Continuous Automation—Key to the Future

On the factory floor of "Deutsches Milchkontor" GmbH
© Roland Sossna

Imagine if you discovered that the last piece of cheese you ate was produced by robots. Surely that could only happen in science fiction? Well, almost but not entirely: “Big Data,” robotics and IT are playing an increasingly important role in production processes.

This involves, in particular, the increasing integration of human experience in “intelligent” automation concepts at dairies and cheese factories. Of course, this is not a question of artificial intelligence as such but rather a matter of supporting operating personnel in dairies and food processing facilities, and above all one of error prevention.

So, how does this affect cheese production? Well, these days human experience is being integrated into semi-automated production. Modern, sensor-based systems are used here, among other things, to identify the optimal time for cutting the curd, which is crucial for maintaining the quality of the final product. This means the master cheese maker no longer needs to check the status of the curd itself. (If you don’t know what is meant by “curd” here, don’t worry; the automation knows exactly what to do.)

With concepts like this, it is possible to eliminate common errors made by human operators. But there is more to it than this: Processing facilities often struggle to find sufficient specialist personnel these days as the job market is fairly flat. In light of this situation, automation has come along at just the right time.

Companies in the supply industry and the IT sector have been developing automation solutions for decades, and these are becoming ever more extensive and “intelligent.” Of course, all these concepts are no replacement for the expertise of an experienced production worker with professional training. But IT can keep a much better overview of the bigger picture than a human, and it can identify potentials for optimization from the wealth of process data collected. After all, “Big Data” is also gaining in importance in the food sector. In particular, IT can ensure traceability even for products with complicated production processes.

At drinktec 2017, the relevant machine and production line suppliers will once again be focusing on the topic of automation, after all: Process automation is a key issue for dairies and cheese factories. Companies in the industry can save time, resources and therefore money using IT-controlled processes, while also guaranteeing 100% traceability of products and the materials they contain, in line with today’s requirements. “Process automation, control, control technology and IT solutions” are therefore key topics at drinktec 2017, as is also reflected in the Focus Day: Milk on September 15.

 

Roland Sossna

Roland Sossna

Editor of the trade journals Molkerei-Industrie and IDM International Dairy Magazine

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