Artificial Intelligence is a relatively new approach being adopted by the food industry players. For the most part, this sector is a very high volume, low margin industry. Finding new ways to gain even modest increases in efficiency can make the difference between a facility turning a profit or a loss. Therefore, some of the larger sized food processing companies are turning to artificial intelligence technology in attempts to improve numerous aspects of the process. What is your first thought when you hear about automation in food production plants? You might think it is extremely expensive and has something to do with Elon Musk, robots and giant factories. Well, at some degree the idea you have may be right, but what if we say that all these concepts are related to your family owned bakery? What if we say that cement production is not very different from cookie production when it comes to machines? And what if we tell you this comes at a fraction of the cost of alternatives?
Cement and Cookie Productions
Production of any product in this world requires a procedure which can be termed as a technological process, in many ways similar to a recipe in food production. Regardless of the finished product, whether you are making phones, medicine, or furniture, there is a structured approach followed to achieve the final product. For example, to produce 1 ton of cement type OPC, you would require the following:
- Powder materials: sand, clay, slag, clinker
- Liquids: chemical additives
- Mill (similar to a mixer in food industry terms)
- Kiln (similar to an over in food industry terms)
- And the procedure (recipe) itself: when, where, how much
In this process firstly, you mill all the components to the needed proportion. Then you dose and mix them in exact quantities and proper sequence. Later, you put your mix inside the kiln for a certain time period. And finally, you let it rest in the refrigerator. Doesn’t this process sound similar to the production of pies, buns or cookies? For the machines it does! Doesn’t it mean we could use the worlds’ best practices in your bakery business? Of course, we can!
AI solves many tasks for Bakeries and Bread Plants
- Materials tracking and re-stocking
Using AI (as a part of ERP or MES) can fully take over daily responsibilities such as: checking expiration dates, comparing the dates of the similar products to decide which one will go first (FIFO principle), stocks analysis (real, safety, contingency) to planned production, automatically replenishing order creation and warehouse turnover optimization.
- Information collection and storage
What would you do if the bulb at your home was burnt out two times during the same month? You might call the electricians to check the mains voltage. If there’s nothing wrong there, you might end up never buying bulbs from this producer and switch to another brand. Just think how many such imaginary bulbs you have at the bakery – it gets complicated and almost impossible to remember everything. AI does these tasks for you: it not only records the condition of every piece of equipment or ventilation state each second, but also combines and visualizes gathered data for you. It sends you notifications, records the time of when the equipment stops and even creates regular reports. This information is key in running your bakery operations.
- No more excel headache
According to recent polls, 48% of food manufacturing companies still use Excel and manual work to record production data of any kind, stock, purchase orders, suppliers, recipes, breakages, QC results, etc. Substitution of manual works decreases the chance of “expensive” mistakes, saves workers time for higher level tasks, records all the changes made to data and results in overall cost reduction.
- Decreasing unplanned production stops and pauses
Regular collection of information is useful not only for production workers to make decisions, but also is used by the AI engine itself. Constant tracking of equipment states enables AI to inform operators of breakages in advance, which prevents serious equipment defects and respective production stops.
- Micro-decisions automation
AI helps with routine recurrent tasks that require much attention from human end. For example, AI can take over temperature control of any liquids inside tankers, air inside ventilation system or refrigerator room, ovens, etc., as well as control weights and quantities. Depending on the defined criteria system it can open valves for cold/hot water, dosing and ventilation valves. It decreases mistakes done as a result of human negligence, misunderstanding or late reaction. It enables workers to put all their attention to equipment performance, high-level operations and macro-decisions management.
Does this sound too expensive for your family owned bakery? It is not.
The price of solution depends on service provider you choose. Here it is important to choose a provider that produces both software and hardware. Such companies do not require additional financial resources to buy controllers and additional engineering hours to adjust them. Respectively, the final price for the customer is much lower. Moreover, in case of breakage or stoppage of hardware the responsibility goes directly to your service providers, with no 3rd party involvement – another way of saving time and money. automationX is the right choice for you as we develop both software and hardware and can technically support you 24/7. In addition, we use different brands for supplementary hardware, which helps you to manage your budget. Our solution is a proven success in the European market and we are now offering up to $50,000 funding for the first installation in North America. Click here to learn more.