MRO Magazine

How Surveillance Solutions Can Keep Food and Beverage Manufacturing at the Forefront of Their Operation

There’s no time for downtime in a food and beverage production facility. No matter the cause, interruptions may have deep financial implications.


Food

October 5, 2021
By Gavin Daly

Industries

Photo provided by Axis Communications.

Industry regulations and mandatory procedures demand compliance, quality and safety throughout the entire food and beverage manufacturing process. With a need to improve facility operations at an all-time high, chief operators and managers are looking for ways to run efficiently, healthier, and safer with smart solutions based on innovative technology.

According to the 2021 FCC Food and Beverage Report, there are more concerns over employee health, which forced food manufacturing companies to make significant investments in personal protective equipment (PPE) and adjustment to their overall procedures. Gradual re-opening of economies created new opportunities and challenges as consumer behaviours were continually shifting, forcing these facilities to remain agile. Meanwhile, the focus of Canadian government investment is to increase food autonomy and focus on safe plant output procedures.

Agile manufacturing’s consumer needs-based concept of flexibility, rapid iteration, augmentation, innovation, and ultimate safety requires improved reliability and compliance in production. The integrity of every step and process involved can be further optimized with surveillance solutions that provide clear situational awareness and enable increased efficiency and preventative maintenance. It’s crucial that everything handled in the food and beverage production chain be done with smart, reliable systems for preventing contamination and tampering. It’s also about these facilities having access to products and analytics to help review the processing, to enhance procedures and equipment, to keep employees safe, and to guard the premises against theft, whether physical or data theft, and sabotage by intruders.

Scaling agility in incident management
Surveillance systems can help to rapidly detect, assess, and respond to production incidents in real-time. For example, consider a solution like thermal cameras, they can be used to monitor fluid leaks at dangerous temperature variances, or visual cameras can be fixed on pressure gauges to spot irregularities. These can trigger alerts, with high-definition cameras serving visual verification that can be done remotely to reduce visits. Agile principles to handling incidents can be done by interpreting the data coming from a connected device to evaluate if things are running smoothly and acting accordingly with minimized disruption.

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Workforce safety and compliance
Making a site safer for employees and creating a better environment, while complying with HSE regulations, can be facilitated by surveillance. The agile manufacturing approach hinges on accuracy, and video surveillance delivers coverage of far greater scope than in-person observations, as it relates to improving risk management and workplace health and safety.

Identifying hazards and unsafe practices in real-time can also be done with solutions like access control, network audio and intelligent analytics. Manufacturers are also using cross-line detection software combined with network speakers to alert workers who get too close to hazardous areas. Together, these technologies help to mitigate risks in the F&B plants, handle emergencies, and even forensically assess health and safety practices.

It’s all about understanding the root cause and solving for it. With these solutions, operators can evaluate the type, scope, and severity of an emergency, and keep track of the number of workers in each zone of the facility. To further manage safety, systems on the market today assist with rapid evacuation plans. For example, detecting smoke, tracking the flow of evacuation through the plant, and supporting rescue teams.

Video footage can also lend as a training resource. Providing situational analysis to employees, where they may have endangered themselves or others, can be a persuasive tool for fostering safer behaviour. We are even seeing camera analytics deliver PPE detection and man-down alarms for improving lone worker safety. Two-way audio components let you communicate directly with your employees to ensure health and safety compliance.

Making cybersecurity count
Addressing cybersecurity is popular conversation these days in the food and beverage supply industry. In fact, according to a recent article published in Canadian Grocer by Sylvain Charlebois, a Professor in Food Distribution Policy and Senior Director/AGRI-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, mandatory cybersecurity rules don’t exist for the billions of agri-food businesses that account for close to 20 per cent of the Canadian economy. Some trade groups may have voluntary guidelines, but that would be the extent of it.

Cybercrime, as it relates to IT and control systems, requires that facility operators work with surveillance experts to monitor threats and consequences and take quick action. It’s essential to harden all surveillance devices with upgrades, updates, and installations.

Plants with any Internet Protocol (IP) endpoints, such as cameras, audio and speaker solutions or radar and access control units, are running on an unsecured network. Therefore, they are absolutely considered as possible infringement points for bad actors.

Something to strongly consider here is life cycle management. All surveillance devices have a lifetime as to how long they will function optimally. And then there’s the economic life cycle of how long before the technology costs more to maintain than to purchase something new and more efficient? Once a plant operator has considered all this and understands where the risks lie and how they can be exploited by cyber criminals, it’s time to patch software-based technologies, such as IP cameras.

Work with responsible surveillance vendors who regularly release firmware updates and security patches that verify that the devices are using the latest, more secure versions. At this point, if the facility were to experience a vulnerability, the device management software will pinpoint where and what action to take for device protection. Lastly, consider something as simple as ensuring surveillance solutions don’t run on default settings, to more robust tactics, like full encryption of traffic between these edge devices and the network itself.
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Gavin Daly is the Architect and Engineering Manager at Axis Communications. He provides technical expertise and personalized advice for both internal and external clients.