Tag Archives: data transparency

Data transparency can help food and beverage manufacturers cut out waste and feed the world.

Food and beverage manufacturers are tasked with a single goal: to convert raw materials into edible meals and snacks. Though this might seem like a sterilized approach to an industry that farms out fresh vegetables or churns out chocolate chip ice cream, from the perspective of those in the field, this point of view helps focus attention onto certain components within a given process and isolate issues compromising efficiency. A certain number of ingredients are retrieved for processing and a certain number of groceries are the product of those ingredients. Pretty simple, right?

However, the wingspan of the food and beverage sector is far-reaching, and it is arguably the most complex modern industry. In 2007, Forbes estimated its value between $1.6 and $4.8 trillion globally, but published these figures with great reservation given how difficult it is to actually account for an industry as massive as the one that feeds nearly everybody on Earth.

This problem is indicative of a significant issue in food processing microcosmically, that of transparency. Just as no one can really tell how widespread the scope of the food and beverage industry really is, many food processors individually do not have the resources necessary to track their operational efficiency or analyze their throughput in a manner that promotes positive, incremental growth and improvement, known in lean manufacturing circles as “kaizen.”

That said, any food processing schema can be divided into at least two major divisions: raw materials procurement and processing. Increasing data transparency in these target areas, along with expanding the capabilities of that data, can help manufacturers make more comprehensive decisions about how best to upgrade on-site efficiency.

picking apple

Yield management lets food processors track their products from farm to plate.

Reducing raw materials waste with more comprehensive yield management
As we mentioned earlier, thinking about food processing linearly creates a simplified lens through which industry experts can perceive where they excel and where they fall short. To that end, greater attention paid to yield management could provide the food and beverage industry with a picture of just how efficient their workflow is at present, and in the long run, whether changes to operations push the needle further into the black or the red.

In brief, yield management concerns itself with how effectively a given manufacturer processes raw materials into a set number of products. Though it is nearly impossible to achieve a perfect balance between what a business consumes and what it produces – creating no waste in the process – allocating resources toward investments and practices that can determine and track a yield index can do more for companies than simply point out the unavoidable. One Wageningen University study found the yield index, once honed, can also work in reverse, providing manufacturers with a fuller idea of their processing capabilities based on the amount of raw materials they collect.

All this aside, taking advantage of better yield management deployments can only ever be the tip of the iceberg when improving operational efficiency for any food and beverage manufacturer. Though simplifying process industries can be a handy technique for starting to solve a given problem, the truth is this field is far too multifaceted to rely on only surface assessments. Many slight factors, known as yield and mix variances, can dramatically skew yield efficiency figures. For instance, Infor reported fluctuations in the fat content of chickens can ultimately reshape production volumes for the poultry industry and, in so doing, the ratio of production against raw materials. In the end, data gleaned from yield management strategies can only do so much for guiding efficiency measures, but it is undeniably fundamental to improving operations because it is a necessary metric through which to gauge process changes.

“Asset utilization plays a key role in preventing wasteful actions from impacting yield.”

Onboarding detection technology to perform proactive maintenance on processing assets
How efficiently a company operates also depends on how its supervisors, managers, and employees handle the on-site machinery that process its raw materials into food. Asset utilization plays a key role in preventing wasteful actions from impacting yield. However, if these businesses cannot rely on their large-scale assets to function properly, how can they be expected to measure their efficiency with any accuracy?

Proactive maintenance solutions involved a higher degree of asset monitoring. By investigating small variations in things like the heat or speed of a component or subassembly, maintenance personnel and the companies they work for forgo long downtime and can instead schedule off-time to address minor tweaks and repairs. As Packaging World explained, broken equipment in any process industry can sacrifice significant uptime, but the importance of proactive maintenance is more about control through technology than anything else. In the world of food and beverage processing, a system error can also lead to enormous losses in raw materials should equipment fail mid-shift, jeopardizing production quotas. By outfitting capital-intensive assets with cutting-edge, low-cost monitoring equipment, and funneling the data through a centralized maintenance management system, food manufacturers can learn more about the machines they use everyday, and have greater control over when and how they go offline.