Expect the unexpected when it comes to automation

by Dan Malovany
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Automation
Automation can be a beautiful thing, but be prepared to expect the unexpected when it comes to integrating the new with the old.
 

In many ways, investing in a piece of equipment can be like recruiting a star baseball or basketball player who can significantly alter the chemistry of a team. While the expectation is to enhance overall performance, the new piece to the puzzle can set off an unexpected chain of events. Yes, automation can be a beautiful thing, but be prepared to expect the unexpected when it comes to integrating the new with the old.

To avoid surprises, strategic capital investments require not only preparation and evaluation but also anticipation. Installing a new piece of equipment on the front end of an operation may trigger a bottleneck down the line. Such a situation simply results in additional investments to further fine-tune the process and get it to operate at the optimal level.

Perhaps the biggest challenge involves the latest in industrial controls and data management systems. To identify costs that directly impact bottom line, many high-volume bakeries monitor production in real time to reduce downtime, minimize changeovers, eliminate waste and heighten product consistency. Some newer lines are so interconnected — and centrally monitored in real time — that they automatically adjust to production gaps, changeovers in product varieties and other brief forms of downtime.

More often than not, bakers need to determine if installing new equipment will result in upgrading or replacing the existing software, human-machine interfaces and the alphabet soup of other electronic control systems typically supplied by Allen-Bradley and Siemens across the globe. Yes, automation can be a beautiful thing, but be prepared to expect the unexpected when it comes to integrating the new with the old. 

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