Managing New and Ageing Processing Plant Assets in the Food and Beverage Industry

 

Safety

Ensuring the safety of around 400,000 employees (FDF) and countless numbers of consumers of the product the Food and Beverage industry produces each year is the key driver for all companies within the sector. 

The increased use of automated processes to improve safety, productivity and reduce costs depends to a large extent on the software these automated process depend on, so it makes sense to ensure that this software is, itself – safe, complies with the industry regulations standards and guidelines and is protected from malicious attack by unauthorised individuals.

Asset Guardian ensures compliance and file security

Security and Disaster Recovery

Accurate figures regarding the number of production hours lost due to equipment failure are hard to come by, however most reports agree manufacturers in the Food & Beverage Industry record the second highest number of unscheduled downtime hours, estimated to be in the region of 400-500 hours per year.

To minimise the financial effects of lost production, product wastage, not mention the impact on a company’s reputation, companies need to ensure that software is safely stored in a centralised repository; the correct version is available when disaster occurs and that unauthorised individuals are prevented from having any access to software.

It is equally important to ensure that changes to software configurations are managed effectively and that check sums are in place to verify that stored files have not been corrupted during storage.   

Cloud Storage

As with many Industries, the use of cloud based data storage has increased significantly over recent years and the Food & Beverage Industry is no exception. Whilst this method is well tested and proven for general IT requirements, there are areas where it may not provide an effective solution for managing process software. For example, the following should be considered:

  • Is there an effective revision control in place with the ability to roll back to previous versions should the need arise and to ensure that the correct revision of software is available to only authorised users?
  • Is there effective change management, providing the correct levels of approval before changes are made?
  • Is there an effective means to store all format of software code and configurations?
  • Is there effective validation of file integrity through the use of software checksums?

Cyber-Security

Most companies are now very aware of the risk cyber-attacks pose to their business, however, many are not aware that a significant percentage of cyber-attacks are carried out by employees or contractors, either accidentally or maliciously to disrupt production or to steal information.

In any event, effective management and storage of software will reduce the effects of such occurrences.

Asset Guardian has a clear role to play in the management of Cyber Security, through having a full inventory of all devices on the control network, assessing and recording Cyber-Security vulnerabilities and risks associated with these devices.

Obsolescence

Many companies working in the Food & Beverage Industry operate a mixture of modern and mature assets; however the requirement to manage obsolescence within the automated process control systems applies equally across all assets, as equipment and its associated software can experience obsolescence issues even before a plant is commissioned.

With ever increasing demand to demonstrate compliance to industry standards and regulatory requirements, in particular IEC 62402 covering the management of obsolescence, Asset Guardian will provide a proven solution to assist companies meet these obligations.

AG Obsolescence Management capability and Blogs

Paper-based systems and electronic adaptions

The growth in adopting automated processes within the Food and Beverage industry has not in all cases been matched by the changes required to effectively manage these complex systems. Many companies still rely on paper based or electronic adaptions, such as spread sheets and autonomous data based applications. These systems are difficult and labour intensive to administer with no ability to automate the workflow or approval processes.  Data held in paper and spread sheet / data based systems is vulnerable to corruption and can be easily lost.

The development of company produced bespoke systems generally results in a substandard solution and poor use of resources, both financial and human. Asset Guardian provides the solution to this.

 AG product Overview

Corporately managed system

The international nature of the Food and Beverage industry along with recent mergers and acquisitions often results in multi-site production facilities relying on corporately deployed management systems to look after their process software. This method can have its limitations, not least the sometimes slow communication link between locations. Couple with the differences between individual site’s processes and procedures can create an environment where site personnel develop local solutions rather than use the corporate system. AG provides solutions to the challenges of working across multiple sites whilst retaining the corporate requirement of having a centralised control of the system.

Third Party Service Contract Providers

The use of third party contractors to carry out plant modifications or service support contracts is quite common across the Food and Beverage industry.

Adopting the Asset Guardian toolset to provide a centralised management of a company’s automated process control systems can greatly assist both the plant owner and the contractors, providing complete visibility and access to all authorised parties, whilst retaining the plant owner’s control over who has access to what information and to any changes to the configuration of software.

Asset Guardian will also enhance the security and integrity of company information by providing the plant owner with the ability to easily terminate third party contractor or ex company employee’s access to the Asset Guardian at the end of a contract.

Maximise the use of a Company’s Limited Skilled Resources

All companies have experienced the difficulties of needing a higher skilled work force against a limited availability of the skill set required, a situation which is not expected to improve within the foreseeable future.

The Food & Drink Federation estimates that 140,000 new recruits will be required to meet the skills needed in this sector by 2024.  

Add to this the expansion of automated process control systems required to increase productivity and reduce costs, provides companies in this sector with a compelling reason to invest in technology based solutions to drive efficiencies and maximise the effectiveness of highly skilled resources.

Asset Guardian can assists companies meet these objectives and offers the opportunity to use semi-skilled resources, trained in the use of Asset Guardian to perform some of the data management tasks, relieving the skilled personnel to carry out the more complex requirements.