On September 13 and 14, Talsom attended the Journées Technologiques Nationales en Alimentaire organized by the Conseil de la Transformation Alimentaire du Québec (CTAQ). Business executives, strategists, and equipment and service providers gathered together to discuss trends relating to a new manufacturing era: Industry 4.0.
This new industry hinges on data and object connectivity. The connection of software, equipment and mass data are becoming essential elements for intelligence creation in a manufacturing system that is more adaptable to production. We are entering the fourth industrial revolution.
From Traditional Factories to Smart Factories
Smart factories aim to optimize the manufacturing process. By connecting to computer control models and a mass quantity of data, food processors will be able to benefit from physical processes that are more adaptable and flexible, and from a more efficient allocation of their resources.
The use of digital technologies is not limited to transformation and production procedures. It is essential for optimizing communications between each actor in the supply chain.
For example, manufacturing machines could communicate among themselves so that different types of food packaging can be sorted more efficiently, and in so doing reduce errors considerably. In addition, consumer food preferences could be instantly integrated into the personalization process on a mass level with speed and efficiency.
IoT: The Industry’s Future Technology
In the agri-food industry, robots have become indispensable for the production and transformation of products. The use of robots allows for the automation of repetitive tasks and processes that are generally dangerous, based on specific steps and rules. Virtual robots remove humans from the sphere of product handling by working directly with ingredients, sorting finished products, detecting defects and packaging products. As a result, productivity and performance are increased while inefficiency is decreased.
Due to the Internet of Things (or “IOT”), motion sensors can directly control the quality of products by detecting vibrations and humidity.
Smart applications brought about through IOT and artificial intelligence could allow businesses to monitor manufacturing line productivity in real time. By using these applications, employees can thus follow the evolution of their daily production output in real time while executives can consult the data thereby collected on their computer or smart phone.
Even though 3D printing was still in its infancy two years ago, it is now even more sought out by food manufacturers. Most 3D food printers are deposition printers, meaning they deposit layers of raw material in a process known as additive manufacturing.
Other, more specific printers use edible products such as sugar or chocolate as printing material. This innovation allows manufacturers to avoid the difficulties associated with product testing during product design and, by drawing on imagination and personalization, to obtain more accurate results.
What Are the Benefits for Agri-Food Businesses?
In light of the technological procedures that we have just mentioned (there are many others not discussed here), manufacturers of food processing products will benefit from more efficient production and from an increase in product quality, thereby leading to a reduction of costs and the potential to offer more competitive prices in the globalized food market.
The smart use of resources also results in benefits on a human level. Businesses will reduce the risks of accidents and injuries on production sites while benefitting from a greater involvement of their teams. By assigning tasks to their employees that are more interesting to them, facilitated in part by the use of robots, businesses will thus reduce the retention rate of their employees.
Is Quebec Falling Behind?
In comparison to the United States, where 76% of businesses have joined the digital revolution, only 28% of Quebec businesses have done the same. Manufacturing and agri-food businesses must accordingly modernize by making greater investments in smart factories and in strategic thinking to remain competitive in this global market. However, Quebec is particularly involved in the excitement behind IoT technology. Initiatives relating to this technology are popping up at an increasing pace, leading to the formation of organizational ecosystems.