The Evolution of Industrial Automation in the Food and Beverage Industry

Hard benefits long have provided the financial justification for plant automation projects. As information technology plays a larger role, food companies are groping for other ROI metrics.

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Somewhere in the future, the grizzled maintenance engineer leads his apprentice into the food plant’s electronics boneyard in search of some salvageable parts. In a dusty corner is a stack of obsolete parts. “Hey, Gus, what are those?” the apprentice asks, pointing to a flat screen monitor and wiring wedged between a fax machine and CD player. Smiling in recognition, the engineer replies, “That there’s an HMI screen and Ethernet cable, Sparky.” The story of industrial automation is an evolutionary tale, from relay logic circuits to PLCs to SCADA systems and ladder logic to Windows-based software to agnostic systems. Chucking the HMI at this time would be…

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