The impact of Industry 4.0 on the food and beverage industry has machinery component manufacturer and supplier Air Springs Supply focused on meeting changing processing demands. This article was first published in Food & Drink Business July/August 2020.

This fourth overall global industrial revolution, led by digital-physical production and enabled by data and technology, is a natural evolution from Industry 3.0 (automated production lead by electronics and IT), Industry 2.0 in the 19th Century (mass production driven by electricity and labour division) and Industry 1.0 in the 1700s (mechanical production driven by steam).

For Australian machinery actuation and isolation specialist Air Springs Supply, the major benefits it sees for food and beverage industry customers are greater production flexibility, to respond quickly to changing demands, and enhanced food safety and hygiene assurance.

Air Springs Supply national sales and marketing manager James Maslin says compared to massive industries such as mining and automotive manufacturing, F&B producers have been more cautious to embrace change by investing totally in top-tier digital reporting and control technologies and adapting entire processes or plants around them.

“We are finding some F&B manufacturers taking more of a softly, softly approach to radical changes and seeing how their very different plants can respond most efficiently to the benefits of Industry 4.0 and automation,” Maslin says.

“It is not that they are sceptical about Industry 4.0 – we all know it is the way of the future, with digitisation leading to production flexibility to meet changing market demands, to benefit from predictive maintenance, and to monitor food safety and hygiene. These changes will be integral to our markets as a clean, green exporter.

“Automation and Industry 4.0 has to be viewed as a whole-of-process undertaking, extending ultimately from integrated digital control and monitoring at the top of the process, down through conveying, vibrating, sorting, packaging and materials handling processes that move goods across the factory floor and out the despatch door.

“Efficient, cost-effective and low-maintenance actuation and isolation processes are integral at this level. Manufacturers are committed to Industry 4.0 holistically, but want to ensure they have the best high-speed, low maintenance, safe and hygienic technologies responding to the accelerated production pace that digitisation brings.”

For Air Springs Supply’s pneumatic technologies, the company sees its role as ensuring the machinery components it provides, that are operating downstream from the digital innovation, are capable of operating maintenance-free with faster and more flexible processes.

Maslin says: “We are the national distributor for Firestone actuators, isolators and pickers and grippers used in high-speed high-repetition production, conveying and packaging processes.

“Our point of difference is the no-maintenance Airstroke actuators don’t contain rods to break or wear and the rubber-and-fabric Airmount isolators cannot rust or break like metal springs used in vibrating screens, conveyors, sorters and materials handling equipment. They are also easy to wash down and highly resistant to grime, enhancing hygiene.

“We are at the highly practical end of the production engineering process, where the machinery being driven by the digital, mechanical and pneumatics confluence actually has to do the job. Our solutions are globally proven but radically different in concept from traditional pneumatics, yet outstandingly simple and reliable.”

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