‘Operational intelligence finds easy wins’: How SMEs can boost efficiency with smart manufacturing

By Katy Askew contact

- Last updated on GMT

IoT tech and real time data analytics drive productivity savings for Irish baker ©iStock/ktsimage
IoT tech and real time data analytics drive productivity savings for Irish baker ©iStock/ktsimage
Automated data capture and Internet of Things (IoT) technology can help food makers improve efficiency, according to Irish data and analytics provider Cognition.

Cognition enables food manufacturers to reduce their operational expenditure by monitoring and measuring equipment usage against production processes in real-time.

Through the Cognition World Portal, the company’s cloud-based analytics platform, the group claims it can deliver “significant​” improvements in sustainability management, quality management, activity management, asset management and compliance.

This not only helps improve the environmental impact of food operations but also delivers cost savings that can be important, in particular, for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in the food sector, according to Thomas McGrath, CEO of Cognition.

McGrath explained “most firms​” are unaware of where specific inefficiencies lie in their operation as they struggle with manual or late data collection. Combining live data with cloud-based analytics and reporting dashboards enables real-time performance improvement. This is particularly useful for SMEs because it allows smaller, margin-constrained producers to fully exploit their operational data and become “smart”​.

“Food producers are so focused on getting the product out the door they can struggle to find the inefficiencies in production,”​ he said. “Operational intelligence finds easy wins in energy and water optimisation before targeting… production quality improvements.”

‘Helping make more dough’

McGrath pointed to the work Cognition has done with Irish baker The Bretzel Bakery, who have “embraced”​ the improvements Cognition’s technology enables.

“With our operational intelligence platform, we’re unashamed to help The Bretzel make more dough,”​ McGrath quipped.

The Bretzel Bakery is one of Dublin’s oldest artisan bakeries and, it claims, has become ‘the first smart bakery’ in Europe. The company made these investments in order to balance sustainability and cost reduction without sacrificing quality.

Origin Green Commitments 

Under Board Bia’s Origin Green scheme, The Bretzel Bakery has committed to:

  • Reduce electricity consumption by 10% by the end of 2021 compared to the 2017 per kilo baseline
  • Reduce diesel emissions by converting 60% of vehicles to electric by 2020 
  • Increase the use of recyclable packaging from 20% to 90% by 2021 
  • Source 75% of raw materials from suppliers that have recognised sustainability certification by 2020

‘As we learn, we bake better bread’

Through use of the Cognition World Portal, Bretzel uses IoT data-capture sensors to collect real time production data. This improves efficiency and quality, The Bretzel managing director William Despard claimed.

“We won’t compromise on the baking process to help us grow our business, instead we use operational intelligence to monitor and analyse performance in real time. This helps us get smarter in how we operate and as we learn, we bake better bread. As an added benefit we’re delighted it’s helping our sustainability credentials as well.”

The platform puts out alerts when production falls out of tolerance with pre-determined standards. These alerts target performance anomalies where savings can be made in energy or production quality.

Bretzel
Bretzel's ovens and other production points are fitted with sensors that feed data back to the Cognition platform

Today, The Bretzel captures over 30,000 data points every week to help it understand what it describes as “hard to track but expensive issues”​ that can deliver on both sustainability and cost. For example, data management ensures gas and electric ovens are used at times of optimum tariff and national grid efficiency and it checks for over-cooling of freezers and efficiency of refrigeration such as catching doors left open. The platform monitors consistency of standards for temperature, shift patterns and machine use, while tracking water temperature negates the need for additional chilling pre-production.

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