by Lance Johnson and Clive Roberts, Schneider Electric
In today’s increasingly agile operational environments, intuitive, secure, and seamless integration offers several fundamental benefits that ultimately lead to enhanced operations, reduced risks, and cost savings. Additionally, advancement in integration comes at a time when operations and control professionals are required to stay within the approved CAPEX and optimise OPEX whilst still prioritising continuous improvements – a challenge to say the least.
Achieving true integration across operations does pose some legwork but the rewards are tremendous. Actionable insight from integrated operations has the potential to transform business and improve risk management.
According to market analysis and research firm, Frost & Sullivan, many organisations are currently pursuing modernisation, IT and OT convergence and enterprise-wide connectivity projects but integration at the control layer with supervisory systems is not as seamless as it should be.
The solution, says Frost & Sullivan, is integrated control and software solutions which integrate control with supervision to facilitate seamless data flow between the control and system layers, addressing the following integration challenges:
- Communication: Modern control systems need high performance, cyber-secure links between many control assets and supervisory systems
- Engineering: Duplication of engineering tasks represents risk
- Standardisation: Standard blocks to connect to control assets and to interface to software applications provide rapid and reliable integration across the whole control system.
Eat or be eaten
Across the globe including South Africa, the food and beverage industry is faced with rising input costs. Also, consumers are increasingly demanding products that are diverse which adds an additional layer of competition amongst industry players.
Consumers are also demanding more transparency and traceability when purchasing food. There are many reasons for this trend: safety concerns, compliance with ethical standards, reduction in food wastage and so forth.
The above means that food and beverage manufacturers must become agile, facilitating increased flexibility on the factory floor that is driven by technology solutions such as IoT and automation. This will enable manufacturers to efficiently gather, manage and analyse the necessary data needed to address customer expectations.
Also, traceability allows manufacturers to market food items such as luxury and organic products as it can tangibly demonstrate where it came from and how it was handled, an important differentiator.
Traceability and responsiveness
Recipe and Batch management solutions offer agility in terms of real-time decision making and responsiveness. It not only automates processes, but also enhances equipment utilisation, productivity, quality, traceability and reporting outcomes.
For example, a leading grain flour production facility in Argentina leveraged an integrated solution from Schneider to achieve high availability and control, as well as improved traceability.
Similarly, a leading beef producer in France used Schneider Electric's integrated control and software management systems to link production and palletising areas for enhanced productivity and flexibility.
By leveraging integrated control and software solutions, food and beverage manufacturers can quickly adapt to new product development (NPD) needs or inventory levels. Product quality and traceability is also ensured to meet compliance requirements as well as maintain preparedness in the case of food recalls.