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5 Ways Artificial Intelligence in Food Manufacturing Is Changing the Industry for the Better

5 Ways Artificial Intelligence in Food Manufacturing Is Changing the Industry for the Better

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5 Ways Artificial Intelligence in Food Manufacturing Is Changing the Industry for the Better

Sep 28, 2021

Jack Payne
An artistic depiction of artificial intelligence as a brain formed by circuits.

As it is in many industries, artificial intelligence (AI) is making huge waves in the world of food and beverage. More and more organizations within the industry are recognizing the potential of AI to drive greater efficiency and profits, reduce wastage and provide protection against supply chain disruptions. It’s all part of what is known as Industry 4.0—the growing emergence of smart technology like AI in traditional industries like food and beverage.

By "AI" we are simply referring to machinery and technologies used to carry out complex tasks that previously required human thought to complete. AI in the food industry comprises a number of technologies, from robotics to machine learning. Here are five ways AI is transforming the food and beverage industry for the better:

1. Developing New Recipes Guided By Consumer Trends

All food manufacturers know that they must constantly be on the lookout for new ways to refresh their product lines in order to stay relevant and tap into new sources of revenue. Whereas this has traditionally taken the form of surveys and adapting to emerging trends, AI offers companies the opportunity to predict their customers’ preferences.

By analyzing huge amounts of data around sales patterns and flavor preferences for each demographic group, manufacturers are now able to model future trends and develop new products to capitalize on them quicker. AI is also being used to allow consumers a greater degree of personalization in the products they buy. This breakthrough doesn’t just identify what the most popular flavor combinations are likely to be, it makes the product development process shorter and less expensive, helping companies get their new products to market faster and with less trial and error.

2. Better Supply Chain Management

Being able to manage supply chains effectively is one of the top priorities for food manufacturers. Companies at the cutting edge are now utilizing algorithms based on artificial neural networks to monitor shipments at every stage of the supply chain, improving food safety standards and enabling full transparency.

AI in the food industry is also capable of creating accurate forecasts to manage inventory and pricing. This kind of predictive analysis helps keep food businesses one step ahead, enabling them to avoid wastage and unnecessary costs. Modern food supply chains are more complex and fragmented than ever, but AI allows companies to gain a better overview, ultimately improving their ability to increase revenue.

3. A More Efficient Cleaning Process

All equipment and machinery involved in food production needs to be cleaned to the most rigorous standards. This isn’t just to avoid contamination of food with pathogens, but to prevent allergen cross-contamination. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost—in terms of both time and money.

Innovative AI technology is beginning to change this. Developed by the University of Nottingham, a Self-Optimizing-Clean-In-Place (SOCIP) system uses optical fluorescence imaging and ultrasonic sensing to scan the food remains left in machinery after use. This allows for a more optimized cleaning process, where the amount of water needed is cut by 20-40% and the cleaning time is reduced by 50%, because equipment no longer needs to be disassembled.

4. More Hygienic Production Lines 

Food safety breaches can be unbelievably costly for food manufacturers. Both in terms of fines (in the worst cases, penalties can be millions of dollars) and the reputational damage associated with poor health and safety. AI in food manufacturing is reducing the risk of such breaches in a number of ways. 

The more parts of the food production process that can be dealt with by robots, the less likely products are to become contaminated with pathogens. Not only can robots be faster and more efficient than human workers, they can also be made completely sterile. However, for more complex tasks, artificial intelligence is required to enable these robots to physically carry out their duties and respond to changes in a similar way to how a human would.

AI can also be used to increase the cleanliness of a manufacturer’s human workforce. Facial and object-recognition technologies are being used to track whether hygiene protocols are being followed. For example, in instances where correct production practices are being neglected or items of PPE are not being worn, these AI-enabled systems will flag them, allowing companies to keep tighter control over on-site hygiene.

5. Food Sorting

Food sorting is a laborious and time consuming process that slows the production line and requires the employment of many staff members. This is especially true when it comes to the sorting of fresh produce items—with human sorters responsible for removing all units that aren’t at the standard required for sale. 

The amount of time and the number of people required to complete this crucial activity can be greatly reduced with the assistance of AI. Cameras and lasers are used to assess the shape, color and structural integrity of every item, automatically identifying ones which need to be filtered out. What’s more, when machine learning technology is incorporated, such systems will achieve continual improvement in their accuracy, helping to reduce wastage of acceptable products.

You can learn more about how Aptean's food ERP system helped one customer integrate advanced AI technology to instantly assess the quality of avocados in the sorting process.

How Your Food Business Can Embrace AI

While artificial intelligence is making a big impact in the food and beverage industry, we are still in the early days of its usage. Presently, such technologies are mainly used by large manufacturers due to the costs involved with their implementation. However, it is inevitable that AI will one day be omnipresent across the industry.

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face when looking to invest in AI solutions is implementing them into your existing technology stack. This is where an ERP system purpose-built for the food and beverage industry can make all the difference. It’s extremely advantageous for the huge amounts of data generated by AI solutions to flow instantly into the centralized database of an ERP system. This allows users across your food organization to access and benefit from the insights generated by this information.

With information produced by AI used to inform new recipe development and purchasing activity, it’s vital it is instantly available. And with our Aptean Business Intelligence solution, powered by AI and machine learning, your business will have unprecedented forecasting ability when it comes to future performance.

To learn more about how our solution, Aptean Food & Beverage ERP, can help your food and beverage organization prepare the ground for AI integration contact our team today.

Tell us about yourself and an Aptean specialist will be in touch.