There have been growing concerns about the ability to meet future food demands, in part due to increasing uncertainties in supply caused by climate change and rapid urbanization. As such modern food production methods are poised to play an important role in ensuring that food is being processed in the most efficient way possible. This has spurred food manufacturers to adopt technologies that provide them with the ability to scale, improve shelf life of their products, reduce wastage and raise hygiene standards in food production.
After agricultural production, crops, livestock and other agricultural produce have to be further processed before they can be ready for market. In this section, we look at several case studies of some of the largest food and beverage production firms in the region who are gearing up for the industry 4.0 revolution by building smart factories that can help future proof their operations. We will delve into the adoption of smart production lines as well as some of the digital production softwares used to complement machineries in order to improve efficiency and quality control in production.
Adopting Smart Production Lines
Thai Beverage, better known as ThaiBev, is Thailand’s largest and one of Southeast Asia’s largest beverage companies, with distilleries in Thailand, UK, and China. Thaibev has installed robots in its factories in order to boost productivity and efficiency. In February 2018, Cosmos Brewery, one of Thai Beverage PCL’s subsidiaries and maker of the famous Chang beer, automated its beer bottling line allowing them to boost productivity by 20% and reduce manpower requirements in their factories. The greater adoption of robots is in line with the Thailand 4.0 policy, which is targeting innovation as a means of fostering development.
Indofood Sukses Makmur Tbk (Indofood) is Indonesia’s largest food processing company and the world’s biggest producer of instant noodles. In 2019, indofood cited that they have expanded their flour mills to ensure sufficient capacity to capture market growth. The new milling lines incorporate state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies, complete with safety and energy-efficient features. The increase in automation of packing lines, as well as the deployment of robotic palletizing systems, auto case packers and high-speed vertical filling machines allowed Indofood to improve productivity and efficiency in their production. These improvements allowed them to expand production capacity by 8% in their Jakarta and Surabaya mills, with further increase in production capacity expected with the construction of two additional production lines at their Cibitung factory expected to be completed in the near future.
Vinamilk, the largest dairy company in Vietnam, has been consistently investing to improve its manufacturing capabilities. In 2018, Vinamilk updated their manufacturing execution system (MES) in their Da Nang Dairy Factory, connecting their enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) to their MES, making the production process fully automated from planning, production deployment, smart storage and export. As a result, the factory had full control of the production floor to ensure efficiency and quality control.
At its Mega Smart Factory, packaging materials and finished products are handled by autonomous laser-guided vehicles (LGV) systems, resulting in optimal quality control at efficient costs. They also utilise virtualization technology in their maintenance and production control system at their Mega Factory, allowing them to analyze and process big data to improve production efficiency and minimize the risk of production interruption.
Vinamilk is also gradually bringing artificial intelligence (AI) into production and management at its factories, building upon previous investments. Vinamilk’s facility in southern Binh Duong province has applied AI in almost all production stages – input materials, processing automation, packaging, equipment efficiency analysis, and many others.
Consistent investments in automation solutions have resulted in an increase of capacity of key product lines by 60-80% compared to 2016. The highlight of Vinamilk’s factories is not only in terms of capacity and output, but also the way they apply 4.0 technology to meeting many standards such as ISO 9001, FSSC 22000, and ISO 17025, in addition to special certifications such as Halal, European Organic, FDA (US) and Chinese standards, serving the domestic market and ready for international business expansion.
Digital Twins for Food Production
SATS is the chief ground-handling and in-flight catering service provider at Singapore Changi Airport and controls about 80% of Changi Airport’s ground handling and catering business.The Singapore-based company utilizes a cloud-based digital twin platform to create a 3D digital twin of a virtual kitchen that pairs virtual and physical operations. A digital twin enables them to run a parallel version of the supply network that mirrors existing physical networks, parameters and financial targets to detect issues and allow for advancements in decision making. This helps management make rapid decisions with a high-degree of confidence in outcomes.
This allowed SAT’s to distill and translate the operational experience and skills that their workers had in order to improve the productivity of in-flight catering operations and to reduce food waste, By digitizing their operations, SATS was able to optimize the deployment of its manpower and resources as it ventures into new business opportunities. The collection of data about their production processes and simulation using a digital twin enabled SATS to improve their resource allocation and production scheduling, avoiding bottlenecks in the process. This also allowed SATS to better forecast the amount of ingredients needed, reducing food wastage.
The Future of Food Processing
By leveraging these evolving technologies, food producers are tweaking the way they produce in order to ensure efficiency and reliability in their production. The use of digital technologies, such as digital twins and MES complements production hardware allowing producers to track plant activities in real-time, increasing efficiency on the ground and allowing them to manage their assets better. By tapping on the synergies between machines and digital production technologies, producers are able to scale their production levels while still having full control of all aspects of their operations. Improved productivity will go a long way in addressing ASEAN’s growing demand for food. We’re almost at the end of our Food for Thought series where we discuss how ASEAN enterprises across the agri-food value chain are improving the region’s food security through innovative technologies and continual improvements. Follow us on our LinkedIn page to keep up to date on our latest articles in this series.
7 July 2021