Companies in the food and beverage industry have strict guidelines they need to follow in regards to cleanliness and organization. While in other industries, strict guidelines and procedures must also be followed, if they aren’t, only the company suffers. However, if employees in the food and beverage industry act carelessly on the shop floor, it can actually cause severe illness or even death to the consumers. 

In 2019, in the United States, there were 87 food recalls. 30 of these recalls were due to microbial contamination while 32 were due to undeclared allergens. In May 2019, nearly 12 million pounds of chicken strip products were recalled from Tyson Foods, Inc. for possible foreign matter contamination; in May 2019, over 2 million pad thai and chicken fried rice products were recalled from P.F. Chang’s Home Menu for misbranding and undeclared allergens; and in November 2019, over 2 million pounds of poultry products were recalled from Simmons Prepared Foods, Inc. for possible foreign matter contamination, to name a few. 

Food Control

While shop floor excellence is important in every industry, the stakes are higher in the food and beverage industry. The food industry places importance on the concept of food control which includes factors such as:

 

  • Safety

    Procedures and practices that prevent microbiological and toxicological hazards

  • Nutrition

    Focusing on foods which have nutritional profiles that are beneficial to consumers

  • Quality

    Characteristics like aroma, taste, palatability, and appearance

  • Value

    Characteristics of economic advantage and consumer utility, involving packaging, convenience, and shelf-life

In order for a company to be able to focus on food control, they must have excellence on the shop floor. The key to shop floor excellence is having every employee commit to improving and enhancing the business. 

If a company is interested in improving their processes on the shop floor, the first step is to establish true workflow. Each operator should have a clear signal to begin and stop work. An understandable system should be put into place. If there are problems, they need to be resolved. It's not enough to just put a bandage on the issue and hope it will resolve itself. 

Technological Advances

Technology plays a critical role in the shop floor excellence in a food and beverage manufacturer. Staying updated on the latest technological advances is not high on the priority list for many manufacturers in the food and beverage industry, however. This is especially true for mid-sized companies that don't have a lot of money to invest. The idea of implementing new technology can seem daunting, and it can be difficult to take such a significant step. Sometimes, however, it can make things easier, and it can greatly improve the processes on the shop floor. 

For manufacturers in the food and beverage industry, a manufacturing execution system (MES) could be useful when it comes to shifting the company culture towards continuous improvement. MES solutions can bring about positive changes for both small and large companies. 

MES Solutions and the Shop Floor

For any manufacturing company, the shop floor is where all the action happens. This is especially true in the food and beverage industry. Human error, however, is common, and machines often break. The company will not perform in a way that's necessary to turn a profit if the shop floor is not efficient. 

With the right MES solution, any manufacturing team can run the shop floor in a more productive way. The key to staying competitive is the ability to make confident, quick decisions. This can be quite difficult if a company is pulling data manually. 

MES software may be the perfect solution for any manufacturing company in the food and beverage industry. It can:

  • Advance the processes on the shop floor and contribute to shop floor excellence.
  • Identify potential problems before they actually occur.
  • Merge with any existing systems that are already in place.
  • Provide data and insights to employees who need to make decisions about how to be more productive and efficient. 

While it’s clear that there are many ways technology can make food and beverage companies more efficient and productive, unfortunately, many companies seem to be resistant to new ways of doing things. According to Food Engineering, more than half of food and beverage manufacturers in the United States still use spreadsheets for various applications.

The Need for Digitalization

In order to be more efficient, stay competitive, and see shop floor excellence, manufacturers in the food and beverage industry must embrace digitalization and new technology. This does not mean that a manufacturer needs to convert all of their systems and processes in one fell swoop, but they need to be open to upgrading small projects one by one with an understanding that technology advances constantly, and there may never be an end in sight when it comes to upgrading systems and processes.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) puts technologies like intelligent devices and networked sensors and puts them to use on the shop floor. It collects data that drives artificial intelligence as well as predictive analytics. Connecting sensors via IIoT eliminates the need for manual processes and greatly reduces the chance of human error. 

Matthew Hartman, PE, senior automation sales, of Blantech--a supplier of software and equipment for mixing, cooking, cooling, material handling, marinating, cryogenics, and custom and advanced solutions--recently spoke to Food Engineering about how the "industrial internet of thing" is a "journey--not a destination." He said, "The process data removes the sometimes wrong ‘gut feel’ and moves to data-supported decisions. Many times, decisions are made with large safety factors, because you just don’t know what is happening in the process. However, with process data, such as temperature, pressure and flow, you know how to safely optimize your process to yield optimal culinary, safety and production requirements."

Conclusion

In order to increase efficiency, productivity, and shop floor excellence--which is not only a desired outcome, but a necessary one for food and beverage manufacturers--technology must be embraced. However, there is only so much technology can do if the operators are still using inefficient processes. 

With POWERS, we use proven methods to ensure shop floor excellence in your company. If you are interested in our offerings, take a look at our shop floor excellence page.