Check Out Montague's Google+ profile.If you want to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs. If you want to make and distribute a few million aseptically packaged, microwaveable, shrink-wrapped omelets, then you've got a few more steps in your recipe. The bad news is that food processing machines, production lines and distribution avenues are getting increasingly complex and heavily networked at the same time that food safety regulations, requirements and concerns are growing more stringent and difficult to enforce across international boundaries and geographical regions.
Fortunately, automation tools, components and software, communication and Internet-based networks are all helping to solve these problems, especially when they're aided by Rockwell Automation and its many partners. Several of these experts from Cisco, Microsoft, Grantek and Covectra showed food processors how they can use the Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices, compliance with the Food Modernization and Safety Act (FMSA) and serialization to provide safe and secure food products to more consumers worldwide, and do it with the highest efficiency and the least hurdles.
"Recent research by McKinsey indicates that consumer spending is going to increase by $8 trillion as more people worldwide move into the middle class, and they're going to want better food and water," said Todd Montpass, market development manager at Rockwell Automation, who moderated four presentations at the Food and Beverage Forum today at Automation Fair in Anaheim, California. "The value stake for manufacturing in this picture is about $3.8 trillion, and The Connected Enterprise is how we can secure some of that value by integrating supply chains, collaborating globally, distributing best practices worldwide and maintaining food safety with better tracking and tracing."
"Most production equipment is still dark and unavailable or only available in isolated silos." Cisco's Randal Kenworthy on the need to connect and integrate food and beverage production machines in order to enable traceability throughout the supply chain.To turn this vision into reality for its customers, Rockwell Automation is cooperating more closely than ever with its partners, notably Cisco. "Manufacturing is the number one industry that can benefit from IoT, but these potential gains must be based on security and safety," said Randal Kenworthy, director of business transformation at Cisco. "The health of our loved ones is paramount to everyone in our industries, and so the main question is how to deliver safe products to them. This requires tracing the products end-to-end through their entire digitized and virtual supply chains, but most production equipment and other assets that touch on these products are still dark and unavailable or only available in isolated silos."
Kenworthy reported that leading food and beverage firms are enhancing traceability by connecting, securing and virtualizing their manufacturing systems. "The good news is that IoT supports better business outcomes for manufacturers," added Kenworthy. "Converged, plant-wide Ethernet architectures can connect dark assets and get the right data to the right people at the right time. Some other modern plant optimization techniques include installing cameras on plant floors and in tanks; using videos to download product changeover instructions; automatic ordering of consumables; machine builder remote access; and using audio and video for troubleshooting."
To handle all the data coming in from sensors and increasingly cheap devices such as RFID tags, Kenworthy said food and beverage firms (and pretty much all other manufacturers) will need to add a layer of intelligence to organize and help analyze this voluminous information into useful and profitable decisions, but also deploy security policies and devices to protect them. A few of these measures include routinely updated passwords, segmented networks with firewalls and other managed Ethernet switches, intrusion detection and response capabilities, secure virtual private networks (VPNs), traffic–filtering devices to detect unusual network traffic or activity, and endpoint security implementations.
"There is no silver bullet, but a good defense-in-depth program, an identity services engine and role-based access control can help users achieve converged plant security," said Kenworthy.
Rohit Bhargava, CTO of worldwide manufacturing and resources at Microsoft, agreed that IoT and cloud-based computing services such as its Azure platform are transforming how food manufacturers go to market and do business. "Technology is bringing even more computing power down onto the plant floor, enabling users to develop deeper and more continuous engagements with their products and customers," Bhargava said. "IoT services and architectures like Azure can also compare more performance variables, help users detect added patterns and catch anomalies at every level, turn that information into meaning, and achieve greater operational excellence."
Though not accelerating as fast as IoT, there's plenty of activity on the regulation front, according to Mike Lohmeyer, vice president of sales and marketing at Grantek Systems Integration. The FSMA was passed in 2011, but several important sections are still being written. Copies of the law are available via www.FDA.gov.
"FSMA is about capturing the right data about materials and processes at the right points in the supply chain," said Lohmeyer. "It's about not bringing bad materials in, not sending bad products out, and putting them in the right packaging."
FSMA's four pillars are preventive controls, inspection and compliance, imported food safety and response requirements. This summer, the act also released definitions for critical tracking events (CTEs) and key data elements (KDEs), which cover what food production data must be captured and when. "One of the main unsettled issues is how rapid responses will have to be from producers when an incident happens, but that period will almost certainly be shorter than it is now," said Lohmeyer.
Finally, Steve Wood, president and CEO of Covectra, reported that today's serial numbers in 2D barcodes can be added to individual bottles or containers and then progressively nested within the codes on cartons, cases and pallets. This means knowing the barcode on a pallet will tell users about every other serial number in that pallet. "Serialization and The Connected Enterprise can bring better tracking and tracing to every level of the supply chain," explained Wood. "This capability coupled with the cloud allows us to complete an entire custody chain and repository for all barcodes on products produced by a manufacturer and track-and-trace them throughout their supply chain. This will be very useful because all U.S. pharmaceutical products will have to be serialized by 2017."