and classifying them according to size, weight, color or any other feature. This alone represents an improvement in automation, but not much else.

Hook up a sorting machine to the internet, however, and a world of possibilities opens up. Wifi-friendly sorting machines (such as the Strauss OptiSort) help keep a fast and precise record of your fields’ outputs. With the help of artificial intelligence, this information can be analyzed and exploited in order to produce reliable estimates on crop yields. They also provide real-time intelligence on raw material input, which is critical for organizing production lines efficiently.

Dynamic weighing
Every food professional knows the importance of weight in our industry. It helps us calculate how much of our raw material is going into the finished product and makes sure we’re sending the right amount to our clients.

Because of that, dynamic weighing is a huge assistance. It refers to the ability to weigh objects in movement, such as products passing through a production line. Jesma, for instance, supplies smart conveyor belts that collect weight data and display it in easy-to-read dashboards. Jesma, for instance, supplies smart conveyor belts that collect weight data and display it in easy-to-read dashboards.

Better quality inspection
The marvels of artificial intelligence allow machines to learn how to spot defects in raw material, containers and packaging. Through machine vision, modern inspection equipment (like the Cognex InSight 5000) identify alterations in products according to set parameters.

After several repetitions, these machines learn how to spot flaws autonomously through predictive analysis. They can adapt to the individual characteristics of a particular fruit, candy bar or bottle and point out where there’s something wrong. Again, keeping a detailed record of this information is useful in identifying your factory’s opportunities.

There are many more applications of Industry 4.0 technologies in the food industry. Bringing your processing plant up to speed provides huge rewards in the short and long term. It’s not an inexpensive ordeal, which is why starting small is always a good idea.

Feel free to comment and share your own ideas.