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Powering Digitization in the Food and Beverage Manufacturing Industry

25 min read White Paper

Introduction

The research company, Statista, expects the total revenue in the food and beverage sector to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2022-2026) of 7.95%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$1.05bn by 2026. For context, it was $0.74bn USD in 2022.

Despite the increased demand for food and beverage products, the industry faces major issues - supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and the added complexities of e-commerce fulfillment.

Unlike other manufacturing industries which can look to a new provider or stockpile the materials they need to guard against future supply chain shortages, perishable ingredients and shelf life considerations limit the ways food and beverage can guard itself against supply chain issues. Even when manufacturers have materials in reserve, they struggle to get skilled production line operators, to build and maintain equipment, to undertake construction projects,and to comply with stringent regulations.

The accumulation of these issues, combined with the effects of Covid-19, has accelerated the need for digital transformation for food and beverage manufacturing OEMs, Packaging companies, and Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers. Industry 4.0 and Industrial IoT are providing the foundation for digital transformation. These technologies will allow engineers, design-build firms, machine builders, and integrators to equip their manufacturing lines with low-cost sensors that stream data to the enterprise or cloud for analysis.

This analysis can track operation’s performance down to the specific section or component level. When companies combine this data with a digital twin of the factories, it enables operations to build an accurate representation of the process that helps problem resolution, continuous improvement, remote visualization, flexible planning and change management. In addition, this would enable global visibility into supply chains, address workforce shortages and handle additional demands from E-commerce.

Over the years, the food and beverage manufacturing industry has invested heavily in product innovation, process innovation, and manufacturing automation. In general, the industry is just beginning to funnel investment efforts into IIoT to help refine global manufacturing processes. As adoption increases, more successes are measured, and organizations acquire ROI, digital initiatives are being validated.

How IIoT is Improving Food and Beverage Manufacturing

The food and beverage industry, including manufacturing, is experiencing a period of heightened regulatory scrutiny both in the US and globally. This is primarily due to the added complexities of nutrition/health claims, product quality control, and worker safety considerations, especially in meat processing plants. To compound the challenges, consumers’ demand for healthy food alternatives and sustainable products is rising, forcing manufacturers to rethink how they produce goods.

IIoT technology is making it possible to automate food and beverage manufacturing operations, optimize supply chains and enable digitized quality management. With the help of smart sensors and advanced gateways, companies can easily monitor the performance of a system in real-time, automatically adjust parameters for optimum industrial efficiency, and ensure better productivity at all stages while building more healthy, innovative environmentally sustainable products.

Some of the ways IIoT is benefitting food and beverage manufacturing include:

  1. Getting access to real-time visibility of operations throughout the manufacturing process right from supply chain to production to packaging to distribution to meet the increasing consumer demand with innovative products.

  2. Allowing for modular automation in a manufacturing plant, thus helping to scale production as per market demand, especially in e-commerce.

  3. Enabling food and beverage manufacturers to capture and manage knowledge from retiring workforce and incorporate new automated workflow processes.

  4. Identifying process bottlenecks within a plant, while also monitoring equipment utilization. These insights increase machine efficiency, reduce replacement costs, and increase the productivity of the food and beverage plant.

  5. Powering faster and continuous data collection from manufacturing processes, which is required for quality control and reporting purposes.

How MQTT Addresses Connectivity Challenges in Food and Beverage Manufacturing

The first step towards successfully implementing IIoT in food and beverage manufacturing is to establish connections to manufacturing machines, processes, databases, applications, and supply chains to make the data available to the enterprise data center in a secure, scalable, and reliable manner. However, data connectivity and availability is a big challenge for the following reasons:

  1. Multi Vendor proprietary communication protocols make it impossible for devices to talk to each other, resulting in data-silos.

  2. The prevalence of out-of-date legacy infrastructure. Manual processes that only experienced technicians understand pose bottleneck challenges, especially for changing product lines and regulatory reporting.

  3. Connectivity silos in different sections of the factory floor make it challenging to move data.

Food and beverage manufacturing companies need a solution that can consistently overcome these connectivity challenges and bring their IIoT data together to reap the benefits of their investments. MQTT is a lightweight publish/subscribe-based protocol created to overcome these connectivity challenges by:

  1. Establishing MQTT clients that can talk to proprietary systems and then consolidate data to a centralized MQTT broker on-premise or on the cloud.

  2. Connecting to existing infrastructure, creating a standard data layer, and pushing data to make it available to any cloud or enterprise system.

  3. Moving data in poor connectivity or harsh environments.

Here are some of the advantages of using MQTT in food and beverage manufacturing:

  1. With MQTT, all messages are published to a central MQTT broker, and all MQTT clients connect to the broker, subscribe to specific topics and receive updates. This broker serves as the ‘single source of truth’.

  2. The decoupling of data through the broker that MQTT offers provides a significant advantage when it comes to creating and managing new assets.

  3. The publish/subscribe technology that underlines MQTT works much better than the poll/response that OPC UA or other protocols use, especially regarding reducing network latency and cellular costs.

  4. The smaller and more efficient message sizes of MQTT packets help reduce network bandwidth usage and costs.

HiveMQ: An Enterprise MQTT Platform for Regulatory Compliance and Quality Control

HiveMQ is an MQTT-based messaging platform designed for fast, efficient, and reliable data movement between manufacturing machines, processes, applications, and supply chain components to enterprise data locations on-premises or in the cloud. Adopting the HiveMQ broker enables food and beverage manufacturers to optimize the supply chain and automate the creation of quality reports for optimizing manufacturing machines, processes, and regulatory reporting.

HiveMQ provides the following features to power bidirectional data movement in food and beverage manufacturing, thus enabling Industry 4.0 and IIoT:

Reliability: HiveMQ supports MQTT’s three quality of service (QoS) levels to control whether a message is sent at most once, at least once, or exactly once. With this logic, it’s possible to establish reliability rules for specific messages to help improve food and beverage manufacturing quality.

Security: HiveMQ ensures the secure transfer of IIoT asset data with industry standards such as TLS, secure WebSockets, and state-of-the-art cipher suites. Support for authentication and authorization includes X.509 certs, username/password, IP-based authentication, and an API that allows for custom authentication, authorization, and permission logic such as OAuth 2.0 integration. These elements ensure highly secure connections between factory and 3rd party systems.

The HiveMQ Enterprise Security Extension (ESE) makes it easy to integrate third-party enterprise security systems into HiveMQ, including support for authentication and authorization using SQL databases, OAuth 2.0 and LDAP. ESE also supports:

  • Pre-processing of authentication and authorization data from MQTT clients and x509 client certificates

  • A structured access log for tracking security-related device information

  • Fine-grained authorization rules to specify permissions for specific clients or a group of clients

  • Access control for the HiveMQ Control Center

Scalability: HiveMQ scales with underlying hardware. The non-blocking, multi-threaded approach allows more than 20,000,000 concurrent device connections across multiple locations worldwide while maintaining high-speed throughput and adding minimal latency. This is especially useful to ensure data is transferred quickly from multiple factory equipments and systems.

High-Availability Clustering: HiveMQ is architected with a distributed and masterless cluster architecture, which means there is no single point of failure. The cluster can grow and shrink at runtime without losing data or availability. Support for Kubernetes, OpenShift, and cloud platforms like Azure, AWS, and Google, makes it possible to automatically scale HiveMQ to the high availability requirements of food and beverage manufacturing plants and reduce disruptions.

Extension Framework: HiveMQ’s open API and flexible extension framework makes it possible to integrate food and beverage manufacturing IIoT machine, process, application, and supply chain data into existing enterprise systems. The extension framework allows developers to quickly create extensions for custom data processing, device authentication, and device authorization mechanisms. HiveMQ also provides a marketplace of pre-built extensions for Kafka, MongoDB, and other systems to support the advanced data needs of the Food and Beverage manufacturing industry. One Enterprise Extension particularly interesting for food and beverage manufacturing is Kafka, which allows for data streaming analytics. Apache Kafka is a popular open-source streaming platform widely used to share data between back-end systems and applications. The HiveMQ extension solves the difficulty of using Kafka for IIoT by seamlessly integrating MQTT messages into the Kafka messaging flow.

Full support of MQTT 5: HiveMQ provides full support for MQTT 5, the most recent version of the MQTT protocol. MQTT 5 includes new features that make it easier to develop reliable systems and integrate the MQTT data into other systems. It is the preferred choice for food and beverage manufacturing applications.

HiveMQ is 100% compliant with all versions of the MQTT specification. MQTT 3 and MQTT 5 clients can communicate with HiveMQ simultaneously, and all features, such as topic wildcards, persistent sessions with offline queuing, retained messages, and quality of service levels are available at scale.

Sparkplug Adds Additional Data Context to Food and Beverage Manufacturing

MQTT can push data to and from thousands of remote devices across numerous sites to the enterprise. Sparkplug is a new open-source software specification that sits on top to add context to the data, thus extending use cases. Sparkplug provides MQTT clients with a framework by defining data models. HiveMQ is fully Sparkplug compliant.

In the Sparkplug architecture, devices, EoN (Edge of Network) nodes, and the SCADA/IIoT hosts connect to a central MQTT broker to publish and subscribe to data. The SCADA/IIoT host is the central application that food and beverage system operators use to remotely manage and monitor the overall state of the Food and Beverage Manufacturing systems. The advantage here is that, unlike a traditional SCADA system, the SCADA/IoT host is not responsible for directly establishing or maintaining device connections. EoN nodes used to connect legacy infrastructures manage that. Devices and sensors collect data and pass it on to the upper layers. MQTT applications, or secondary applications, participate in Sparkplug communication and can generate and process MQTT messages.

Food and Beverage Manufacturing IIoT Use Case Reference Architectures

Here are common architectures for regulatory reporting and product traceability use cases seen in food and beverage manufacturing:

Use Case 1: Regulatory Reporting for Beverage Industry

Food and beverage manufacturing is highly regulated, and it’s a daily challenge to keep up with regulatory changes. Government regulatory bodies with strong enforcement capabilities continue to mandate new processes and procedures, especially around food safety, traceability, nutrition and health, and sustainability. Companies must comply without hesitation if they want to survive or face heavy fines. If a business operates in different countries, it must be ready to meet evolving industry standards and agreements created by disparate regional regulatory bodies.

One way to manage this is by digitizing food and beverage batch records, which maintain all the manufacturing process details. This digitized batch record could recreate the exact conditions that previously produced the ideal batch. This is called the golden batch. It requires recording process values over time and analyzing the resulting data to determine the critical variables. The batch records data and the process variables flow through the HiveMQ Broker to the cloud provider’s infrastructure. Teams can create dashboards and exception-handling reports.

Use Case 1: Regulatory Reporting for Beverage Industry

There are two significant advantages to using a HiveMQ broker in this scenario. The first is that it provides a very scalable solution that balances the load of the control and processes data from different systems that may be in remote locations or worldwide. Secondly, it offers tools to provide a high level of factory IoT data observability and transparency to overcome any data bottlenecks going to the cloud or returning to remote locations.

Use Case 2: Product Traceability for Food Industry

For food and beverage manufacturers to maximize profit margins, it is crucial to have adequate controls over the process, quality, and delivery of their products. Traceability programs can play an integral part in this process by locating problems (and potential issues) with product quality at the earliest stage possible. Food and beverage manufacturers are often concerned about ensuring product quality and safety for the final product delivered to customers. However, the most overlook “outbound traceability” is the complex process of monitoring raw materials as they transform into a sellable product. It may not be required, but it can put food and beverage manufacturers ahead of the competition by building a better relationship between its business and clients during each step of the supply chain process.

HiveMQ can help provide complete product traceability by funneling the relevant data into a single location, ensuring that the data is up to date and scales across multiple sites.

Use Case 2: Product Traceability for Food Industry

In this use case, the HiveMQ Broker is highly scalable and balances the load of the control data and process data received from various locations. In addition, it provides highly secure communication between HiveMQ and the remote systems or cloud with features like TLS/SSL support, OAuth 2.0, X.509 certificates, etc. This ensures the secure transmission of data, especially from external systems.

Conclusion

Many food and beverage manufacturing organizations are digitizing their operations, and IIoT technologies are powering this transition. However, digitalization using IIoT comes with challenges, including unreliable networks, legacy infrastructure, costly bandwidth, inefficient protocols, and complex systems. The MQTT protocol addresses all of these difficulties and provides a simple and reliable way to connect to various systems and bring data to the enterprise.

The HiveMQ Enterprise MQTT broker is the platform best suited to enable Food and Beverage Manufacturing supply chain optimization and regulatory reporting due to its performance scaling capabilities, implementation of all MQTT 5 features, and professional support services. In addition to MQTT, Sparkplug provides additional benefits to Food and Beverage Manufacturing companies by enabling mission-critical, real-time OT operations.

Contact us to discuss how the HiveMQ enterprise MQTT platform can help solve your connectivity needs securely and reliably, enabling your IIoT and digital transformation journey.

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