Four ways to ensure production resiliency in food processing

Food processing operations need to be resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic and can achieve this by improving collaboration and enforcing consistency.

By Sree Hameed January 9, 2021

COVID-19 has put supply chains under the microscope and accelerated the need to build in production resilience. The term resilience has been discussed, but what does that mean for the food processing sector? Context is important when it comes to production resilience and it involves three levels of hierarchy.

  • Sector-level resilience: The dairy sector is an example from the food and beverage industry where demand for fluid milk decreased as whole sections of market demand shut down due to school and restaurants closures.
  • Supply chain level resilience: Here, demand is not affected but instead supply sources have been disrupted. For example, migrant workers were not able to travel to help harvest crops. Or transportation networks were disrupted which reduced raw material supply to factories, and meant these networks had to run at a lower capacity.
  • Production level resilience: In this case, factories get all the raw material inputs it needs but lines are not configured to adapt to altered conditions. One example was limitations in packaging, from bulk packaging to retail packaging. Companies could not adapt or change fast enough to reconfigure the bulk lines to support consumer packaging.

Consider these four  some areas that food processing operations should consider to boost resilience:

1. Improve collaboration across people and systems: A key factor for future manufacturing operations improvements is the effective collaboration of people and systems in a digital, automated and integrated fashion. The element that can bring these together in industrial operations is business process management (BPM) technology integrated with a manufacturing IT platform to connect with plant floor processes, people, data and systems.

The digital transformation of operational processes using a business process management system can be used to capture and transform best practices into electronic workflows, to connect assets and systems, establish systematic people and system collaboration, and to empower a mobile and next-generation workforce. Enforcing consistency of operational procedures and the automation of workflows with electronic records of manufacturing execution activities and data, preserves the investments in existing plant systems while offering significant operational efficiency improvement potentials.

2. Rethink multi-site manufacturing operations transformation: Many manufacturing businesses have grown by mergers or acquisitions to become national, multinational or global organizations. These companies are now equipped with multiple production plants across regions for producing the same, similar or variations of products. These multi-site enterprises are also changing to a broader transformative view of manufacturing to make use of new significant ROI opportunities that are unique on a business-wide basis: Business-wide scorecards and consistent KPIs for transparency in cost, capacity and inventory across the enterprise; operational excellence, lean and continuous improvement cultures that need to collaborate and share best practices; a consistent, documented approach to regulatory compliance to minimize risks; a connected enterprise for visualization and accessibility of information anywhere and anytime, to increase business agility and the ability to innovate faster; and reduced cost of ownership while reducing the number of applications across the business to facilitate standardization in IT and operation.

3. Standardize processes, key performance indicators (KPIs) and plant integration: The primary enabler of an effective multi-site manufacturing operations transformation is the enterprise-wide standardization of operational processes, enabled through digital transformation. Such IT harmonization is the foundation to digitally model, integrate, execute, and govern operational processes and related information flow consistently across multiple plants.

4. Adapt and maintain operational excellence: Businesses have the opportunity to adapt and maintain operational excellence in volatile times through digital transformation. The current crisis is accelerating cloud and the use of data in increasingly sophisticated ways to provide visibility and certainty into operations. The adoption of analytics is said to be one of the greatest drivers of digital transformation, as businesses seek greater data-driven insights. Data acts as a source of truth that focusses teams on the critical factors that determine business resilience. Connectivity is key and your solution should have built-in connectivity to existing plant floor systems, devices and equipment automation. It is vital to ensure an easy-to-use, accessible user interface for a process-based approach to manufacturing operations management.

This article originally appeared on Control Engineering Europe’s website.

Author Bio: Sree Hameed is global marketing manager for Food, Beverage & Consumer Goods industry at AVEVA.