When you hear "Industry 4.0," it can sound complex and even a touch daunting. But really, it's just an umbrella phrase for the modernization of today's factory—a collection of technologies demonstrating what Tetra Pak calls the "triple power of data, technology and people" to help revolutionize the way food-manufacturing plants operate.
Wondering how you can reap the benefits of Industry 4.0? Here are three technologies that can help manufacturing companies take their capabilities to the next level.
Augmented reality promotes efficiency and upskilling of the workforce
Augmented reality, or AR, allows you to overlay a digital image on a phone, tablet or wearable. Most commonly, Tetra Pak uses AR for remote support, particularly for new machinery installation. The company will ship a Microsoft HoloLens, a wearable computer "smart glasses," and if technicians on-site need support, they can put on the glasses and call a specialist who can provide remote assistance, often from another country.
"Obviously, we can't easily assemble a group of experts at the site for every issue we need to address, but with AR technology, they can see exactly what the technician is seeing and can guide them through the process in real time with a visual diagram superimposed over the area of concern," said Sasha Ilyukhin, Vice President of Services and Industry 4.0 Solutions at Tetra Pak. "AR allows the technician at the site to seamlessly work side by side with the expert."
Recently, a technician fixed a faulty machine setting in minutes by contacting a specialist in Mexico. Without AR, the solution would have required a site visit, resulting in travel costs and significant disruption from downtime.
IoT and advanced analytics improve business performance
Most people have heard of "Internet of Things" (IoT), which refers to machines connected to the internet, allowing them to collect and share data. As Ilyukhin pointed out, we often picture a futuristic manufacturing plant full of robots and gleaming white machines. However, as any manufacturer knows, most real-world facilities are older and often in need of upgrades.
"There's a huge gap between the vision and ambition and the reality of facilities," he said. "And though that bright, shiny plant might be appealing, it's far too easy to get carried away spending money on technology without considering the business benefits of the investment."
Instead, he recommends conducting an "opportunity analysis" to discover your most significant efficiency gaps, then determining a cost-effective approach to create what he calls an "island of excellence," rather than trying to automate everything at once.
"We identify those areas where costs have risen above a reasonable benchmark and provide suggestions to implement the right level of automation," Ilyukhin said. "We help our customers see how data can help them make better or quicker decisions for integral functions within their operations."
As an example, Tetra Pak recently worked with a plant in South America to determine which assets played the most critical roles in their process — and realized it all boiled down to the boiler. Although a fairly simple machine, the boiler was critical to the entire plant, which would shut down if it stopped for any reason. By installing dozens of sensors, they wirelessly collected data on elements such as temperature, airflow and vibration to try to predict when failure would happen. Then they built a digital twin so they could analyze the signals in real time. If they spotted any anomalies, they could dispatch a site mechanic to inspect the boiler during planned downtime, and avert a costly shutdown.
The connected workforce redefines collaboration and communication
Often used for training, collaboration platforms serve a number of purposes. One of the most useful is helping manufacturers respond to quality audits from a government agency or their corporate office. Although a way of life, fulfilling one can be a laborious process. Typically the first step is locating and printing out reams of paper with previous record documentation. Next, someone photographs the equipment and makes notes, then subsequently downloads all the data, creates a PDF, saves it and sends it.
Using a collaboration platform streamlines the entire process. Yes, they still need to take the photos, but they can supplement them easily with narrated notes and use a hashtag to file all the information seamlessly; labeling it, for example, "#LineB #QualityCheck" with a date stamp and their name. "Thanks to a collaboration platform, in 30 minutes the audit check is complete and readily retrievable, dramatically shortening what was previously a two- to three-hour process," Ilyukhin said.
While technology simplifies and enhances many processes, Ilyukhin cautions against using technology for technology's sake. "Our goal is always to identify the practical application and connect it to a business use case."
Want to continue the conversation? Food Dive's Brand Studio and Tetra Pak have launched a podcast series on "Unpacking Food Tech," in which we bring you the facts on the circular economy that will help you see things clearer — and give you messages you can share with others. Catch our first episode, where two experts share some of the common myths plaguing the food industry regarding packaging sustainability, and stay tuned for our second episode, in which we explore more business use cases for smart manufacturing