The Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing revolutionary change to the refrigerated and frozen foods sector, connecting intelligent machines and advanced analytics to help companies comply with more demanding food safety regulations with greater efficiency. In fact, a 2016 Business Insider report stated that global manufacturers will invest $70 billion in IoT solutions in the year 2020 alone. This figure, compared to the $29 billion invested in 2015, signals that IoT may become a permanent but evolving fixture in food manufacturing.

How IoT is changing manufacturing

IoT integration enables food manufacturers to collect greater amounts of data on their production operations. In some cases, the analytics associated with the data collected can be even more significant than the data itself. For example, if a company is running 400-800 bottles per minute and rejecting six bottles on average, the immediate loss incurred by those six bottles per minute may not be a ground-breaking observation, but analytics can be an invaluable tool for anticipating inefficiencies and enhancing production over time. If the analytics provided by IoT data show an increase in the number of bottles rejected immediately after the start of a new label run, then the company can project a production drop-off every time they do a new label run. Using IoT, manufacturers can start strategizing ways to avoid such issues on the line.

Turn Big Data into actionable results

The amount of data provided by IoT technologies can be overwhelming to manufacturers. However, food companies must have a basic understanding of what the collected data points mean and how they can translate to solutions. As companies utilizing IoT technologies gain greater analytics capabilities, they must train equipment operators to interpret and implement meaningful change on the production line. This next step ensures that the investment in IoT capabilities yields actionable results. Refrigerated and frozen foods manufacturers should lean on suppliers to help them not just implement, but also interpret and leverage these technologies for maximum return on investment.

The lasting impact of IoT

Another benefit of IoT solutions is the ability it has to streamline and integrate machine servicing. Instead of having a supplier technician analyze past production, end users can benefit from service technicians’ ability to review production data and troubleshoot issues in real time. Additionally, companies can more efficiently aggregate information, like changeover time and energy usage, to better understand their overall line productivity. As end users examine this data, they can share it with OEMs, granting suppliers more intimate access to the inner workings of their production operations. This helps to achieve greater harmony between the two parties, and ultimately, the highest level of equipment performance.

Finding the right solution

This year, PACK EXPO East 2017, which is scheduled for Feb. 27-March 1, 2017 at Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, will address the rise of IoT and how this type of technology can better serve the packaging and processing industries. ProFood Tech, April 4-6, 2017 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, will also serve as a resource for a wide range of food and beverage processing technologies and educational programming. Both shows are produced by PMMI, Reston, Va.