Automation Best Practices for the Food Industry

Automation in the food and beverage industry is standard practice, with the exception of some small specialty boutique producers. To ensure quality production at large scale and minimize food safety risks, producers can rely on automated systems. But even with automation as a part of your production toolkit, a consistent product is not guaranteed. Your systems need to be properly designed, calibrated, and tested for your application.

Food and Beverage Automation: a Few Things to Keep in Mind

1. Your hardware and software should align with your product, not the other way around.

Why should you have to modify recipes or cut corners with your products because of hardware and software constraints? When designing your automation system, your team should consider your desired result at every stage of the production process and ask, “how can this step be automated?”

The opposite approach would be to install a suite of automation hardware only to find later that you need to make changes to your product to make it work. This is a waste of money and risks sacrifices that simply don’t need to be made.

2. Think of automation as a software asset.

Of course, you need the right equipment to get the job done. Meatpacking equipment isn’t going to do much good at a bottling facility, but assuming you have the right hardware, your automation system can best be thought of as a software tool. 

An automation system is essentially just your recipe, procedure, or process that machines carry out for you. If an error ever occurs or product quality is lacking somehow, it’s likely the fault of one stage of your process not functioning properly. Many of these problems can be corrected by simply adjusting the process that your machines are executing.

3. Write and conduct manual testing before implementing your automated system.

Before you design an automated system, it is best to think through the exact series of events that need to be automated. When you have been manufacturing products by hand—or even with machine assistance—for years, you may forget the key details that machines can’t possibly know about. Second nature works for people, but not with machines.

For your system to work properly, it is critical that you manually write out procedures and ensure that every stage of a product’s development is accounted for. Here, you will be able to find bugs in your production process long before the problem balloons into an expensive fix.

4. Remember, not everything can be automated.

Automation is meant to augment your production process, not entirely replace manual work. There are some processes that machines just can’t do. From testing to improving the quality of a given product, some things simply need to be done by people.

Ensuring a High-Quality Product

When implemented correctly, a well-designed automated production system ensures a consistent product that is safer, higher quality, and less prone to defects. To help make this a reality, working with an experienced team of automation experts who are familiar with your industry is a must. 

HEXA Engineers has expertise designing automation systems for a range of food and beverage products, some of which include:

  • Malting plants
  • Meat industry
  • Pet food
  • Bakeries
  • Bottling plants

Contact us today to learn more and to see where automation can fit into your operation.