Cyberattacks, Hacking and Phishing Scams: the Food Processing Industry’s Multimillion-Dollar Problem

Food processing facilities have come a long way since pre-industrial days. Each year, food and beverage companies rely more heavily on automation, high-tech building management systems, remotely accessible machine sensors, modern data collection and the latest technology. While these innovations can help facilities run more smoothly, they can also leave them vulnerable to data breaches and cyberattacks. 

In 2020, the average cost of a cyberattack was approximately $3.86 million, according to the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies (PMMI). When computer intrusions happen, cybercriminals are typically seeking out a company’s intellectual property or customer and client data that can be exchanged for digital currencies, like passwords, protected health information, personal identity information and credit card information. 

Every company will be targeted by a malware or ransomware attack at some point. It’s just a matter of when, so it’s vital to have a robust cybersecurity plan that protects your assets and information.

Continue Reading “Cyberattacks, Hacking and Phishing Scams: the Food Processing Industry’s Multimillion-Dollar Problem”

6 Ways Vertical Commissioning Can Benefit Your Next Food Facility Project

Signing on a new construction or renovation project presents an exciting time for food manufacturing owners ready to embark on the next stage of their business plan. A commissioning partner who uses a vertical start-up model can help ensure a smooth project handover.

Traditionally, commissioning occurs as construction nears completion when engineers begin installing and testing equipment to guarantee production lines will run properly. However, my experience is that waiting until the end to conduct system integration, simulations and automation can prolong start-up and cost owners valuable time, money and resources.

Applying best practices for commissioning and coordinating with owner equipment manufacturers (OEMs) early on can ensure facilities achieve full performance much faster and at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional methodologies. 

Continue Reading “6 Ways Vertical Commissioning Can Benefit Your Next Food Facility Project”

Best Practices for Building an Enterprise Data Warehouse from Scratch

Business intelligence (BI) and data analytics empower and enable organizations to quickly make fact-based decisions that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. 

Building an enterprise data warehouse can offer many benefits for food and beverage manufacturers and their construction partners, including improved safety, budget certainty, warranty tracking and knowledge management. 

Successful BI and analytics strategies are only possible when the database where information is stored is properly maintained. If any member of your team inputs incorrect or incomplete data, you’ll ultimately get inaccurate results, which could end up costing your facility money and time.

Continue Reading “Best Practices for Building an Enterprise Data Warehouse from Scratch”

How to Leverage Construction Data to Level Up Your Next Food Plant Project

Modern data collection and analytics have created infinite opportunities for businesses to leverage information to their advantage. Even the simplest piece of information can prove incredibly valuable to an operation when organized and used correctly.

However, storing data to let it sit collecting dust is a waste of time and resources. This is especially apparent in the food processing and construction industries because every moving piece can be cataloged and therefore analyzed to the user’s benefit. 

When used strategically, streamlined and actionable data integration can fuel effective and efficient decision-making at every stage of the design, construction and business management processes.

Continue Reading “How to Leverage Construction Data to Level Up Your Next Food Plant Project”

Struggling to Staff the Third Shift? Combat Labor Shortages with These Automation Solutions

As labor market woes continue, adopting some degree of automation is no longer optional for companies looking to remain agile and equipped to meet future consumer demands.

Even industries that historically haven’t struggled with labor shortages are now finding it challenging to hire staff. With a peak record of 11.3 million jobs open in January 2022 and not enough workers available, more manufacturers are turning to robotics to fill the gaps.

In fact, U.S. factories ordered a record 29,000 robots during the first nine months of 2021, a 37% increase from 2020, according to data from the Association for Advancing Automation (A3).

The good news? Automated systems are getting cheaper to implement and improving technology is making systems more reliable. At Stellar, we’re constantly monitoring developments and best practices for leveraging robotics in our clients’ facilities to help them improve efficiency and productivity — not to mention combating that growing labor gap.

Let’s review some modern automation tools and the many ways robotics can be implemented into the food manufacturing process.

Continue Reading “Struggling to Staff the Third Shift? Combat Labor Shortages with These Automation Solutions”

4 Strategies for Mitigating Supply Chain Disruptions in Your Next Construction Project

Construction firms are fighting an uphill battle to maintain project budgets and schedules as the industry grapples with global supply chain disruptions. 

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) reported that material prices for nonresidential construction soared 21% from February 2021 to February 2022, and analysts predict costs will continue going up. Additionally, logistical bottlenecks such as overseas shipping delays and shortages in the transportation sector are drastically impacting project lead times. 

Stellar’s industry veterans are discovering there are ways to mitigate supply chain disruptions and their effects on construction projects — but only if construction firms are willing to shift their paradigm and use a different approach when working with their clients. 

Here are four ways our teams are navigating the waters.

Continue Reading “4 Strategies for Mitigating Supply Chain Disruptions in Your Next Construction Project”

Low-Impact Development: From Eco-friendly Trend to Industry Standard

Environmentally conscious construction sites have earned praise over the years as the world’s priorities have shifted to address growing climate concerns. 

The World Green Building Council (GBC) estimates the building and construction sector is globally responsible for 50% of the world’s resource consumption, 36% of energy consumption and 38% of energy-related carbon emissions. Keeping this in mind, any time a building or facility can feature sustainable design, it’s a win for the planet.

Expectations are changing, however. What was once seen as the “cherry on top” of a construction project is quickly becoming standard practice.

A prime example of this is the evolution of the use of low-impact development (LID).

Continue Reading “Low-Impact Development: From Eco-friendly Trend to Industry Standard”

Factors to Consider Before Using a Spec Building for a Food and Beverage Facility

If you’re considering sites for a new facility, you may come across listings for speculative (“spec”) buildings. Developers often construct these basic, pre-engineered buildings in anticipation of a future tenant, and they can be attractive for owners looking for a new space.

Upfront, spec buildings offer to reduce costs by cutting out design and construction steps from a tenant’s to-do list — but there’s a catch. Food and beverage manufacturing has unique needs and it’s impossible to guarantee a spec building will meet them without retrofitting. Although leasing a spec building may be attractive to manufacturers who want to ramp up production quickly, there is the potential that they will incur additional costs the owner wasn’t anticipating.

It can be a valuable option in certain situations, but there are factors to consider before making a final decision.

Continue Reading “Factors to Consider Before Using a Spec Building for a Food and Beverage Facility”

The Stage-Gate Approach and Why it’s at the Root of Successful Project Development Strategy

Process-related project development can be a lengthy, expensive and unnecessarily complicated process without a solid plan to guide the project from start to finish.

Imagine investing in a large, complex piece of equipment or component for your facility without first confirming the question of how it will be integrated into your existing controls/automation system. If it doesn’t easily “connect” (plug-and-play), then you may need to reengineer the system(s), buy additional hardware/software, and/or delay the project timeline to resolve an issue that should have been identified prior to the purchase. The same holds true for other questions, such as when this equipment should be installed. If it does not align with your overall business objectives and strategy, then there could be negative consequences.

The AIA stage-gate process (also referred to as the phase-gate process) is a project management technique that breaks down complex projects into structured phases to mitigate risk and ultimately minimize (ideally eliminate) the consequences of poor planning.

In this article, we will address the stage gate approach and how it pertains to the process equipment integration portion of a project.

Continue Reading “The Stage-Gate Approach and Why it’s at the Root of Successful Project Development Strategy”

Inside the World’s Largest Sous Vide Processing Facility [PHOTOS]

“Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum” and has been around for decades in France. Since 1971, Cuisine Solutions — along with subsidiary CREA and Chief Scientist Dr. Bruno Goussault — has been perfecting the sous vide technology utilizing cooking time and temperature as the foundations of its development.

As the need for food safety and consistency has dramatically increased in recent decades, the company continued investing in more production capacity, new adjacent technologies and greater innovations — including a new plant in San Antonio, Texas.

Continue Reading “Inside the World’s Largest Sous Vide Processing Facility [PHOTOS]”