You’ve likely heard a lot about Industry 4.0 and the impact of predictive and prescriptive maintenance on the food and beverage industry. It can sound overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, a few basic investments and the right partner can help streamline the way your facility operates and communicates
Food manufacturing facilities are complex and have various ecosystems operating at different levels, including:
- Raw materials and receiving
- Processing and KPIs
- Monitoring (HMIs, PLCs and networks)
- Inventory and work orders (ERP and PRM)
- Packaging and distribution
- Quality, process safety management (PSM) and safety
But all of these systems don’t always talk to each other. In many facilities, an equipment failure triggers a lengthy domino effect: Maintenance staff has to assess the problem, create a work order, check if a replacement part is available and so on.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
In today’s Industry 4.0 environment, these delays can be a thing of the past.
The digital difference: Automated asset tracking
Cloud-based asset management can integrate the various systems in your facility to make the maintenance process automated and seamless.
Imagine knowing exactly when your equipment goes down, and having a work order immediately created. The software then checks if the necessary parts needed for repair are in inventory, and if they’re not, it automatically creates a purchase order for them.
This level of efficiency equates to less downtime — and therefore, more cost savings — for a facility. Instead of waiting days for a missing bolt, internet-connected equipment and software can shave valuable time off the maintenance process.
Incorporating cloud-based tools into your facility
So how can you achieve this level of automation nirvana in your food processing plant? Contrary to what some may think, it doesn’t require investing in all brand-new equipment and infrastructure. Cloud-based tools can manage the data from your current equipment and allow your existing systems to communicate with each other efficiently.
You may be familiar with cloud computing services like Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud and Amazon Web Services (AWS). These are popular platforms for facilities wanting to take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) boom.
Here’s the thing, though: Anyone can purchase these tools, but if you don’t partner with experts who can program and connect your facility’s various systems, you’re missing out on the value of the technology. Knowing how to customize and integrate these tools for your particular needs is the key.
What does that look like? Here are the basic steps we take to help a food plant get started with smart asset management:
- Understand the status quo and identify the facility’s pain points. Where is the technology needed? Why is equipment failing?
- Analyze existing data points being collected (RPM, voltage, etc.)
- Establish unique solutions for each piece of equipment that go beyond the software’s out-of-the-box capabilities
- Schedule a demo and proof of concept to demonstrate ROI, such as the ability to predict when equipment will fail and the integration of various systems to provide alerts and notifications
Do you need an engineering partner to set up a cloud-based asset management system?
Since these cloud computing tools operate on machine learning, they require proper initial configuration to ensure they’re measuring the right data and working for your specific process.
Out of the box, a program like Microsoft Azure requires all the algorithms to be entered from scratch. Just feeding data to the Azure will not give you the correct outcome, because the program can’t make sense of your data or what you want to do with it. You must teach Azure to work for you.
That’s why teaming up with an experienced partner like Stellar is critical to maximizing results. Our application can help tailor to your specific refrigeration and processing needs, ensuring you maximize long-term ROI. We take a holistic approach and provide clients with an easy-to-understand portal where they can monitor alerts and metrics — even across multiple facilities — all in one place.
The power of predictive and prescriptive maintenance
One of the most tangible applications of a cloud-based asset management system is the ability to use metrics to predict maintenance needs.
For example, let’s consider a refrigeration compressor. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) tests the equipment and provides estimates for how it will perform under certain voltages, temperatures, RPMs and other conditions. You can check for deviations off of this original curve, but that doesn’t tell you that something is wrong with a one percent deviation. Looking at a single compressor’s performance in a “data vacuum” isn’t very helpful.
However, by comparing the performance of your compressor against a large set of data from multiple compressors, the software can detect anomalies that humans would otherwise miss and anticipate problems before they happen.
So instead of conducting maintenance reactively (only after something breaks and creates a lot of downtime) or on a fixed schedule (every set number of days, even if maintenance isn’t technically needed yet), you can address problems proactively, saving time and money.
Have questions about integrating cloud-based asset management into your facility? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org