Processors’ desire to control raw material and energy use more tightly is fuelling demand for software and automation designed for this purpose, according to Siemens Industry Automation and Drive Technologies.
Simon Ellam, UK Digital Control Systems business manager, industrial automation systems, said food manufacturers were particularly interested in “route control and batch functionality”. He was speaking at a recent presentation at the Science Museum in London.
Route and batch control involved getting a much firmer handle on ingredients supplied to them, where and how they were being used, and for which product batches and lines. One of the end results was much clearer traceability, which helped enormously in situations such as product recalls.
Software controlling such processes also enabled products to be delivered to market more quickly - essential for the ‘just in time’ targets of major retail customers.
While food and drink processors had been initially slow to buy into these systems, Ellam said: “Siemens has really seen growth in the process automation market. The industry is starting to adopt more of this technology.” The major goal was end-to-end visibility and control of the whole manufacturing process, the so-called “digital factory”, shortening the period between product design and distribution, he said.
Siemens was developing industry-based libraries for its Simatic PCS7 Process Control System, he added. This would establish packages containing the standard data categories that each manufacturing sector needed to integrate and implement software for managing all stages of production. This, in turn, would dramatically reduce the amount of costly and lengthy bespoke work needed to get systems operational.
These standard information libraries were being developed for the dairy, brewing and water and waste water industries. At the same time, Siemens was working on making its systems easier to integrate with previous outmoded software and hardware.
Software packages enabling companies to monitor and then improve energy efficiency were a particular area of interest. And Siemens had designed its Powerrate PCS 7 product, which was launched a year ago, to achieve this, said Ellam.