Industry 4.0


Working smarter

More companies turn to Industry 4.0 solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Liz Parker, Managing Editor

From cloud computing to the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0 is essential for modern-day snack and bakery companies, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.


  • Connected solutions for efficient processing
  • Sophisticated delivery management
  • Remote troubleshooting and support grows

“The next generation of technology is going to make some monumental transitions to manufacturing,” says Justin Spannuth, chief operating officer, Unique Snacks, Reading, PA. This implementation of technology can take many forms, he notes, including:

  • Fully capable robotics
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Remote OEM service capabilities
  • Capability for on-site part creations with 3D printing
  • Blockchain-based purchasing

“These digital functionalities mean we can offer seamless integration between various line components—and with it a whole host of efficiency-boosting benefits.”

— Teri Johnson, vice president, North America, tna solutions

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These opportunities provide much better product visibility and traceability and will change how so many current functions are done today, notes Spannuth. “Many of these will ease some of the strain we see with manpower today, but also create new opportunities for good-paying jobs. Addressing the affordability for introduction of this tech to smaller or niche manufacturers will be how a balance is kept from the biggest players running away with all of the growth.”

Spannuth says that Unique Snacks’ big project over the last year has been an implementation of an ERP system. “This will allow all of our processes from inventory to traceability and all of the financials to be tied together to have much more connectivity and transparency across the company.” He notes Unique Snacks went with a cloud-based solution to reduce the previous need for remote VPN due to security issues.

In terms of remote tasks, monitoring, and troubleshooting, Spannuth says Unique Snacks was fortunate that it did not have to adjust too much for remote work during the pandemic. He notes manufacturing staff needed to be on-site. “A few adjustments were made, and they will remain permanent solutions for work-from-home opportunities in the job roles that made sense,” he says.

Teri Johnson, vice president, North America, tna solutions, Dallas, says that its long-standing interest in end-to-end equipment integration meant that when smart connectivity came along, the company was already poised to take the leap into Industry 4.0. “Over the past decade, we have implemented more and more advanced self-learning software, artificial intelligence (AI), and wireless connectivity protocols into our food processing and packaging equipment. These digital functionalities mean we can offer seamless integration between various line components—and with it a whole host of efficiency-boosting benefits.” For example, with complete line integration, errors at the conveying stage can be automatically communicated to the seasoning, frying, or weighing equipment, preventing costly product waste and servicing delays, she notes.

“Our experience of the pandemic has been a tale of two halves,” says Johnson. “On the one hand, very little has changed in terms of our ability to serve customers worldwide. At various stages throughout the crisis, we were designated as a ‘Critical Infrastructure Supplier’—this meant our primary production facility in Melbourne, Australia remained open during lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. As such, we were able to provide uninterrupted global deliveries of vital equipment, while always maintaining a COVID-safe workplace for our hardworking team.”

“An ERP helps you dial in your pricing by turning your data into actionable insights, allowing you to remain competitive without sacrificing your bottom line.”

— Jack Payne, solution consulting director, food & beverage and process manufacturing, Aptean

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The flipside to this is that the pandemic prompted seismic shifts in how tna, and the food industry as a whole, do business, notes Johnson. “In-person site visits, sales meetings, trade events, and training sessions were such an integral part of everyday operations, for our customers and us. So when international and local travel ceased virtually overnight, we had to adapt quickly.” SF&WB

Logistics Snapshot: Optym and its subsidiaries (Houston-based Axele, and HaulSuite) provide technology to improve efficiency of transportation and logistics operations, says Shaman Ahuja, head of Axele. “From the actual management of vehicles and drivers, to vehicle routing and delivery, we are focused on bringing optimization intelligence (OI) solutions to more parts of the supply chain.”

Ahuja says that since the beginning of the pandemic, he has seen an influx of customers that need technology to help them overcome transportation-related challenges of their supply chain.

“Demand and costs are rising and resources are becoming more scarce,” says Ahuja. “Our solutions help drive efficiencies to free up capacity, lower costs, and improve the quality and speed of service. Additionally, we have seen a dramatic rise in interest for paperless and contactless solutions for COVID-related reasons. In general, COVID-19 has forced the industry to realize that they need to invest more into technology to help them to overcome today’s needs and adapt more easily to challenges in the future.”

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Top Features:
• Identicool can improve decision-making process for safety and quality of food products
• Allows you to adjust cold storage temperatures in order to save on energy costs
• Ideal for live-monitoring applications where there are temperature fluctuations due to frequent door-opening events or unmanageable defrost cycles
Read more here

Company: Axele


Logistics Snapshot: “Our latest innovation in the world of Industry 4.0 is the recently launched tna robag FX 3e vertical form fill and seal packaging solution,” says Teri Johnson, vice president, North America, tna solutions, Dallas. “The new system includes EtherCAT real-time protocol as standard, along with smart diagnostics and remote connectivity,” Johnson adds. “By offering these features, we give snack producers the opportunity to optimize their lines in real-time with detailed packaging performance reports. And when challenges do arise, the system’s smart operating system and remote communication features give operators access to targeted global servicing support to get production back up and running quickly and easily.”

Johnson says that a key milestone in its adaptation to the post-COVID landscape was the launch of its digital support tool—tna remote assist. “Even before the pandemic, we were exploring ways to harness augmented reality (AR) technology to streamline servicing and the complex process of commissioning new equipment—particularly as our customer base began to expand farther away from our main production sites in Australia, the U.S., and the UK. tna remote assist is the culmination of years of research and development, allowing snack producers to contact a tna technician and share an in-depth picture of their facility through the Microsoft HoloLens 2 headset.”

Using AR technology, the technician can guide the user through everything from commissioning and installation, to trouble shooting issues on existing equipment. And all this can be done without waiting for an in-person site visit, Johnson adds. “We have also found that AR headsets are an invaluable training asset. By allowing operators to practice their processes on true-to-life virtual machines, training programs with an AR component have been shown to deliver an 80% retention rate 12 months after the initial training program.”

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Top Features:
• Oversight cargo services translates data into trends that are actionable
• Customers can choose one or more upgraded offerings:
o Reports and Scorecards: Provides an interactive dashboard of mission-critical supply chain insights and analytics on aggregated trips on-demand. No-cost basic and fee-based premium dashboards are available.
o Data Integration: Consolidates and automates separate data streams of shipment information into a third-party platform, so users can enjoy the unified system of their choice.
o Managed Services: Leverages a team of Emerson cold chain experts to help monitor shipments 24/7/365. Carriers are contacted directly providing peace of mind and visibility into if products arrive safely and on time.
o Professional and Consultative Services: Analyzes and helps identify cold chain gaps and pinpoints sources of cold chain issues before they occur via an on-site consultation and analysis.
o Shipment Tracking: Provides customers and employees direct access to real-time shipment information and temperature data from any web-based portal.
Read more here

Company: tna Solutions


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