The digitalization journey

The digitalization journey

March 2019, Food Engineering Magazine


If you’re not embarking on the digital transformation journey, you’ll be flying blind without the instrumentation and computing capabilities to keep you focused on your target: producing quality, food-safe product and staying ahead of your competition.
In fact, without actionable information from plantwide sensors and processes, surviving in the future will be difficult.
Digital transformation of your plant and entire process can help save the day. But where to begin? Fortunately, you don’t have to digitize all at once; you can do it piecemeal in a way that makes sense and is affordable.
But remember, many of today’s new facilities have a jump on you; they’re already totally automated and enjoying the benefits of having actionable information about their process, supply chain and maintenance operations.

Luigi De Bernardini, our President and CSIA member says: “The digitalization journey can start from many different points There’s no single recipe for all companies. It depends on the organization, its maturity level and many other things”.


On the digital journey of a food and beverage facility, we looked primarily at planning and executing a successful implementation of digital techniques to improve processes, make them more efficient and glean actionable information from them. We also looked at plant and device-level networking (the backbone of a successful transformation) and company culture (especially the IT-OT face-off) and considered whether the digitalization journey required a “rip-and-replace” of sensors, networking, controllers and other equipment.
Fortunately, there are several options to rip-and-replace, and we began to look at an overlay approach, which means keeping what’s in place and adding new sensing and data concentrating devices that can be used separately from the existing sensor networks. I’d like to pick up at this point and delve into more detail on sensors, then look at what applications can make use of this data (e.g., MES, ERP, etc.) and present it to those who need it in ways that make the most of this information to each user.
Finally, I’d like to look at the role of the “cloud” in the digital transformation, and what opportunities it lends to food and beverage processors. In addition, we’ll look briefly at some successful implementations so you can see how this digitalization journey can help you arrive at the outcomes to make your business successful.

About this Luigi De Bernardini says: “Beyond standard wireless protocols like Wireless HART, cellular providers may provide an unexpected option: 5G. The coming of 5G connectivity with performance and functionalities specifically designed for millisecond-based communications (they can enable autonomous driving) and low energy transmission will enable [users] to install sensors in any place and connect them easily. This will change the data collection landscape both inside and outside the plants.”