Imagine a factory that alerts you before systems fail, so you can proactively fix equipment and prevent bottlenecks.
This is just one of the realities of Industry 4.0, a technology-fueled time period in our history where innovation is driving a monumental transformation in manufacturing. Industry 4.0 brings together machine learning, the cloud and the internet of things to create smarter solutions for food and beverage processing. It represents the fourth great leap in technology since the dawn of the Industrial Age.
Technologies such as machine learning and cloud computing, combined with automation, can benefit dairy producers by giving them fully integrated and collaborative systems that respond in real time.
Aside from rapid changes in technology, dairy producers are facing increased demand for high quality products and traceability on a large scale — without increasing prices. Industry 4.0 presents a tremendous opportunity to keep up with these changes by increasing vigilance over food safety, improving productivity and quality assurance, and strengthening the management of complex global supply chains.
Industry 4.0 is changing manufacturing from end to end, and the food and beverage industry is only beginning to realize its benefits. Dairy producers could capitalize on this new era by understanding the new technologies available and determining which combination will give their businesses a competitive advantage.
Realize greater profitability
Dairy producers are experiencing high external pressures to deliver innovative new products at the lowest possible prices. Industry 4.0 offers solutions to increase productivity and flexibility, reduce costs and deliver increased profitability, including:
- Optimized inbound and outbound logistics.
- Reduced costs through real-time production control across the entire plant.
- Improved productivity through optimization of specific processes and empowering employees with visualization of data and key performance indicators.
- Automation of warehousing
Connected and integrated equipment is a key building block of Industry 4.0. By taking stock of inventory and how it can be deployed, producers can leverage connected equipment to maximize supply chain efficiency, shortening logistics timeframes and enabling products to reach the market more swiftly. This connectivity can also solve production issues by pinpointing problems early on to enable manufacturers to make smart decisions.
Predictive maintenance is another smart manufacturing tool made possible by connectivity. If you know a machine is about to malfunction, you can plan for that downtime by moving production to other machines that may have more capacity. And you can have spare parts dispatched in advance, saving money and reducing the machine’s idle time.
The realities of virtual reality
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality might sound like they’re from a sci-fi movie, but in reality, these tools are revolutionizing the world of manufacturing. For example:
- Virtual reality enables companies to “see” the future, so manufacturers can leverage the technology to simulate a potential warehouse, factory — or even a complete value chain!
- Automation can be continually refined by machine learning, freeing up employees to focus on other value-added tasks.
Wearable technologies that enable remote maintenance repairs are another example of these tools at work. If a machine requires a specialist to fix an issue, the specialist can connect with the on-site engineer via Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, which allows the specialist to see the machine in real time. This technology removes the need for emails and phone calls between the specialist and on-site engineer, as well as the need for the specialist to travel to the plant — eliminating travel costs and time spent getting the machine back up and running.
These innovations bring efficiencies with wide-reaching benefits that include equipment monitoring, production line performance and assessment performance across multiple factories and locations. With IT networks and systems in place, it’s possible to bring together a variety of data for comprehensive analysis, enabling dairy producers to enhance food safety, quality and productivity like never before.
The advantages of Industry 4.0 are real and tangible. But the changes and opportunities this world of technological advancements opens up can be daunting. While numerous smart factories are already taking advantage of Industry 4.0 technologies that allow them to thrive in an increasingly competitive world, dairy producers have been slow to embrace this next wave of industrialization.
The good news is that implementing Industry 4.0 does not require an immediate overhaul of an entire operation. It is a step-by-step journey where businesses decide which processes are right for them. And this journey does not have to be taken alone. It’s important for dairy producers to select an experienced partner to guide them through each stage.
The benefits are numerous — improved profitability, flexibility and product quality — and those who take the leap into Industry 4.0 will find themselves better suited to meet the ever-changing demands of the world around them.