Food production line with IoT device

Emerging IOT Trends in Food Processing

Uptake of IoT and other disruptive technologies amongst food manufactures is understandably slower than in some other industries. Food manufacturers operate at far higher levels of hygiene and safety than some other industries, and finding affordable sensors that pass muster is not always easy. Any new devices placed amongst and on the production line need to pass a very high standard of quality.

Xemote currently handles a number of remote monitoring challenges for food processing clients, and has consistently shown their technology as a perfect fit in food processing industries across South Africa. The food processing industry requires to-the-minute data on its processes as well as the status of the cold-chain, by installing networked sensors many clients are finding efficiencies increase, as well as health and safety compliance far easier to attain, and retain.

The Internet of Things (objects that are connected to the Internet) is being adopted at a faster rate amongst food manufacturers than ever before, with 57% of America’s food manufacturers having already adopted aspects of IoT in their processes. As a consequence more nuanced issues are arising at the nexus of food processing and IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things).

Shadow Sensors

OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) have been providing the food processing industry with cloud-based equipment diagnostic and performance analytics for a number of years, offering manufacturers the ability to monitor and analyse their equipment performance, and by extension the entire plants performance, via the OEMs predesigned software interface. However, machine performance information is critical information, and is jealously guarded by the in-house IT teams of most companies. They balk at the idea of opening up an Internet connection to their actual plant’s Ethernet communications, notionally allowing a 3rd party to “listen in” on their machine performance. In a world of increasingly unsafe information, food processors are opting for more, not less, firewalls around the data they produce.

However, most plant professionals, as opposed to their IT colleagues, have a far more liberal approach, and are more favourably inclined towards the benefits of networking the plant’s machines, as well as cooperating with manufacturers on the performance data, because they understand the benefits of seeing the entire systems functions as a data set, rather than analysing each individual machine’s performance separately.

A possible middle-ground between these two intractable positions is a “shadow sensor” network. With remote sensors becoming increasingly more affordable, it is now possible to overlay a network of sensors on top of your existing machine controls. With some sensors being as easy to use as a simple stick-on, with a small wireless antennae, there is no need to rip or replace cables, or any way compromise the existing controls. This shadow network then runs a separate diagnostic system, that provides plant engineers with critical, real-time data on the functioning of the entire system, as well as diagnostics associated with each key processing nodule.

HACCP Compliance via Wireless Monitoring

In 2009, a single processor in the peanut industry caused one of the largest food recalls in US history. Over 100 people fell sick with Salmonella and two families each lost a family member to it. It was estimated at the time that the outbreak cost the industry well over $500 million, which included the costs of tracking down, retrieving and transporting millions of items, lost sales, and the costs of advertising and public relations aimed at restoring consumer confidence. What is not factored is the loss in stock value, with the loss in confidence amounting to one major food processor losing $1 billion in stock value, with an additional vector being that much of those losses are not covered by liability insurance.

The US’s Food and Drug Administration has enacted a new far-reaching bill, signed in 2009 and updated in 2016 that defines “leading practices” to ensure food safety via the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The development and adoption of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) provides a systematic way to identify and reduce the risk of food safety hazards in foodservice environments, and is a key component of FSMA compliance. However, HACCP requires copious amounts of time, resources and training, not to mention resources dedicated to manual record keeping. Foodservice managers need to find a balance between time and labour savings and rigorous compliance.

Wireless monitoring technology in this scenario remains a mainstay technology in relation to these challenges. Food processing facilities that invest in a remote, wireless temperature monitoring system benefit by reducing the manual labour of record keeping, producing customised reports, streamlining the collection of environmental data, rigorous food safety compliance and stringent and continuous food temperature controls throughout the cold chain.

Xemote is South Africa’s leading wireless food production monitoring supplier, has the experience to assess your company’s specific needs, and design a bespoke wireless monitoring system that does precisely what you need it to do. Our products are currently being used by some of South Africa’s largest FMCG and meat-product manufacturers.