The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and What It Means for Your Food Plant

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The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and What It Means for Your Food Plant

By now, you’ve likely heard about the various ways our homes are getting “smarter.” We now have devices such as the Amazon Echo, Wi-Fi-connected toaster ovens and doorbells with live-streaming video. Nowadays, you can lock your front door from your smartphone, tell Siri to turn on the lights inside your house and control your thermostat from anywhere you have an internet connection.

These networks of physical devices embedded with electronics, sensors and software that allow them to connect and communicate are often referred to as the Internet of Things. This new era of technology isn’t just limited to your home, though — food and beverage plants are taking advantage of smart devices as well.  

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) refers to connected devices and technologies that can collect, monitor, analyze and exchange large amounts of data and provide valuable business information to improve processes, quality or maintenance activities within a plant.

Are you thinking about using more of this technology in your facility? Let’s look at some advantages, considerations and potential pitfalls.

 

6 Things to Consider When Designing and Building a Food Processing Plant in China

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6 Things to Consider When Designing and Building a Food Processing Plant in China

China’s economy has been on a rapid upward trend for the last 20-plus years. It has become the second-largest economy in the world and is flirting with taking the first-place spot. If your company is in any way, shape or form connected to the global economy, chances are you have some connection to China.

With a growing middle class and upper class, China still finds it extremely challenging to supply itself with the kind of quality and value-added food products that these growing populations want.

This has made it enticing for a lot of U.S. food companies to create an even greater presence in China, usually in the form of establishing their own in-country food processing plant.

If you are one of these U.S. companies planning or contemplating establishing a food processing facility in China, here are some things you may want to consider with regard to designing and building the structure:

 

New Year, New Tech: Food Industry Trends to Watch in 2018

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New Year, New Tech: Food Industry Trends to Watch in 2018

Believe it or not, 2018 is just around the corner. A lot happened in the food industry in 2017, including groundbreaking mergers like the Amazon-Whole Foods deal, the first major compliance deadlines for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules and the dawn of a new presidential administration.

We know the food industry doesn’t slow down, so what should you keep an eye on as we venture into the new year? Here are some of my top trends to watch in 2018.

 

4 Food Plant Design and Construction Trends from 2017 That are Shaping the Industry

What you need to know about retrofitting an existing facility, mergers & acquisitions, OEM integrations and more

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Food Plant Design and Construction: 5 Trends We Learned From in 2017

This year was characterized by continued change and disruption in the ever-evolving food and beverage industry from a record-breaking hurricane season to the Amazon-Whole Foods merger.

As a design-build firm specializing in food and beverage plants, we at Stellar observed some notable trends in 2017 that are shaping the way facilities operate and the way companies in the industry do business.

As we approach the new year, here are a few of my reflections and takeaways from the past year in the food and beverage industry.

 

[VIDEO] See How Virtual Reality Can Take You Inside Your Food Plant Design

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Virtual walkthroughs with VR headsets

Virtual reality (VR) is changing the game when it comes to designing facilities for the food and beverage industry. With a VR headset, you can “walk through” your new building during the design phase, months before the first brick is laid.

Rather than examining a 2D design on a sheet of paper, 3D modeling coupled with virtual reality technology can bring a building to life without having to interpret complicated designs.

 

How to Achieve LEED Certification Without Sacrificing Process Performance

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How to Achieve LEED Certification Without Sacrificing Process Performance

So you want your building to be LEED certified, but what level should you pursue? Does a more energy-efficient facility mean completely revamping your processing? What about food safety?

LEED certification is a good thing, but it should not dictate every decision in a new-build or plant renovation. Checking credits off your LEED checklist shouldn’t come at the expense of performance and food safety.

Let’s look at some factors to designing a sustainable facility that go beyond the traditional aspects like electricity and water use. But first things first: where to begin?

 

How to Conserve Energy Across Every Aspect of Your Food Plant

Energy management from an engineering perspective

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How to Conserve Energy Across Every Aspect of Your Food Plant

 

Everyone wants to improve their energy management, and while there are countless best practices to improve energy efficiency in your processing, I look at it from an engineering perspective.

When designing a new facility or renovating an existing one, I consider the different ways the plant can prioritize energy management within each engineering group that brings the building to life. Let’s explore how you can design energy management into your next greenfield or renovation project.

 

3 Food Processing Trends from Pack Expo 2017 (and Beyond)

From virtual reality to pre-prepared foods

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3 Food Processing Trends from Pack Expo 2017 (and Beyond)

Source: Flexible Packaging magazine

 

I had the opportunity to attend Pack Expo 2017 in Las Vegas this fall with a team from Stellar. We met leaders from various segments of the F&B industry and enjoyed showing off our virtual design construction (VDC) technology.

These shows are always a great opportunity to network with food industry leaders and to see the very latest technologies and trends. This year was no exception. These were my big takeaways:

 

Industrial Automation: Is It Time to Upgrade Your Control System?

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Industrial Automation: Is It Time to Upgrade Your Control System?

How old is the control system at your facility? In most processing plants, the control system consists of field instruments that are wired to I/O cards which feed to a central PLC controller. Operators communicate with the PLC through a human machine interface (HMI) computer.

While the lifespan of an HMI computer is about the same as a typical desktop computer, the instruments, field wiring, I/O boards and PLC controllers last a lot longer — and the mentality of most operators is: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Upgrading a control system is a costly investment, and, as a result, many facilities have field hardware that is decades old.

So, when is it worth upgrading your control system? And what options do you have?

 

4 Lessons for Pioneering a New Process in Food Manufacturing

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4 Lessons for Pioneering a New Process in Food Manufacturing

Last week on the blog, we examined the brand new, state-of-the-art hatchery Stellar completed for poultry processor Bell & Evans. The facility — which is the first certified organic, humane, animal-welfare focused chick hatchery in the United States — is an example of trailblazing a new approach to traditional food processing.

Not only does it employ fascinating and cutting-edge technology, but this project contains lessons for any food manufacturer looking to pioneer or experiment in their own particular market.