Most of the smart factory discussion has centred around discrete manufacturing, but modern smart sensing technologies can also be applied to improve many aspects of the food and beverage industry, particularly for food safety and track and trace, improved packaging and new product opportunities.
The concepts of Industry 4.0, IIoT and ‘smart manufacturing’ have been gaining much press in recent times, particularly in relation to discrete manufacturing. Those working in an industry such as food and beverage — overwhelmingly driven by batch manufacturing processes — may find it difficult to see how such technologies could assist and improve their business. There are, however, definite areas in which these modern technologies can help modern food manufacturers improve efficiencies, market share and food safety.
Food recalls and traceability
A food or beverage product may be recalled for a number of reasons: complaints from consumers or customers, or by order of retailers or government. It might also be recalled as a result of testing and auditing at a food business or in the upstream supply chain (raw ingredients). Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)1 classifies the types of problems that can occur as including:
Microbial contamination: Pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses or parasites.
Labelling errors: Non-compliant labelling, incorrect food ingredients on the ingredient list, incorrect date markings or other food labelling errors.
Foreign matter: Contamination with material such as glass, metal or plastic objects.
Chemical or other contaminants: Contamination with substances such as cleaning products, pesticides, machine oil, etc.
Undeclared allergens: Due to incorrect labelling, incorrect packaging or contamination of the product by an allergen.
Biotoxins: Contamination with biological toxins such as histamine in fish and paralytic shellfish toxin in oysters.
Other faults: Those not covered above, such as packaging faults or unsafe levels of additives.
In recent times there has been mounting pressure on food and beverage manufacturers to initiate and achieve product recalls in ever decreasing time frames, making effective product track-and-trace imperative.
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