MES Solutions Enhance Efficiency and Quality for Food and Beverage Manufacturers

The fourth industrial revolution is underway and now is the time for digitalization in the food and beverage industry. More than just a trend, digitalizing operations is essential to manufacturers remaining competitive and meeting requirements established by industry safety and quality standards. One proven method of achieving these goals includes implementation of a Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Imagine owning the capability to understand operations in real time, whether on the production floor or from a remote location. MES software is a powerful tool that provides operational coordination, performance analytics, and the foundation to improve communication to optimize operations. Decisions and adjustments can be made instantaneously, resulting in increased productivity and flexibility while process efficiencies are maximized through quality control and asset utilization.

These results are achieved through automated data collection on the plant floor, something that was once performed manually. By applying manufacturing execution systems, production issues can be pinpointed to the exact time and location on the line, in addition to monitoring quality and traceability from raw ingredients to finished product. Capturing data from the entire process not only provides the opportunity for immediate reaction but also yields the analytics to plan effectively. Technology in the food and beverage industry provides connectivity across the entire production process. MES software communicates with other platforms such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, essentially connecting the heart of operations to the brain.  

As an additional benefit, MES solutions can aid those in food and beverage manufacturing in meeting requirements established by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Traceability, preventative controls, and validation are all native to the MES suite and can be customized to meet the requirements for a particular operation. For example, traceability makes a manufacturing execution system invaluable in the event of a product recall. MES software stores production information such as process data, material usage records, overall equipment effectiveness, and personnel involvement. The data can be analyzed to determine if a recalled ingredient remains anywhere in the process, enabling a fast response complete with reports and graphs displaying the genealogic origin of the product. Simultaneous communication to the ERP system allows for quick decision making on issues related to managing inventory, purchase orders, vendor relationships, and more. A potentially damaging situation can be proactively managed by accessing the readily available data contained within the MES files and any other connected databases.  

Food safety and quality validation processes are vital to the food and beverage industry and a manufacturing execution system provides the solution to monitor critical variables. MES solutions may be considered when Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) or Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) identify the need for process preventative controls to meet FSMA requirements. MES software can also maintain Statistical Process Control (SPC) for control limits, sampling, and labeling, etc.

MES system benefits are undeniable, but the fact remains that the associated cost may cause some in food and beverage manufacturing to hesitate. The good news is that MES solutions can be implemented in steps, just as EN Automation provided a phased deployment of a manufacturing execution system for a bakery client. As is typical of many manufacturers in the industry, spreadsheet files were kept with data manually collected daily for each production line. Concerns about accuracy, efficiency, and the inherent limitations of managing quality data in this manner prompted the bakery to invest in MES software.

The first MES phase included digitalizing the quality monitoring process of a cake production line. Moisture content was identified as a HACCP and was measured at regular intervals to verify that results were within the critical control points. This solution allowed for consistent and repeatable measurement of crucial parameters to maintain reliability and efficiency in data collection, while leveraging this data also proved beneficial to sustaining vital food safety and quality control. Furthermore, the quality system implemented at the bakery is modular and expandable. This allows for future additions of other functionality, such as traceability.

The MES option provided the bakery an opportunity for phased planning, or road mapping of control system and digitalization upgrades within the facility. The flexibility of a manufacturing execution system can be applied to any facility; with customized, scalable solutions to address the priorities specific to operations, including FSMA requirements for food manufacturers. Industry 4.0 waits for no one, and a MES solution is a good first step to take on the road to meeting the demands of technology in the food and beverage industry.  

EN Automation is a leading systems integrator providing customized and reliable automation solutions to clients in all areas of food and beverage processing and packaging including bakery, ingredients, pet food, and meat processing. EN’s talented and experienced automation professionals support modernization and digital transformation initiatives through consulting services, roadmap development, engineering, panel design, system implementation and support, project management, and business analytics.

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