Food manufacturers must meet high standards in product quality, food safety and operational efficiency to keep up with today’s rapidly changing marketplace. At the same time, industry regulations are changing, consumer preferences are evolving, new brands are emerging, and brand owners are challenged to exceed expectations. Smarter equipment maintenance programs can help processing and packaging professionals meet quality standards, speed products to market and keep their brands competitive.

To stay abreast of these new and emerging technologies, food manufacturers will head to PACK EXPO Las Vegas this fall. Owned and produced by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, PACK EXPO is an information center for professionals where they can explore solutions to improve efficiency and address potential maintenance issues before they occur.

While preventative maintenance includes regular inspection and routine measures to keep equipment working properly, predictive maintenance offers a more targeted approach to ensure timely repair. Many types of equipment feature enhanced sensors and self-monitoring capabilities to alert manufacturers of potential issues, reducing the chances of a catastrophic stop on the line. As a result, maintenance is performed when necessary—before a failure takes place. Reducing investments in time and labor, predictive maintenance can generate significant savings.

Benefits of technology

Well-designed HMIs enable food manufacturers to interact with and manage equipment through intuitive, high-quality visual screens. These screens can display digital photos, videos, diagrams and additional information about a system or procedure, providing thorough instructions that are easily and continually accessible to operators. HMIs help companies ensure workers operate machines properly, reduce retraining time and give operators more confidence when handling and running equipment.

Remote access provides OEMs with real-time access to the inner workings of specific equipment, serving as another way to proactively address potential line failures. Through remote access, OEMs can diagnose a potential issue and signal the equipment user, prompting action and accelerating response times. The challenge is in data security: Staff members responsible for IT infrastructure have major concerns that someone outside the company can access and compromise sensitive data, jeopardizing an entire line. However, these attitudes are shifting as network protocols are set up to limit access to specific machines or lines as required.

Food professionals seeking the latest tools to make equipment maintenance programs smarter and reduce downtime will find a wide range of solutions at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2015. In addition to seeing technologies in action, food manufacturers will have an opportunity for insight from educational features sessions on the show floor. For example, the Center for Trends & Technology: Improving Production Through Innovation (Booth C-4829), sponsored by Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork Program, will return with displays and educational sessions focused on technologies that enhance productivity, agility and more. Topics for 2015 include the connected enterprise working environment, network connectivity, security, remote access, safety, serialization and line integration.

Attendees can also take advantage of the free educational programming of the Innovation Stage (Booths C-1041, C-1045 and C-1049). The extensive daily schedules of 30-minute sessions include “Advantages of Using Robotics and Advanced Sensing Technologies and How They Can Improve Line Performance” and “Innovations in Components for Packaging Machinery.”