Process Control System in Food Industry

  1. Introduction:

Process control systems (PCS) also known as industrial control systems (ICS) are an integral part of the food & dairy processing industries. It is basically a tool that ensures plant efficiency and reliability. Process control systems function as pieces of equipment along the production line during manufacturing that tests the process in a variety of ways and returns data for monitoring and troubleshooting.

Food and Dairy products have a very vast application which ranges from dairy products to beverages and even bakery items, to fulfill this large demand food processing equipment with a control system is used to execute the various unit operations necessary during a complete production cycle.

  1. Objectives:

The need to install a process control system is to improve the economics of the process by achieving, the following objectives:

    • Reduce variation in the product quality,
    • Achieve more consistent production and maximize yield,
    • Ensure process and product safety,
    • Reduce manpower and enhance operator productivity,
    • Reduce waste and
    • Optimize energy efficiency

Mainly two common classes of control actions are used in industries:

    1. Manual control: In manual control, an operator periodically reads the process parameter. When the value changes from the set value manual process are required to control the operating process.
    2. Automatic control: In automatic control, the process parameter is measured by various sensors & instrumentation which is controlled by using control loops.

All process control configurations whether manual, automatic, or computerized mainly have three essential elements:

    1. A measurement
    2. A control strategy
    3. A feedback element

Regardless of the nature of the product and process. Control in food processing has moved on from just attempting to control single variables, e.g., level, temperature, flow, etc., to systems that ensure smooth plant operation with timely signaling of alarms. Process control systems also work to gather and transmit data obtained during the manufacturing process.

These are:

    1. Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)
    2. Manufacturing execution systems (MES)
    3. Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

  1. Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition (SCADA):

SCADA is one automation solution that can improve production efficiency and increase profitability. In the food processing industry, SCADA is used to ensure food quality and to achieve production goals. All phases of food preparation are typically monitored and controlled by SCADA. SCADA is also used to control the exact mix of ingredients as well as the time and temperature required to process foods. This prevents foods from being spoiled due to a heating process that was off by a few degrees. SCADA applications are also important in food production to document the fact that the production process meets industry standards and complies with governmental regulations.

Nowadays SCADA systems can do more than simply collect data and operate devices. They use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze data and make decisions without the help of humans. They can operate in a cloud environment so that SCADA monitoring and control can be accomplished remotely by using tablets and smartphones.

SCADA is used to control and monitor all operational technology (OT) in the plant. And at the same time also sends and receives information from the MES or ERP system For Information that has to do with business planning & scheduling.

SCADA works in the following way:

    • SCADA begins by communicating directly with controllers in the field in real-time, typically through a PLC or RPU.
    • Then the SCADA system gathers all the data obtained from connectors in the field and transfers it to SCADA itself.
    • Later the data is shown graphically to operators that are executing whatever process.

There are many areas in food/dairy industries where SCADA is used to optimize production:

    1. Packaging
    2. Recipe Re-creation
    3. Maintaining Quality standards
    4. Visualization of products
    5. Creation of reports

4. Manufacturing execution systems (MES):

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) are computerized systems used in manufacturing to track and document the transformation of raw materials to finished goods. MES works as a real-time monitoring system to enable the control of multiple elements of the production process (e.g., inputs, personnel, machines, and support services).


MES software can do more for food and beverage manufacturing companies than traditional management. It can:

    • Optimize your shop floor on the go.
    • Identify issues or potential problems before they happen.
    • Integrate easily with existing systems.
    • Empower employees with the data and insights to make manufacturing smarter.
    • Remove non-value-adding actions and anecdotal evidence of losses.
    • Build a reputation of trust and quality with the supplier base using auditable, quality data.

Five things your food industry MES system should have:

    1. User-Friendly Operator Interfaces –The golden rule of developing software for the food processing industry plant floor is that must be easy to use.
    2. Integration to Production Equipment – Food manufacturing production equipment is filled with valuable data and can be used to streamline and optimize manufacturing processes.
    3. Offline Operating Capability- manufacturing processes are network dependent then they will come to a screeching halt if the network fails. MES should have offline operation capability in Your food industry.
    4. Food Industry-Specific Functionality – Modern MES systems and especially one developed specifically for the food manufacturing industry will manage more challenges, making them the ideal solution for your production management and data collection needs.
    5. Food Industry-Specific Modularity –In the same vein, a food industry MES system will likely feature software modules that align well with your production processes.
  1. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): 

Enterprise Resource Planning refers to a software system which are used for business management. An ERP system enables food companies to manage and optimize their business processes – from purchasing, accounting, finance, human relations, and production to logistics. In short, ERP is the software that keeps your business up and running.

An ERP software for the food industry helps you introduce new products to market faster and cheaper than competitors & also ensures absolute compliance to the food safety regulations.

There are a few must-haves in ERP System:

    1. The ERP software must be able to supply precise cost information for all components, such as finished products, joint products, and byproducts. This is essential for the calculation of material and manufacturing costs as well as for pricing.
    2. Make sure that the system does not have any problems with portraying and optimizing recipes, bills of materials, and product calculations.
    3. Evaluations, gross margins, monitoring of processes and products: only if essential information and key performance indicators can be retrieved from the ERP system at the press of a button will decision-makers be able to get the most out of their business.
    4. The software must allow automated handling of variable weights. Otherwise, you will run into problems in weight price labeling, especially with non-equalized products.
    5. Production planning must take requirements of the fresh goods production into account.

Advantages of ERP:

    • Cost reduction: Save the investments in your own server, other expensive hardware, and skilled staff (which are quite hard to find these days)
    • Savings in time: No need to worry about keeping your ERP system and the hardware up to date. This will save you precious time.
    • Scalability: Add or remove IT resources cost-efficiently and in a very short time.

Benefits of Process Control System: 

    • Reduces wastage of expensive compounds
    • Provides improved production reliability
    • Increases productivity & quality
    • Improve the consistency of the product
    • Minimize the influence of external disturbance
    • delivers the continuous data required to meet regulatory standards
    • Standardized business processes

7. Reference:

    • Process Control in Food Processing Article Written by Keshavan Niranjan, Araya Ahromrit and Ahok S. Khare


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