The Fourth Industrial Revolution has ushered in the age of smart technologies for SAP plant maintenance in the food and beverage industry. Unlike traditional maintenance processes, smart plant maintenance is characterized by interconnected systems, accurate data, and the use of efficient and cost-effective maintenance strategies such as predictive maintenance.  


In this article, we will explore SAP plant maintenance processes in the food and beverage industry. We will discuss how adding smart technologies allow organisations to optimise their maintenance processes and overcome maintenance challenges.


Transforming SAP Plant Maintenance Processes


The global population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), world food production will need to increase by 60 to 70 percent to meet demand. Yet the food and beverage industries face a laundry list of challenges that can place that lofty goal well out of reach. For instance, product shortages, rising costs, and massive labour shortages.


The key to overcoming these challenges and meeting the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s consumers lies in digital transformation. Organisations will increasingly adopt new smart plant technologies, such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and predictive analytics.


These technologies dramatically improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of industrial maintenance processes while also creating new maintenance tasks and challenges. For example, organisations can replace inefficient routine maintenance tasks with predictive maintenance. But implementing and using these technologies requires that maintenance professionals acquire new skill sets.


Smart production plants are a product of the Fourth Industry Revolution, or Industry 4.0. Not only is Industry 4.0 well underway in the food and beverage industry, but we are on the precipice of Industry 5.0. Organizations that have yet to modernize their maintenance processes with Industry 4.0 technologies risk falling further behind their competitors.



Industry 4.0 and Beyond


Industry 4.0, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, is just a decade old and is likely to be short-lived. The term originated in 2011 from a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government. Industry 4.0 optimises the computerization of Industry 3.0 by enabling computers to connect and communicate with one another and perform actions without human involvement.


When it comes to industrial maintenance, the term Maintenance 4.0 is often used to describe a plant that has adopted smart plant maintenance or Industry 4.0 technologies. Industry 4.0 technologies allow organisations to bring together four levels of their maintenance operations. The first level consists of the individual parts of equipment, such as sensors. Sensors collect data to help stakeholders monitor how an asset is performing.


The second level consists of the equipment. This involves monitoring and optimising the performance of a single machine or group of machines. The third is maintenance operations management. This is where an organisation connects and monitors the performance of the entire factory.


The final level is the organisation’s business systems. At this level, the organisation monitors planning and performance throughout the entire enterprise. For example, consider a plant that utilises traditional maintenance processes. Highly trained technicians are required to collect data manually, perform routine maintenance tasks, or respond to emergency events. Management manually assigns technicians to jobs and evaluates performance. They lack access to reliable data in real-time and have difficulty obtaining the data to make informed decisions.


With smart technologies such as wireless sensors, data is collected automatically then transmitted to a secured cloud server where it is analyzed by artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Production and/or Maintenance Technicians are alerted of performance issues and can take corrective action to avoid costly downtime. Management has access to reliable data in their Enterprise Asset Management Software. They can monitor technician performance, prioritise tasks, and make informed decisions.


The Fifth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 5.0, involves a higher level of interaction between machines and humans. Industry 5.0 is often viewed as being mutually exclusive from Industry 4.0. But they are in many ways complementary in that Industry 5.0 builds off of the process changes driven by Industry 4.0 technologies.


As technology continues to improve, smart technologies will automate more and more repetitive maintenance tasks, freeing up scarce technician resources to perform higher-value tasks and get more done with less.



Smart Plant Maintenance and the Employee Skills Dilemma


Automation technologies help food and beverage plants to improve the efficiency of their production and maintenance processes. But their widespread adoption also leads to one of the industry’s biggest challenges and inhibitors to digital transformation – finding the people that can manage them. “I think one of the major reasons why food and beverage have been slow to automate is that they’re having difficulty finding the technical workers needed to design, program, and operate automation solutions,” said Tyler Noessar, an industry expert. “The fact is, even if a food and beverage company wants to automate, there just is not a large enough pool of technical workers versed in automation.”


Thus, overcoming the skills gap in industrial maintenance is crucial to the long-term success of smart plant maintenance initiatives. Research shows that organisations are being proactive to address this issue. According to an annual survey conducted by Food Processing, The top strategies that organisations reported using to optimise asset use included:

  • On-the-job training programs to expand maintenance workers’ skill sets (53% of respondents).
  • Assigning routine maintenance duties to machine operators (47% of respondents).
  • Hiring additional maintenance technicians (35% of respondents).

The pandemic has further accelerated this crisis. According to a recent McKinsey Global Survey of executives, “their companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and their internal operations by three to four years.”


A big motivator for this push is the need for operational flexibility to overcome rapid fluctuations in consumer demand. “I think what COVID has taught us is that companies need to be able to pivot quickly, based on fluctuations in demand,” said Elizabeth Crofoot, a senior economist for The Conference Board.



Smart SAP Plant Maintenance in Practice


Smart plant maintenance technologies empower organisations to take massive leaps forward to improve productivity, improve food quality, reduce costs, and increase safety. The following are some examples of some practical uses and benefits of smart technologies.



Maximize Efficiency and Visibility


The automated collection of data helps organisations to improve the efficiency of their maintenance processes. Rather than performing routine or reactive maintenance, they can allocate their limited technician resources to perform the highest value tasks. Moreover, with access to reliable data in SAP Plant Maintenance, management can view the real-time status of work in progress, increase asset utilisation, and eliminate time-consuming tasks such as manipulating data in spreadsheets outside of SAP.



Performing Predictive Maintenance


Smart technologies automatically analyse data to make predictions and decisions to adjust settings, loading etc. This maximises the utilisation of the equipment and reduces costly downtime. It can also help you identify when a machine is about to malfunction allowing the time to shift production to other machines to avoid wasting perishable food products.



Improve Maintenance Processes


With automation, organizations can identify bottlenecks in maintenance processes. For example, maintenance scheduling is often a time-consuming process. Work orders must be manually finalised, resourced, printed, and passed off to technicians. Technicians must complete the work, manually fill out the work order, and hand it over to back-office staff for data entry back into the SAP Plant Maintenance solution. This results in data lags and inaccuracies.


With a smart technology such as a plant maintenance planning and scheduling automation solution, organizations can eliminate these types of bottlenecks, improve efficiency, and significantly reduce their costs.


For example, Ambev is part of Anheuser Busch, the largest brewing conglomerate in the world. For many years, they managed their maintenance processes with the PM module of SAP ERP. They realised that they were spending too much time transforming notifications into maintenance orders and printing paperwork orders. Plus, they were dealing with data quality issues.


They sought a mobile solution to replace paperwork orders and keep data digital throughout their maintenance processes. The company selected Sigga’s Mobile EAM solution to eliminate the bottlenecks in their maintenance workflows. With the solution, Ambev saved some 7.2 million sheets of paper per year, increased technician productivity by 15%, and reduced Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) by 79%.



How SIGGA Can Help


Sigga is an SAP-certified global software company that provides scalable Enterprise Asset Management Software solutions to the food and beverage industry. Sigga has nearly twenty years of experience with SAP plant maintenance integration, enterprise asset management, and industrial maintenance solutions.


Sigga has the expertise in this segment from working with some of the industry’s largest companies, such as ABInbev, Bunge, Danone, Petrobas, and Saint-Gobain, to implement smart technologies for their SAP plant maintenance processes.


Sigga’s solutions make it easy to optimise your data flows, eliminate paper and unproductive tasks to optimise SAP plant maintenance processes.


To learn more, download our free whitepaper: The Perfect Plant – The Future of SAP Plant Maintenance in the Paradigm of Industry 4.0 and 5.0




Why Sigga

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