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Industry 4.0: how will the new industrial revolution affect the Food Industry

It was just a matter of time for the currently available technology to start to integrate in a more robust way the companies’ routine.

With the high capacity of data processing of new technological tools and the possibility to integrate machinery and control processes through online systems, Industry awakens to a new era.

The concept of Industry 4.0 is still relatively recent, however, its implementation is already very advanced in some sectors.

This new moment will affect all members of the value chain. From the producer of inputs and raw materials to the final consumer, who will have a much more active role in their new experiences of consumption.

In this blog post, we will learn a bit more about Industry 4.0 and we will understand how this new philosophy could affect the players of the food sector.

An Introduction to Industry 4.0

 

•  Concept

 

The concept of Industry 4.0 came from German government project that had the objective of outlining strategies to integrate technology into the daily life of companies.

This definition involves the main technological innovations in the fields of automation, control and information technology, so that all these innovations are applied to the manufacturing processes.

Experts already talk about this new phase as the 4th industrial revolution, in which machines, systems and assets will be connected in a single system. This system will create intelligent networks along the entire value chain, resulting in autonomously controlled production.

It is worth mentioning that the economic potential of this model is huge. A projection study carried out by the Brazilian Industrial Development Agency (ABDI) showed that there is a possibility of saving R$ 73 billion in Brazil with the application of the concepts of Industry 4.0.

Besides that, McKinsey data show that by 2025 there will be potential for a reduction in maintenance costs from 10% to 40%, reduction in energy consumption from 10% to 20%, and an increase in work efficiency from 10% to 25%.

 

•  Principles

 

Some principles are the basis of Industry 4.0:

 

•  Real-time operation capability: efficient data analysis for fast decision making.
•  Virtualization: creation of a virtual replica of the factory, so that tracking and monitoring of process can be done remotely.
•  Decentralization: cyber-physical system programming for real-time production decision making.
•  Orientation towards service: developing service oriented softwares.
•  Modularity: to allow the production according to the demand, as well as the coupling and the decoupling of production modules automatically.

 

•  Cornerstones

 

The cornerstones that form Industry 4.0 are:

•  Internet of Things: a connection between the network of physical objects, factory environments, vehicles and equipment through embedded electronic devices that aims to collect and exchange data between the company’s sectors.
•  Big data Analytics: a complex and robust structure for capturing data, as well as management of the information extracted from them.
•  Security: such a complex and interconnected structure needs a safe system in order to avoid failures that could jeopardize the routine of a factory.

 

•  Impacts

 

The implementation of a model like this will cause several short, medium and long term impacts in the production chain, among them:

 

•  Creation of new business models, taking into account the creation of products more and more customized to the needs of consumers.
•  Expansion of Research and Development in I.T.: development of technology to make the adaptation to this model possible, to the most varied types of companies.
•  Change in the professional profile: with the elimination of repetitive manual tasks due to the complete automation of the processes, it will be necessary to seek for technically qualified professionals with multidisciplinary knowledge.

 

The Industry of Food 4.0

 

Understanding the concept of Industry 4.0 we ask ourselves: how does the same applies to the food sector?

Firstly, a change is planned regarding greater control over food production and operating costs of a factory, in addition to the avoidance of waste, which contributes to the environmental demand of producing the least possible amount of waste.

This model will also impact product quality as well as efficiency and performance, which will increase as a result of reduced downtime.

Further, increased production control means being prepared for sudden changes, such as harvest problems, change of food safety requirements, and changes in consumer behavior.

The system of data will allow a greater sharing of information along the entire production chain, making it possible to access information remotely by all stakeholders in real time.

A major current problem of the food industry is the time and money spent on product recall. Being a system that integrates all the information of the factory and makes the data available in an easy way, in the food industry 4.0 there will be savings regarding this topic.

It will be possible to detect problems in a product even before it is dispatched from the factory, avoiding all the inconveniences that a batch out of specification can cause. Such failures will also become less common due to the whiole system automation.

Some successful examples

A successful case of the implementation of this model is the American brewery New Belgium, which implemented an integrated manufacturing system to predict when equipment would need maintenance.

This action reduced 50% of the dead time of the company that was used to increase production without the need of costs increase.

Even the R&D sector will save time in this new revolution. Some companies are already using 3D printers to create product prototypes such as candies: a process that takes days rather than weeks. Cadbury has successfully used this system to launch an aerated milk chocolate bar in 2012.

Finally, consumers will also have a completely different experience than they are used to.

In the future, it is the consumer himself who will decide what will be produced. This will be possible due to the possibility of customization of products in a company. In the Food Industry 4.0, custom manufacturing costs are expected to be the same as mass manufacturing.

What will it take for the food industry to adapt to this new reality?

Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. Food businesses need, first of all, a cultural shift in their business.

Many food companies, especially the small ones – with few exceptions – do not have the creative DNA at their core. This needs to change. The food industry 4.0 needs to be open to constant changes in both product and equipment as well as processes and ways that communication is done.

It will also require investment in appropriate software and processes that allow interaction between all sectors of the plant and all stages of the production chain.

The food industry will also need more skilled professionals, who are prepared to handle all the technology of this new production system, as well as have a systemic view of the company. This training can also be done through a team training that is already part of the company.

The food company that wants to make the transition to Industry 4.0 will generally need to follow these steps:

•  To perform a mapping process to check what brings opportunities for improvement.
•  Controlled industry: in this step, the company must identify control points, process variables and the types of technology that will be used for data processing.
•  To cut unnecessary steps in the production process and find solutions to reduce energy use.
•  To map the necessary competencies of the team that will act in this new model.
•  To develop a project so that the equipment is interconnected with each other and with the data system, creating a centralized information network.

Conclusion

The 4th industrial revolution is already a reality. As one of the major Industry sectors, the food industry needs to be prepared for this transition.

Investing in technology, in automation and in professionals with specific competencies is a no-go-back way to keep getting more and more active in the market.

Therefore, now is the time to look at this new milestone as an opportunity to have a different kind of Industry that is increasingly productive, efficient and sustainable.

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