Despite everything the Internet of Things, or IoT systems, brings to the table, it isn’t without challenges. As with all technology, communication between different systems, especially older ones, can be tricky.

“When putting in a new system, it’s pretty easy to add in sensors at the installation,” said Michael Arp, senior automation and controls specialist, Burns & McDonnell. “But with some of the older equipment we’re having to figure out how we can get that data into the same database with the newer systems.”

This often may require additional communication cards on newer PLCs or data concentrators.

Sensor calibration is also critical to ensure the data being measured is accurate.

“We bring experts in right before we commission the project to calibrate all of our flow meters, pressure transmitters and any other vital instrumentation that is being fed into the system,” Mr. Arp said.

However, once sensors are calibrated, bakers can’t forget about them.

“It becomes the responsibility of the bakery to maintain that calibration,” he continued.

The system’s maintenance plan must include routine calibration to maintain accuracy.

The internet side of IoT also can be challenging with security being of constant concern, especially in the proprietary world of baking. The accessibility of the data is one of its great benefits, but it also causes some companies to think twice about implementing these programs. While there are many good solutions out there to protect data, it’s important that companies thoroughly understand and trust where it is being stored.

“At the end of the day, you’re putting your data on someone else’s system, and they are managing it for you,” Mr. Arp said. “You have to trust that person with your data.”

Bakers with large amounts of data stored and available in the cloud should consider hiring network security consultants to review their current data security and help develop a plan to reduce risk.

Without proper analysis, however, data is just a bunch of numbers in the cloud, and that won’t be helpful to anyone.

“It is straightforward to set up sensors and devices to collect big data,” said David Watson, process engineering subject matter expert, baking and snack, The Austin Co. “Still, the challenge becomes how to analyze it in a quality way and then issue reports, create dashboards or send alerts to operators and managers so that decisions can be made based on that information.”

This article is an excerpt from the December 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on line layout, click here.