What does IIoT mean to food manufacturers?

May 10, 2017 | Graham Podmore


Industry 4.0 is a new approach to technology to achieve results that just weren’t possible 10 year ago. Dubbed as the fourth industrial revolution, there’s no avoiding buzzwords like this and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). But what exactly is it and what might it mean for food manufacturers?

A quick summary:

The term Industry 4.0 – or “Industrie 4.0” - originates from Germany and was first used at the 2011 Hannover Messe trade fair. Simply put, it promotes the use of automation technology and data exchange technology in manufacturing.

In this blog we demystify the industry jargon and outline the some areas where food companies might benefit.

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) - or Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) - is the foundation for this industrial revolution. IoT enables continuous data exchange between all participating units – from the production robot to inventory management to the microchip. It’s about connecting all production processes together, sharing information in real time to make our industry more intelligent, efficient and sustainable.

For food manufacturers, this is an important concept to grasp as connecting devices allows for a much more streamlined production line and minimises the risk of packaging errors. Order and instruction data can flow to setup the production process, and real time data can flow back, potentially giving instant visibility on yield, quality, downtime, performance, give-away, predictive maintenance, etc.

In the past, for example, devices in the packaging hall like printers, barcode scanners, etc. never talked to one another or to ERP or MES systems.  In the future world of Industry 4.0 if you connect them via IIoT, you enable the collection of rich data and statistics from production line devices which previously could not easily participate in the movement towards a connected factory floor.

However, whilst we might sign up to this view of the future factory, it seems that a key question to consider now is how we get from where we are today to this new vision. Those of us old enough to remember the birth of the internet will recall a similar utopian outlook, which we all now largely benefit from some 30 years later. However, you may also remember watching a 512k dial up modem struggling to load a home page and wondering how on earth this exciting vision would come to pass!

The packaging hall is not dissimilar. Today many companies have a range of legacy equipment, printers, coders and inspection equipment which was manufactured with no consideration or capability to embrace the IIoT environment. It’s rarely an option to completely replace all of this equipment en masse with new IIoT capable units, so how can the majority of companies transition their stranded assets into an IIoT world in an economically viable way?

Packaging line automation systems that control packaging and coding verification can become the bridge to bring these stranded assets into play by acting as a translator between all of their non-standardised communication protocols and the unified, internet driven protocols of the future.

Of course, your AutoCoding system must be compliant with the IIoT world, and not all are, but if you choose your supplier and their product carefully, these vital systems that deliver compliance in packaging and coding can also deliver huge value in converting your stranded assets into IIoT contributing devices.

Smart Factory

The concept of a Smart Factory, which will be at the heart of Industry 4.0, is all about taking on board information and communication technology for an evolution in the supply chain and production line that brings a much higher level of both automation and digitisation.

It means machines using self-optimisation, self-configuration and even artificial intelligence to complete complex tasks in order to deliver a better service.

We’ve recognised there is a growing requirement to communicate with and collect data from a wide range of devices, as well as interface to various business information systems to enable factories to work smarter.

That’s why we’ve developed a suite of modular software products to facilitate processes such as device integrations, data collections and integrity, code deployment and packaging verification – all supporting the concept of the Smart Factory.

Over to you

Easy access to, and transfer of data related to food manufacturing is an intrinsic part of Industry 4.0.

For more information on how the increasing digitalisation of manufacturing will impact your business, get in touch with one of our automation experts or take a look at our free eBook: The 5-minute guide to IIoT for food manufacturers

The 5 minute guide to IIoT for food manufacturers

Topics: IIoT

Graham Podmore

Written by Graham Podmore

UK Sales Director