Food and beverage manufacturers have shown increasing interest in how IoT applications can be deployed in their production lines yet have been historically slow to fully adopt the tools of emerging digital technology. This reflects a greater reticence among American manufacturing operations to commit to embracing the totality of Industry 4.0.
Industrial IoT (or IIoT) tools demonstrate a potential to revolutionize manufacturing through benefits such as expanded data mining and connectivity between users and machines. However, the maximum value of these applications can only be derived from processing this data through a comprehensive Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution. A past obstacle to fully integrating ERP software with the operational technology (OT) of food and beverage plants has been the segmentation of the processes involved in either system into siloes. IIoT offers the opportunity to transform ERP into a bridge between the disconnected siloes and facilitate an IT/OT convergence.
Here are a few examples of how IIoT and ERP solutions will affect food and beverage manufacturing in the future:
One of the most obvious benefits of IoT applications is the freedom of movement their introduction grants to operators. Wireless connections and multiple embedded sensors mitigate the necessity of static interfaces and inert workstations. Tasks such as maintenance, planning, and others can be streamlined using IIoT-reliant tools to enable increased operator mobility.
IoT-enabled products made for personal consumption, such as thermostats and smart watches, are often made operable by users through mobile device applications. Smart phones have become ubiquitous among individuals and each successive generation is more familiarized with the technological concept of mobile applications. The deployment of mobile devices into production spaces connected through IIoT networks can enhance workflow and operator input.
Cloud-based software also allows for increased mobility of operations by enabling disconnected data siloes to integrate seamlessly. Cloud ERP solutions deployed as SaaS models in particular can provide remote users and separated business units the ability to interact as they would in an onsite setting. This allows less extensive operations that rely on product-to-market speed to maintain ROI to streamline workflow processes.
Continuous network connectivity is what enables tools such as mobile applications and cloud ERP solutions to be deployed in production lines, and it is the driving force behind the implementation of IIoT in a manufacturing workspace. IoT deployment will allow users to interact with machines throughout the plant using methods such as a Bluetooth or RFID connection. It is also what enables siloes to interact in real-time and exchange data that would otherwise be isolated in a timelier manner, delivering visibility across production lines and supply chains on an on-demand basis.
Data has taken an increasingly important role in the digital age, yet the introduction of IIoT promises to expand that role exponentially. Manufacturers are increasingly relying on digital information to streamline production and confront critical bottlenecks, yet within sectors such as food and beverage, the ability of data to aid in addressing these pain points has historically been underutilized. Deploying IoT applications to meet food and beverage processing-specific concerns provides new opportunities to harness the power of data to mitigate these problems.
Food and beverage manufacturing is a sector that relies on extracting up-to-date product and ingredient data in order to ensure ROI is delivered after processing and distribution. The inherent perishability of many of the materials used in production, as well as that of several end-products, necessitates the imposition of deadlines to prevent spoilage. As personal consumption items, food and beverage products also require increased scrutiny for production cleanliness and recipe mixtures to separate potential allergens from being introduced into certain packages. Several national and international regulations also require oversight of material resource processing and product distribution to protect consumers from ingesting tainted products.
Implementing IoT application sensors offers increased opportunity to conduct real-time data mining at multiple stages to provide real-time oversight at each level. Leveraging wireless networks enables decision-makers to access this data from any component of their production line or supply chain and extract updates on product status. This information can contribute to several processes besides quality assurance, including compliance checks and building more precise forecasting analysis from historical data with increased accuracy.
Automation & Human Input
Part of the transition to Industry 4.0 entails allowing for greater autonomy within machine equipment. The shift to more seamless interconnectivity between tools also enables better machine-to-machine interaction and functionality. In sectors such as food and beverage manufacturing that rely on speed to enforce ROI, mitigating time costs resulting from machine interaction helps with overall streamlining of processes and allows user input to be diverted towards maintaining potential bottlenecks instead of repetitive tasks.
Automation within an IIoT-connected workspace is evolving to the point of allowing for quicker reaction times to incidents leading to production line downtime. In areas such as maintenance, machines can deliver immediate reports to the appropriate personnel regarding equipment degradation and schedule for service by a technician. This eliminates the need for regular check-ups and lends to enabling human interaction to be kept mobile on the production line. Problems can be identified and solved much quicker, preventing any long processing disruptions.
Customer Service & Engagement
Real-time data delivery made possible by IIoT also helps fulfill modern consumer demands for visibility. Comprehensive material resource processing reporting allow food and beverage manufacturers to demonstrate transparency in delivering farm-to-fork products. This model can also be applied towards addressing future consumer trends as they emerge, in which case IoT-connected solutions can be further leveraged to extract customer data in the present to build forecasts for impending demand. Customer relationship management software systems will become increasingly important as new avenues to apply client data emerge.
ERP solutions provide a comprehensive overview of an organization’s operational processes and thus are best positioned for facilitating the implementation of IIoT applications. A modern, flexible ERP system can provide the bridge between the IT and OT spaces to allow for true end-to-end visibility between otherwise siloed business units. Scalable solutions deployed in the food and beverage manufacturing sector can be customized to address developing pain points with the data provided in real-time by IoT-enabled sensors. All of this information is compiled within the centralized ERP database for a top-down look at the entire system, which allows better informed decision-making.
ERP Solutions Will Increase in Importance with IIoT
The IoT in all sectors functions on the basis of interconnectivity and real-time data delivery, but IIoT application models are developed with broader levels of information exchange in mind. Software solutions implemented in manufacturing spaces incorporating IIoT applications must be built to process considerable amounts of data on a real-time basis, as well as include native scalability to be able to address developing pain points as they emerge.