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Food and Beverage Manufacturing – Improving Flexibility

A guide for system integrators and machine builders

The food and beverage industry is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector and has many manufacturing challenges. The slightest change in the weather, for example, can impact food and beverage manufacturers, requiring changes to production.

As a machine builder or system integrator, knowing the key trends in the food and beverage market will help you to create an effective solution for your customers.

In this guide we’ll look at the key food and beverage trends in 2022. We’ll then focus on one trend in particular: improving flexibility in food and beverage manufacturing.

We’ll cover what flexible manufacturing is, its benefits to the food and beverage sector, and ways to achieve it. And we’ll suggest products that may help with increasing flexibility in your manufacturing system.

Food and beverage automation trends in 2022

Food and beverage automation integrates technology across a production line so that companies can streamline their process, saving costs and reducing the need for human labour at each stage.

Here are some of the key trends in 2022: 

  • Sustainable manufacturing is becoming the norm
  • There’s been an increasing focus on food hygiene and safety since Covid-19
  • There’s an increased need for accuracy of inspection 
  • Big brands are aiming to move to recyclable, reusable, or compostable packaging by 2025
  • Food manufacturing automation capabilities are increasing
  • Developing flexible manufacturing to be able to adapt to future changes and innovations

Food and beverage production line including oem automatic products

Trend: Improving flexibility in food and beverage manufacturing

Flexibility helps in adapting or changing processes, such as changes in production volume, mobility and quality.

What is flexible manufacturing?

Flexible manufacturing means being able to adapt to the different needs of customers and changes in production.

To be flexible, your system would be able to cope with production changes within a matter of hours and days – without having to create a whole new manufacturing process!

This is where automation comes into play. Examples of automation include food quality inspection, robotics, conveyor lines, and sealing and labelling.

What are the benefits of flexible manufacturing in food and beverage?

  • Improved quality of products with less chance of product recalls
  • A process that can adapt easily to change
  • Protection of workers’ safety
  • Traceability throughout production 
  • Increased productivity and ROI
  • Meeting customer needs 
  • Reduced waste and saving on costs
  • Improved hygiene and sanitation

7 ways to achieve flexible manufacturing

1. Pre-wired systems 

Customers prefer to have everything set up in their system and ready to go so that they can change processes easily. You can request products tailored to the customer’s needs such as specific cable lengths.

Examples of pre-wired products:

2. Error recognition and quality checking throughout the process

Address problems early in the process so you can meet demands for flexibility. Quality inspection can eliminate any human-related errors, and consistency can be achieved in elements like flavour, taste and texture. 

Some examples of products used for error recognition and quality checking include:

  • Various machine vision cameras for food inspection to test geometrics, packaging and for foreign objects, and to analyse food quality and freshness
  • Smart vision sensors and cameras to check whether the quality of an object is ‘good’ or ‘not’, displayed on a computer linked to the sensor 
  • Smart vision sensors and cameras for quality control, identification and positioning. Their software guides the user step-by-step. This can be used, for example, to check that bottle caps are firmly secured

3. Traceability

By using automation, you can trace where production faults occurred and make appropriate alterations to prevent a product recall or low-quality product. 

The following are examples of products that help to monitor and change future processes and so increase flexibility:

  • Smart vision sensors to check whether an object is ‘good’ or ‘not good’
  • Image-based scanners for fast omni-directional barcode scanning during the barcode stage
  • SWIR cameras combined with speciality lenses can be used for food inspection to check damage within food, for example bruises within an apple
  • Various industrial protocols and networks such as IIOT and Ethernet-enabled products can be more effective than recognition by the human eye

4. Use components with quick turn-around and easy maintenance

Flexibility requires quick turn-around times and quick and easy maintenance products. Examples include:

5. Increase safety for workers

Flexibility can mean that people do not have to undertake complex tasks that could put them in danger. By utilising automation and all its various functions, people also do not have to undertake often repetitive critical tasks where consistency is difficult to achieve.

Examples of safety products:

6. Quick hygiene and sanitation processes

It is critical to get hygiene and sanitation right in food and beverage manufacturing. 

The following ideas can help you maintain high hygiene levels during changes in the process, and without wasting time.


Develop an easy washdown procedure with well-designed equipment made from stainless steel and IP-rated equipment.

IP-rated products include:

CIP cleaning

CIP systems clean, rinse and sanitize pipes to remove any excess product. A twin-screw pump, for example, enables CIP cleaning and product handling within just one pump.

Twin-screw pumps ensure:

  • An additional CIP pump is not necessary, saving costs and time
  • High hygiene level
  • Quick product handling and CIP cleaning

OEM Automatic process instrumentation, such as pigging valvespressure gauges and turbidity sensors are suitable for CIP cleaning.

7. Reduce wastage

Flexibility means you can change production direction and switch functions without wasting too many resources. Reducing waste not only saves you resources but also improves the environmental image of your manufacturing process. 

An example of a product that helps reduce waste is a pigging system. Here a pig is pushed into the pipe to stop media getting through, thus enabling the pipe to be quickly scraped and cleaned.

A pigging system ensures:

  • Less waste and less use of cleaning agent 
  • Reduction in water consumption
  • Lower energy consumption

This guide has outlined ways of developing flexibility in food and beverage manufacturing and suggested some suitable products to help you create a flexible food and beverage production line.

Please contact us if you are interested in knowing more about any of the products mentioned above. 

Email [email protected] or call 0116 427 1415 to find out more.

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