Automating for growth: manufacturers look to automated processing equipment

Beverage manufacturers are increasingly turning to automated processing equipment to remain competitive, decrease costs and meet consumer demand, while keeping operations green and sustainable. Frances Cook finds out more.

Automating for growth: beverage manufacturers turning to automated processing equipment

Greater product varieties, changing consumer purchasing patterns, increased food safety regulations and global competition are the main drivers behind the beverage industry's increasing use of automation products, according to ARC Advisory Group's recent study "Automation Expenditures for Food and Beverage Worldwide Outlook". The report also shows that spending in this area will continue to rise over the next few years.

"Automation spending for 2012 is $5.6 billion and, in general, we are seeing annual growth of six to seven percent," says David Humphrey, ARC's European research director. "We forecast automation spending in food and beverage to grow to $7.4 billion worldwide in 2016." Products in the assessment included: distributed control systems (DCS), AC drives, motion control, transmitters, control valves, level measurement, flow meters, analytic and a wide variety of relevant industrial software.

The fastest-growing technologies include enterprise asset management software, CPM (corporate performance management) and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) software and process engineering tools.

Cutting beverage manufacturing costs and improving quality

"As consumer demand for more complex recipes and global competition increases, more flexible plants are required."

"A beverage manufacturer's number one priority is to lower their costs while increasing and stabilising product quality, which leads to the need for reliable systems around the clock," says Holger Schmidt, global industry manager food and beverage at Endress+Hauser, a company with more than 50 years' experience in process automation and instrumentation. "Manual operations are not cutting it and can't supply the necessary demand for observation. Reacting fast is key to meeting their number one priority, especially when the same product is produced in several places globally."

As consumer demand for more complex recipes and global competition increases, more flexible plants are required. "Accurate dosing of ingredients is key to stable product quality," explains Schmidt, adding that one of the key challenges is traceability; keeping track of how much has been dosed, from which vessel and in which product.

"Having control over processes ensures good environmental practice, fewer raw materials, which means less waste and less electricity, and lower costs," says Susan Roche, General Manager of Wonderware UK and Ireland, who says that productivity, control and efficiency are the three major areas that can be improved with greater automation and controlled processes.

Software drives beverage bottling line efficiency

Wonderware software (which is used in one-third of the world's plants and is a trading name of Solutions PT) collects, displays, controls and analyses data to help beverage manufacturers make informed decisions and improve operations. "One example is from Pepsi Bottling Ventures (PBV) of Garner, North Carolina, where over 30 million cases of Pepsi products a year are produced by this plant alone," adds Roche.

"Wonderware software collects, displays, controls and analyses data to help beverage manufacturers make informed decisions and improve operations."

PBV is recognised as the number one bottle plant (out of 116) in North America and has grown to become the third largest manufacturer and distributor of Pepsi-Cola products in North America. It operates 27 bottling and distribution facilities and manufactures and distributes more than one hundred different flavours and brands. Since 2002, it has grown from producing and distributing 189 different products to over 500 today. Adapting to changes rapidly and flexibly has been key for PBV and possible as a result of Wonderware's performance software solution.

"Today the data collected by Wonderware software is driving line efficiencies," says Roche, adding that software solutions also help to achieve sustainability goals and reduce the plant's carbon footprint. "By pinpointing downtime, PBV can gain percentage points against efficiencies. By driving efficiencies up, costs are driven down. Process visualisation is now immediately available to all levels of plant management and staff. The Average Filler Runtime data facilitated increased production numbers. They all have the ability to discover, validate and quantify opportunities for future capital investment."

Automated processing trends in the drinks industry

"Displaying information in real-time is becoming more and more important to beverage manufacturers."

The growth of automated processing equipment is partly due to a change in outlook, which Schmidt believes is the biggest trend affecting the market at the moment. "With around-the-clock operations we see a strong change in mind set," he says. "In earlier years, sensors have been used to inform an operator to make proactive decisions, but now the future of the processing automation industry is migrating towards more autarkic systems that rely on the sensor signals to decide the next steps ahead."

Endress has noticed that its customers are moving from "simple" flow measurements to Coriolis technology, where sensors like the Promass can supply accurate signals under nearly every installation condition using any product. "Due to the integrated temperature compensation, internal balancing problems caused by changing volumes after heating or cooling a product will not occur," he says. "Customers learn to trust and use the opportunity of the integrated density or viscosity measurement, which is a huge step into inline quality measurement and result-driven process automation."

Displaying information in real-time is also becoming more and more important to beverage manufacturers. "This is a carry over from industries such as oil and gas, and chemicals, which have used digital dashboards for years," says Humphrey. "A digital dashboard mixes information from the plant floor with economic data, such as cost data and production goals, to help managers make smaller decisions more frequently. This process requires good information from the automation equipment as a prerequisite."

Mobile technology on the rise for drinks manufacturing

The introduction of mobile technology into the manufacturing process means that real-time information can be received and acted upon quickly, allowing workers to deal with problems as they occur. "Mobile industrial control and data reporting is an emerging trend in industrial IT and we wanted to ensure our customers have the option to keep up with the latest advances in technology and to be able to access their information, analytics and KPIs to the mobile device of their choice," says Roche. "Having access to the right information at the right time, means customers will be able to assign resources and resolve issues quickly."

"The introduction of mobile technology into the manufacturing process means that real-time information can be received and acted upon quickly, allowing workers to deal with problems as they occur."

While mobile technology is currently coming into vogue, ARC predicts that this trend is going to increase dramatically in the near future as tablet PCs take the place of handheld terminals with limited displays. Digital dashboards are going mobile as well. "These applications create and track work orders and many are capable of predictive maintenance," says Humphrey. "This is a much smarter way to maintain equipment than period maintenance. This is where we see most mobile devices because of the practicality for plant maintenance workers."

With increasing demand for greater product variety, constantly-changing consumer patterns, increased governmental regulations, the need for more cost-effective operations as well as the necessity of running green, sustainable operations, the strong movement towards processing automation is set to continue.

"There is a general perception that automation can help gather the information needed to meet increasing regulation, make processes more transparent, better understand costs, and improve quality," concludes Humphrey.