• Wiley's Brett Wiskar at L!VE.
    Wiley's Brett Wiskar at L!VE.
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Four emerging technologies will form part of the next big wave of change for food and drink facility operators, predicts Wiley’s Brett Wiskar.

Wiskar is innovation director for the process plant design company, and at yesterday’s Future Unpacked LIVE food industry forum he discussed a range of technologies likely to influence plant design over the next eight years.

Augmented reality apps delivered through smart glasses, goggles or a headset, will form an essential layer of contextual technical information between facility staff and plant equipment and controls, said Wiskar.

These deployments could guide maintenance staff when repairing unfamiliar equipment or give control operators a heads up on important analytics from the processes they are monitoring.

“Augmented reality layers information in front of us…and can empower better decision making,” he said.

Autonomous vehicles such as self-driving delivery trucks are also poised to transform logistical operations, added Wiskar, citing the example of brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, which is piloting self-driving delivery trucks in the US.

“We are moving to a world where vehicles drive themselves,” he said, with huge potential benefit to the food and drink industry where the movement of products both within and beyond the facility represents a huge cost.

“Autonomy will make a difference to food supply chains going forwards and [it] will change how we use infrastructure”.

Other influential technologies highlighted by Wiskar include energy management techniques in the face of rising wholesale energy prices, and the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Existing renewable technologies such as solar have power-generation limitations when the sun isn’t shining, said Wiskar

“Most of our clients chill their produce and keep it cold in evening. If their power costs doubled they could go from profitable to loss making”

Technologies such as solar thermal storage in salt liquid, and new battery management software, are two possible solutions that could boost the capacity of facilities to source up to 80% of the their power off grid, he said.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will also have a much larger role in facilities of the future, according to Wiskar, by “matching the patterns we are unable to match".

This has practical application across the board in food processing operations where subjective judgement can have a big impact on profitability.A practical example is identifying high-quality cut of meats.

“When you are valuing a piece of meat in an abattoir you look at muscle area and marbling which can impact the tenderness of cuts,” said Wiskar.

AI technology could measure the different proportions far more precisely and determine how they impact on quality, then apply this information to eliminate subjective decision-making in the line.