An industry perspective from Alex Pool, President of Masked Owl Technologies
As an industrial solutions integrator, Masked Owl Technologies’ primary focus is always safety, not only for our customers’ employees, but our own. It’s why our first foundational tenet, 'be safe', serves as the cornerstone of our operations, and why we've carefully built our processes to uphold the highest safety standards in automation and controls solutions. However, when tackling unique automation challenges in the food industry, we encounter an additional layer of safety requirements—the safety of the food itself.
In food manufacturing, the highest concern is the safety and quality of the food we produce. A single misstep in the production process can have far-reaching consequences, spanning severe health risks and foodborne illnesses to even fatalities. Regulatory agencies like OSHA and the FDA, driven by both public and governmental demands for safer food, have established stringent standards and guidelines that place significant responsibility on manufacturers, with severe fines and penalties for non-adherence. Standards can vary based on product, geography, and more, further intensifying the process. Today, manufacturers must navigate these complex and ever-evolving compliance requirements while still maintaining efficient and cost-effective production lines.
Automation plays a pivotal role in upholding regulated standards, emerging as a powerful ally in food safety. Beyond enhancing efficiency and productivity, automation can help food manufacturers implement processes that maintain food safety at the highest level while gathering, storing, and monitoring vast amounts of current and historical data. With storage costs decreasing, processor speeds increasing, and significant advancements in data software, automation allows food manufacturers to have fast access to accurate, full-picture, and actionable performance insights. This not only ensures compliance with regulatory standards but also reduces compliance times by streamlining data collection and reporting.
One of the most critical aspects of food production safety is quality control. Traditional methods relied on manual inspection and sorting of food products, leaving room for human error and inconsistency. Automation technologies, such as machine vision systems and robotic arms, have revolutionized this process. These systems can rapidly and accurately inspect and sort food products based on criteria like size, color, and material defects.
Automation also brings a heightened level of precision and consistency to food processing. In meat packing plants, for example, automated cutting and deboning machines can precisely separate meat from bones, minimizing the risk of contamination and ensuring only high-quality meat enters the market. These machines are equipped with sensors and algorithms that can detect foreign objects or abnormalities, further driving the quality and consistency of the final product.
Automation in food production generates vast amounts of valuable data. This data is a crucial tool used to monitor and continually improve safety measures within each plant. Sensors embedded in production equipment can track essential metrics like temperature and humidity, alerting operators to compromised products and quality issues in real time. Data systems can also be configured to send proactive alerts when specific compliance thresholds are at risk of being exceeded, allowing for immediate corrective actions. This reduces the risk of foodborne pathogens or spoilage and helps manufacturers prevent compliance violations.
By harnessing the wealth of data generated through automation, manufacturers gain the ability to identify patterns and trends in food safety incidents, allowing them to equip their teams with well-defined action plans for more efficient implementation of preventive measures. In-depth analysis of historical data enables these companies to proactively pinpoint potential risks and adjust their processes accordingly. This strategic approach substantially reduces the risk of contamination or recalls, helping to solidify the integrity of our food supply chain.
Traceability stands as another fundamental pillar of food safety, extending beyond meeting the highly complex and regulated safety standards required during stages of production. Automation allows consumers to know the origins and production processes behind the food they consume. With automated processes, we can track and trace the journey of food products from farm to table. RFID tags, barcodes, and blockchain technology allow for precise tracking, ensuring that any future issues or recalls can be isolated and promptly addressed. This not only enhances food safety but fosters trust between producers and consumers.
Automation has revolutionized food production safety by improving quality control, ensuring precision in processing, generating valuable data, and enhancing traceability. These advancements are not only crucial for meeting regulatory requirements but also for earning consumer trust. But what lies ahead as food production becomes even more automated? How will technology continue to reshape food safety, leading us toward an era of even safer, higher-quality food for all?
The future of food production safety is undeniably automated, a welcome development that holds potential to benefit both the industry and consumers. At MOT, we are excited about what lies ahead and fully prepared to assist manufacturers as they embrace automation and controls in their food production processes.
About Masked Owl Technologies
Masked Owl Technologies (MOT) is an industrial solutions integrator specializing in developing customized automation and controls processes. MOT takes a consulting-based approach to identify the root cause of system challenges, incorporating tested emerging technology into innovative solutions that mitigate risk and solve complex problems, the first time.
With more than 50 years of combined experience, the MOT team provides transformative automation services that harness the power of AI, machine learning, data analytics, and more to drive efficiency, boost competitiveness, and accelerate growth for today’s manufacturers. MOT's consistent process, combined with a fierce commitment to being bold, results in tailored solutions that optimize operations, reduce costs, and position industrial businesses for sustained success