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Drying with IoT, cloud-based data management

Source:Food Bev Asia

Date Published:5/24/2019 08:05:41 AM

PAUL MCKEITHAN, head of Digital Services at Bühler Aeroglide, explains the 10 ways this new frontier is changing operations as we know them.  

Paul Mckeithan, head of Digital Services at Bühler Aeroglide

A SMARTER world has emerged around us, and the IoT revolution is changing the way companies are doing business, helping them to work smarter and achieve better outcomes than ever before. Thanks to a surge in device availability, coupled applications, combined with opportunities for constant connections, processors can harness the power of digitalisation to more safely and efficiently produce products, goods or services. For years the industrial processing sector has lagged behind the consumer market in cutting edge computing technology. However, this is all changing as the expectations we have in our personal lives collide with the work place. Following are 10 ways the new frontier is changing the old models of dryer operations as we know them.

  1. A constant connection is achieved with solution providers.

A digital relationship adds value to a single point-in-time contact. When companies work with vendors and machine manufacturers, they do it in a linear way. To get the most out of a drying equipment purchase, customers need access to processing expertise. They can get this by coming to drying seminars, requesting site visits and field engineering evaluations, and simply by calling. But these interactions, based on single point-in-time interactions, flow in one direction. This is the lone business model, where the processor is requesting support. The provider doesn’t have access to processor data because it’s generally stored in siloes.

The new frontier is a model of collaboration. A processor can be constantly connected to a solution provider expertise, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Processors already have the sensors in place, collecting data. But it’s the cloud-based management, or the digital relationship, that can enable a back and forth flow of information analytics between the processor and the provider. Both can see a dashboard that centralises and synthesises data in real time for meaningful insights. IoT data management interconnects information to help customers realise new business models, optimise internal processes and achieve major cost savings. It allows customers to take advantage of process knowledge, full time, and make it sustainable.

  1. A better customer service model can be established.

The digital intimacy of cloud-based management is designed for long-term operational success.  With information displayed on a web-based dashboard, a user can pinpoint at-risk parts and components before they fail. Service records can be viewed on a time stamped basis, and reports generate data that can show how much money was saved and how much more could be saved with preventive maintenance. And it is not just maintenance that can improve, but the process as well. Now the processor and solution provider can work together to make sure the processor is getting the most from the dryer.  This works because the service model is based on the facts.  Unlike the lone model, a constant connection in the collaborative model drives a processor’s competitive strategy, its culture and organizational design.

  1. Sustainable processing can be achieved through connectivity.

IoT enables an organic, real-time connection all the time, to make processing sustainable – like the fit bit watch that never stops offering insights. After all, it doesn’t make sense to monitor and collect dryer data, like energy usage for instance, unless it can be put to good use.

Here is an example of a repeat field evaluation to demonstrate: When upstream operations change, product going into the dryer can have a higher moisture. As a result, more energy can be required to dry according to specifications. Bühler engineers solved this problem for a customer by optimising bed depth creating optimal product retention. The changes saved the customer 12% in energy costs; however, they didn’t last. Five months later, the customer requested another evaluation. When field engineers returned, they recommended the same changes. We explained that the same adjustments had been made during the previous evaluation. This became a turning point for the customer who started to see the value of being connected to processing expertise in real time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By joining the digital world and trusting the data, those energy savings will never disappear again.

  1. Existing data can be used effectively to drive business decisions.

From paper reports generated by chart recorders to Excel spreadsheets from programmable logic controls (PLCs), customers have always had access to critical information, but it was often buried in volumes of emails, exchanged through private discussions, hidden within spreadsheets and housed on laptops. With IoT management, it is possible to marry one chart with another, to analyse the data to gain insights that were not possible before, asking questions that can affect management decisions, staffing and operating conditions. Simply put, IoT makes data relevant.

Changes over time, in recipes and operating parameters, as a result of operator preferences, turnover, or constraints, can lead to significant losses in energy efficiency. One customer using cloud-based management discovered that a dryer was energised 20% of the time, with no product. Data tracked over time showed that on Tuesdays, the dryer was energised 8%. On Wednesdays, it was 30%. From this, the question became why is third shift energising the dryer more. This led to a review that recognised third shift processed a different product. From there, management was able to pinpoint and review a process that reduced energised time and prevented this waste of energy.

  1. The human element is managed with confidence.

When a dryer operator is asked to get as close to the target moisture point as possible, there’s a natural tendency to over dry. Over drying is a common practice, and one processing deviation can dramatically affect batch results and yield. When feed is over dried, too much water is evaporated which has to be replaced with raw ingredients. Access to full time, real-time monitoring with hardware, software, and ongoing process expertise, combined with technical support, enables the operator to consistently reach the desired moisture target and do it with confidence.

Here is an example. A dryer operator traditionally collects samples and measures target moisture in a lab setting, then returns to adjust controls as needed. The process is slow, with a retention time of 25-30 minutes, combined with time in the lab to analyse. All the while, production time and product can be wasted. And if lab results suggest the product is too dry, the process has to be repeated. Without continuously automated data monitoring, the operator has to keep taking measurements and making adjustments. But when the operator turns on Moisture Pro – a product in a suite of cloud-based tools that reduce time-based moisture deviation based on decades of drying expertise – a reading can be captured every second. As the inline moisture sensor takes a reading, an algorithm written to control the dryer can control temperature setting to consistently achieve the desired output. This digital relationship gives the operator confidence that systems are calibrated and that processing is efficient.

  1. Hidden opportunities can be discovered to drive better efficiency.

IoT enables you to ask a question that you didn’t know needed to be asked. With continuous online access to expertise and data on the cloud, an expert can see and interpret processing data. Service records can be viewed and data interpreted on a time stamped basis. This gives customers the ability to ask a hidden question – like why was the dryer energised 30% on Wednesday, when on Tuesday it averaged 8%. Time stamped data allows the processor to see the big picture, to take action based on history. Here’s another example. If the plant manager sees the dryer was energised two hours out of an eight-hour shift, he can ask what happened. Perhaps some adjustments are made to reduce that time. Then the next day, it is clear there was only one hour of energised time showing. The plant manager can acknowledge the energised reduction, but also ask what was done differently. The opportunity to continuously ask a question, based on data, keeps a production striving toward efficiency. In the old models of production, it was difficult to manage behind.

  1. Better asset utilisation can be achieved.

Every piece of equipment on a plan floor contributes to the effectiveness of the total plant production process. Each and every moment the dryer is not working, planned or unplanned, for product changeover or planned maintenance, negatively impacts overall effectiveness. Therefore, the fewer the stops, the better for overall results. IoT capacity metrics can demonstrate how much a dryer is down due to maintenance, and the insights can enable new business decisions. For example, if a dryer is down 60% of time, then there is 40% more capacity available for running more product or selling more contracts. This could even justify the investment of a new production line. Data gained from IoT can help the plant manager have a better view of the entire production for better asset utilization.

  1. The digital relationship connects data with people to improve performance.

IoT can drive competitive insights based on facts, to better integrate an organizational structure and its capabilities and create trusted, human connected solutions that improve businesses and customer experiences. For instance, if a conscientious dryer operator is making good decisions for his shift, controlling moisture according to specifications and saving money, the plant manager will have access to this information and be able to champion him. By integrating the human instinct to connect with people and expertise, IoT can break down barriers between people, eliminate information silos, bring full employee engagement into any business process and solve problems quickly to improve performance.

  1. IoT verifies processing parameters for validation and peace of mind.

Validation ensures that pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria are controlled when producing food for human consumption.  In nut roasting for instance, log reduction is based on defined parameters such as retention time, product temperature, process air temperature, air velocity, product moisture content and process air humidity, with sensors correlated to a known validation. Being able to monitor critical processing parameters in real time means you’ll never have to wonder if your process is producing a safe product. IoT enables processors to validate that a roaster is delivering the desired kill step every minute of every day.

Should a process interruption occur, Process Pro – an IoT-connected tool in cloud-based management services--sends the operator a warning. This might happen because of a change in temperature, moisture or time retention. Or, perhaps a burner goes out. An alert gives the operator an opportunity to do something about it, to have the product closely checked or keep it from being shipped. This ensures food safety for the consumer as well as protecting their favorite brands. It can also save product that would potentially have to be discarded. Being able to reduce the amount of waste that a facility produces means there is more sellable product.

  1. Recognising new insights can drive a culture of continuous improvement.

Being able to ask the hidden questions and discover new efficiencies become part of the culture of IoT. It can change behaviors that people begin to see.  An IoT cloud-based service can nurture and develop the right enabling patterns of behavior and cultural attributes of excellence. The information that has been buried in spreadsheets is now synthesised in meaningful ways, that are transparent, so that the human element can become vested in the process, to continuously aim for efficiency.

As the old models of production change, there is an increasing opportunity to harness the power of digitalisation to more safely and efficiently produce products sustainably. By 2050, the needs of approximately nine billion people will require approximately three times our current resources. At this time, challenges will accelerate for the deficiencies of resources and the enormous production of current waste. Planning for the future, Bühler has a goal to reduce both energy consumption and waste at customer sites by 30%, by the year 2020. Sustainable business models will help customers get there, focused on safe and efficient feed processing that saves energy, and digitalization that provides integrated operational connectivity. Sustainable processing must meet present needs without compromising future viability. It is not just a corporate responsibility, sustainability directly relates to efficiency, minimising waste, finding cost-savings and new profitability.

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