A record crowd flocked to the recent 50th anniversary edition of the foodpro show this month. Held at the ICC in Sydney’s Darling Harbour over four days, foodpro was jam-packed with great ideas spread across 360-plus exhibitors. Foodpro promised much and delivered high – casting the spotlight on new trends, technologies and innovations in the food & drinks industry.
The event came at a time when the largest sector of Australian manufacturing – representing around 300,000 of its 900,000 or so employees – has a spring in its step, and is looking to build on a period of solid results. Manufacturing is in its ninth straight month of growth. Last month’s food & beverage result in the Australian Industry Group’s PMI (sometimes called the “Manufacturing Happiness Index”) was a solid 56.9. As the Department of Industry’s Rod Murray said, “We see a gradual upswing, we think, in food processing, and that’s on the back of the upswing of food production.”
In this blog, we’ve captured some of the hot topics on everyone’s lips. If you missed out, or if you were there but couldn’t see it all (it happens to the best of us), here’s our recap of what you need to know:
Robotics beyond routine
No future-thinking exhibition would be the same without robots – and foodpro was no exception. As with March’s AUSPACK show, robots and other automation offerings featured at a number of big-draw exhibitor stands.
Robotics has come a long way compared to previous shows, and Foodpro was flush with examples of how robotics can eradicate expensive and laborious manual tasks through the applications of simple automation. There’s now a growing demand for the practical application and integration of robotics to complete pick and pack, palletising, packing, inspection operations and other production line tasks.
ABB Australia’s Events Manager Sharon Adams, said enquiries about robotics and digital solutions, including remote monitoring, had been regular. “There’s definitely a lot of interest in automation nowadays, cutting energy costs, increasing production, reducing downtime, and remote monitoring and predictive maintenance.”
Her colleague, LBU General Manager Peter Katsos, said that within the food industry, robots had been moving out of factories recently and into agriculture. With greater capabilities, robots are increasingly able to lend a hand in areas less structured than a production line.
Back in the factories though, Colin Wells, Managing Director at Robotic Automation, believes more robots are still needed to boost Australia’s competitiveness. By unit, Korea, China and Japan accounted for almost nine-tenths of all the industrial robots sold in the region in 2015. These manufacturing-heavy countries have realised that staying competitive means investing in automation. Australia has some way to go, according to Wells.
“I think a lot of companies are still in the virginal stage, they are still doing things manually, still doing tasks very laboriously and very expensively, and the automation is pretty well off the shelf to fix that,” he said. “That’s a strange situation. Maybe they need five years of continual growth before they spend anything!”
Robots sense real people
Robots run at speed, so it’s no surprise manufacturers have concerns about how workers can intervene in an automated production flow. Among the collaborative and mobile robots on display were robots equipped with the latest in laser technology. This enables the robot to detect a human presence, automatically slow down and allow human intervention in the process before resuming its fast pace.
As robotic and digital solutions facilitate more remote monitoring of production, this is being increasingly combined with predictive maintenance. This appeals to manufacturers who want energy savings from reduced downtimes and more reliable production flows.
In-time intelligent insights
Foodpro 2017 confirmed that today’s manufacturers are after timely and practical insights to improve production and overall business performance. That’s why more and more manufacturers are turning away from historic monthly data reports to benefit from online real-time data. How many machines are on strike? How many pieces are produced? What is my energy consumption in the factory at the moment?
Matthews Australasia’s stand was overflowing with people seeking technology solutions to improve and streamline process flows, reduce production downtime, and more. Our team demonstrated how “ordinary” end-of-line equipment — such as coding, labelling, marking and inspection devices — can be integrated with existing systems to deliver real-time intelligent insights and allow decisions to quickly be made.
If you’re wondering which solutions will drive results in your business but missed the opportunity to visit us at Foodpro, get in touch to talk to our experts.
IoT and Industry 4.0
Internet of Things (IoT), information-driven manufacturing (iDM), and Industry 4.0 are the hot topics in the food-processing world today, but many manufacturers are struggling to work out what it all means for their business. As Matthews’ Product Manager – Intelligent Coding Solutions, I shared some valuable insights and practical strategies on intelligent information-driven manufacturing (iDM) at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology’s Annual Convention. If you missed out, you can read our recent blog article on iDM, while this piece will help cut through jargon around the IoT for Australian food & beverage manufacturers.
Another hot topic is the future cost of power generation. Power prices continue to be a major headache for plant operators. Some have reported recent electricity price increases more than double when signing new contracts.
Heat and Control Sales Manager Greg Pyne said that complaints about power prices were frequently heard, and had become a major consideration for customers investing in new equipment. “It’s a real focus on basically not only the price of the equipment but the running costs of the equipment in terms of power consumption,” he explained.
Many are looking to technology solutions for the answer. If they can implement technologies that enable more efficient processing and manufacturing, they can effectively reduce long-term running costs. “People are looking for things like — on their fryers for example — heat-recovery systems; they’re looking for anything where they can reclaim that energy back and utilise it in some other area in their plant.”
Saving on energy use and technological change came together when discussing Industry 4.0, which Darryl Blackeby, ifm efector’s Product Sales Manager, said has been a hot topic for the past few years at manufacturing and processing events.
“We can hook the Smart Observer [a real-time energy use and machine monitoring system] up to energy monitors and things like that as well,” he said. “Not only the compressed air and water usage, but temperatures throughout the plant, energy usage, that type of thing.”
We predict this is just the beginning of solutions specially designed to address the energy challenge.
Flavours, textures and tastes
Foodpro 2017 wasn’t just about award-winning technologies — although there were lots on display across exhibitors. There were also plenty of opportunities to discover new flavours, textures, and memorable sensory experiences, such as from marinades and glazes to colours and flavours, Food & Drink Business has a mouth-watering ingredients wrap-up here. It was truly a step into the future of food & beverages.
A whole new world beckons by the time foodpro comes around again. The triennial event returns to Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre on July 5-8, 2020. What will the food & beverage industry look like three years from now? If you’re wondering what it looked like three years ago, here’s our foodpro 2014 wrap-up as a reminder.
To keep up-to-date with industry changes check out Matthews’ vast resource library. It has a host of detailed information that’s all free to download! There are whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, case studies, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action and more!