The lean, mean waste minimisation machine

Written by: Robin Chambers | Published:

The economic, environmental and social implications of food manufacturing waste are huge. WRAP estimates that a tonne of food waste in the food manufacturing in the UK is worth at least £950. Robin Chambers at R3MC explains the role telemetry can play in food waste minimisation.

A members' survey by the Food and Drink Federation published last year concluded: "Continued efforts should be made by the food and drink manufacturing sector to minimise waste generation as much as possible, for example by setting internal key performance indicators and deeper application of lean manufacturing principles."

Lean manufacturing, of course, relies on having the right information about your operations to be able to identify where efficiencies can be made. Intelligent data collection and management can save time for managers and operatives, providing real-time insights on waste generation and driving efficiencies in manufacturing operations.

With telemetry systems allowing the wireless transmission of data from any point on a production zone to a smart phone or iPad, the technology is catalysing a whole new era for lean manufacturing.

What is telemetry?

Telemetry allows measurements to be made and other data collected at remote or inaccessible points and transmitted to receiving equipment for monitoring.

The applications of telemetry are diverse, from passports and sewers, to smart cities and meteorology.

In manufacturing for example, the amount of product being wasted at each stage of the process can be measured accurately, enabling managers to identify exactly where in the production line the waste is arising. This could highlight the need for training, or perhaps a new piece of hardware to prevent the product being wasted.

Biffa's integrated resource management team and Biffa's consultancy arm R3MC work with telemetry experts Packaged Energy, installing intelligent systems at diverse manufacturing sites across the country.

Simon Hamilton of R3MC has been working with Stuart Anderson of Packaged Energy to install the system. Anderson explains: "Using a simple cloud-based metering and monitoring system with some control technology, we can quickly establish where and how to eliminate waste of all forms. These will typically dovetail with any existing BMS, plant or production systems.

"In the food manufacturing sector, telemetry systems can be installed to measure the generation of each waste stream, continually feeding the data back to a software system that can analyse performance and pinpoint areas for improvement. Managers can set tolerances or targets, and the system then analyses what's going on to enable further interventions to reduce waste of all types."

Potential impacts

WRAP found that food manufacturing waste can easily be reduced with a corresponding impact on companies' bottom lines.

Simply by improving the planning, portioning, management and production in the food supply chain, as well as making use of waste produced in other ways, companies can make a huge difference.

But it's not just product waste that can be avoided through the use of telemetry systems.

A report by the Conservative 2020 Group from February 2014, Sweating our assets: Productivity and Efficiency across the UK Economy, said: "Food and drink production requires substantial inputs of water, energy and pesticides. It is increasingly recognised that making efficient use of resources must be at the heart of policy making. In addition, others have noted that manufacturers could increase their profits by 12% every year by becoming more resource efficient."

As well as the physical material resources, such as food ingredients or packaging, telemetry systems are helping companies reduce energy and water use and demonstrate compliance with safety standards. For example, telemetry can also be used for hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) reporting and managing temperatures.

R3MC's Hamilton says: "Once we arrive on a customer's site, we discuss with the environment and engineering team what systems they already have in place, and what their issues are. Following a walk around, we produce a report that prioritises the actions they can take, and 99% of the time telemetry is the first step. Because it can be integrated with existing systems, it can be retrofitted to pretty much any process."

Telemetry in the food manufacturing sector has particularly taken off in the last six months, and almost every customer visited has now installed some kind of telemetry system.

Intelligent manufacturing resource management

Process efficiency modelling: By incorporating online management systems to manufacturing processes, managers are able to streamline processes, reducing downtime and waste costs. Management systems can combine all the data for carbon mapping, reduction reporting or waste management reporting, allowing managers to concentrate on their core business.

Waste minimisation audits: Telemetry enables the identification of the causes of waste during the manufacturing process. By carefully observing processes and material flows along entire production lines, sensible solutions can be found for waste segregation, storage and collections. Evidence gathered from telemetry systems also helps with staff engagement, waste champion training and encouraging ownership and buy-in to the lean manufacturing process.

Moving towards zero landfill: By exploring process flow and efficiency road maps, manufacturers can eliminate waste from their processes. Recyclable materials from within a waste stream can be identified and their value quantified for closed loop recycling or recovery.

Closed loop management: Understanding waste streams to the nth degree enables manufacturers to maximise the quality of on-site resources as valuable raw resources. Source separation for closed loop recycling enables clients to benefit from valuable commodity streams while setting new standards in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainable manufacturing.

Carbon and water mapping: Smart applications enabling the reduction of energy and water demand are saving companies significant sums of money, as well as bringing environmental benefits. From lighting systems to boilers and even vending machines, remote intervention via telemetry allows for a more intelligent use of resources and reduces risks to the company regarding energy and water costs.

"We have witnessed impressive results at customers' sites after installing telemetry systems, often achieving savings in waste, water and energy consumption of up to 20%. Since the systems work wirelessly, there is no need to install cabling and the whole solution can be operated from a single web interface, enabling control of one or multiple facilities or sites," adds Hamilton at R3MC.

This facility enables managers to benchmark performance and understand on a deeper level the effectiveness and efficiency of entire processes and systems. Trials have confirmed an average two to three year payback, and with pay-as-you-go and risk-reward models on offer, more and more customers are able to experience the business benefits of following the waste hierarchy.

Telemetry systems are providing the evidence on a case-by-case basis that waste reduction and environmental protection generate sustainable business profits.

To waste managers, it has always been evident that businesses which reduce waste save money. Now with modern telemetry systems, managers can see that happening, whenever they want, wherever they want.

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