MRO Magazine

From Theft Prevention to Quality Control: How IOT-Based Surveillance Can Help

It was a food and beverage manufacturer’s worst nightmare; $187,000 worth of product stolen in plain sight. It happened at a Tavistock dairy plant in 2019, when a man presented what appeared to be legitimate paperwork for a large quantity of cheese to be loaded onto a truck, and delivered to New Brunswick. It wasn’t until the delivery failed to arrive at the location that they realized the cheese was stolen.


Photo credit: Axis Communications.

 

It goes without saying that any F&B manufacturing facility, factory, or warehouse needs a good security system. Besides the materials and goods that need to be monitored and protected 24/7, there are also plenty of quality control, health, and safety procedures to follow. From a site’s perimeter and car park, to entrances and exits, office areas, delivery and dispatch, and the manufacturing and assembly areas, a security system using Internet Protocol (IP) network cameras and Internet of Things (IoT) technology can be very valuable. For example, the big cheese theft could have been prevented, through innovations like facial and license plate recognition, and stricter access controls at the doors.

Photo credit: Axis Communications.

THE TECHNOLOGY EXPLAINED IN PLAIN TERMS
Many are familiar with what IoT is; the ‘thing’ in IoT is an object (such as a camera) that can be given an IP address so it can send data over a network. An IP camera or ‘smart camera’ has sensors connected to an IoT platform, which reads and organizes the collective data through analytics. This enables protection of a facility beyond what’s possible with standard analog cameras, as data can be collected anywhere that can be measured by sensors, so potential issues can be addressed before they escalate, and make smarter, evidence-based business decisions. Through IoT analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), are what make specialized security applications possible, such as facial recognition, licence plate identification, virtual fences, unauthorized person and vehicle tracking, loitering, and “object left behind” flagging.

A robust network surveillance system can consist of IP-based thermal and visual cameras, radar, door stations and audio equipment, all connected to converge a network that talks to each other in real time. This cost-effective technology is easily scalable and updatable and can also integrate with other IP-based systems, making it future-proof. It is end-to-end protection for a site, employees, and improves operational efficienc since it allows users to manage multiple sites from a central location.

SECURITY STARTS WITH PROTECTING THE PERIMETER
‘Smart’ IP cameras can easily monitor gated and fenced areas, while recording all vehicle license plates. Access control for visitors is vital at all points of entry, and even employees need access control, as some will be authorized to enter specific areas of the facility and some not. Door stations with integrated video and audio can enable remote confirmation verification and decline any unauthorized personnel.

Being able to halt breaches before they escalate is another big network surveillance gamechanger. For instance, if an intruder attempts to enter the facility, a camera can send an e-mail to security, illuminate the area with a floodlight, and activate an audio alarm or a message through a loudspeaker, telling the intruder to leave immediately. Audio can also be an effective deterrent while security staff observe the scene remotely on their phone or laptop and decide next steps.

In the shipping and receiving area, single cameras can cover vast areas, with a 180 by 90 degree field of view. A pan, tilt, zoom camera can be useful in busy bays where you need to monitor several rolling doors. Each time a door opens, the camera can automatically tilt and zoom to record that area. An alternative is a multi-sensor, fixed field wide angle camera that oversees the entire area and can zoom in as necessary.

Photo credit: Axis Communications.

KEEPING THE PRODUCT SAFE AND ADHERING TO REGULATIONS
Anyone who works in the F&B industry knows that food safety is of upmost importance, to supply quality products to the end consumer, but also to comply with increasingly strict food regulation laws. This is where IoT-based sensors in cameras can be particularly beneficial. IoT sensors can track the product in transit and storage, while also monitoring the temperature to ensure conditions do not impact food safety or quality. They can even supply data for detailed and accurate records for each stage of production, from manufacturing to transport to storage, and trigger when staff need to do food safety inspections when the sensors’ data finds potential issues or violations.

At the SugarCreek packing plant in Indiana, USA, IoT sensors are placed on every piece of machinery on the factory floor, which can detect biochemical and chemical reactions during harvesting, manufacturing and transportation. This enables them to identify certain pathogens and remove them before they reach further in the supply chain.

Even a micro-brewery can benefit from (and afford) such smart technology, as demonstrated by The Caveman Brewery in Swanscombe, Kent, England. During their brewing process, the beer is pumped from a hot boiling kettle through a heat exchanger, cooling it to 20°C. Up to the heat exchanger, sanitation isn’t a problem because of the high temperature, however, as soon as the temperature falls below 20°C, the beer is vulnerable to contamination and spoiling.

The brewery does not have the resources for continuous onsite monitoring of the brewing process, so by installing an IP surveillance system, it has allowed them remote access to view from any number of locations, where they can zoom-in and read the heat exchanger temperature and react quickly to any problems.

KEEPING THE PEOPLE SAFE AND ACCOUNTABLE
Workplace accidents can be serious, and costly, for manufacturing businesses. Video surveillance can help to reduce the cost of accidents, as the footage can be used in post-incident investigation, and identify whether responsibility lies with the employer, or the employee.

The video reference can help in taking action to ensure that it doesn’t happen again, through more visible signage, protective barriers, or new machinery. Surveillance footage can also be used for employee safety education. In addition to deterring theft, visible cameras can help to ensure employee compliance with health and safety practices.

Other ways smart cameras can increase employee safety are: they can trigger alarms, turn off equipment, and even lock doors preventing access when a dangerous substance or circumstance is detected (gas leak or equipment overheating). The ability to monitor network surveillance remotely is a safety feature as well, as cameras can be used to examine dangerous and/or malfunctioning machinery in real time, versus having a worker go out in person.

Photo credit: Axis Communications.

LIKE A SILVER BULLET FOR EFFICIENCY
Maximizing production and minimizing downtime is a goal for any manufacturing facility. Machine malfunctions and breakdowns can be particularly costly, and IoT can help to take proactive action to avoid them, through technologies like thermal imaging, which can highlight potential issues, and sending alerts when sensors detect that a machine needs maintenance or repair.

Video surveillance can help to monitor the overall production process, smart cameras with IoT sensors can push that productivity further, video analytics can be used to study the flow of people and product throughout the manufacturing plant, highlighting areas where small changes can result in big improvements in efficiency.

IoT camera sensors can also help with inventory and delivery, as they can retrieve real-time data that tracks inventory, indicating when replenishment is needed, triggering automatic shipments, monitoring and tracking the shipments, and even planning alternative routes to ensure that products are delivered on time.
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Gavin Daly manages the Professional Service Group at Axis Communications, Inc., providing technical expertise and personalized advice for internal and external customers.


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