It’s a question we’ve all heard before, but when it comes to older programmable logic controller (PLC) installations, it’s not an answer you want to find out the hard way. While some components can be found and purchased online, if your primary source for replacement parts is a site like eBay or obsoletePLCparts.com, it’s likely time to upgrade your system.
So you want to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning into your food processing facility — but where do you start? These tools have grown increasingly popular, and you’ve likely heard people discussing different platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. But how do you get access to these tools and what can they do?
Three layers of cloud computing
When it comes to introducing machine learning to your processing, think of it as a three-tiered ecosystem:
1. Service providers (AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure)
2. IoT solutions partners (system integrators, data experts, etc.)
3. End users (Facility operator, plant owner, etc.)
Breweries and distilleries can be infamous for their “snake pits,” the areas of the facility where transfer hoses can become a tangled mess.
Flow panels and hoses are widely used to route product and cleaning solutions through brewery and distillery piping systems, and they are a cost-effective initial investment. However, as a facility grows, so do the number of connections — and that can quickly get out of control.
These snake pits can pose serious problems for your facility’s efficiency and the safety of your workers. Let’s examine five major risks associated with snake pits, and what you can do about them.
As more food and beverage processing moves from mechanical to automated, it’s important to hire the right people who can operate and troubleshoot from the plant floor. Once you have qualified technical staff in place, transferring knowledge about your automation and controls systems to them is crucial.
At Stellar, we often help food manufacturers configure new facilities, so we understand the process and what it takes to make it go smoothly. When it comes to training your plant personnel on the automation and controls, follow these tips for an efficient startup at your next facility.
A growing number of food and beverage processing facilities are investing in robotics and automation, as the technology continues to advance and costs continue to normalize. These tools can be a game-changer for many businesses, offering benefits such as reduced operating costs, upped throughput and increased food and worker safety.
That said, such a significant investment requires careful implementation. Before incorporating robotics into your facility, consider these important best practices to ensure you invest wisely and efficiently.
There’s never been a better time to invest in capital expenditures for your business. Recent tax reform has freed up cash and created more incentives for corporate entities to spend on new equipment and infrastructure.
Plus, the combination of mergers and acquisitions, advances in technology, and evolving consumer demand is spurring innovation. The speed-to-market food and beverage industry is only moving faster.
So it’s a great time to invest in your company’s growth, but what exactly is the best move? Considering the current industry climate, there are some forward-thinking options worth prioritizing.
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?
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