Maintenance Sets the Pace in Food Manufacturing’s Embrace of IIoT

Automated analytics and condition monitoring tools enable cloud-based software to make predictive maintenance affordable and practical.

By Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor

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In ways big and small, food manufacturing is tapping into the promise and potential of internet-based tools and applications that address some of the most nettlesome problems in plant operations.

At least two makers of AC induction motors are introducing moderately priced sensors for monitoring temperature, current and vibration, a capability reserved in years past for large machinery that would have catastrophic consequences if they went down. One of these condition-monitoring tools, the ABB Smart Sensor, soon will be able to continuously relay data to the cloud for analysis and reporting of maintenance alerts.

Those devices support maintenance’s embrace of the industrial internet of things (IIoT). Cloud-based computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) is supplanting asset management systems hosted on a local server. Cost is the initial attraction, but cloud-based CMMS opens up new possibilities for improving  production throughput, machine uptime and other tangible benefits. As a consequence, maintenance is leading food manufacturing’s charge onto the IIoT.

Maintenance techs are mobile, and a CMMS that enables mobility via personal devices for work order distribution and commentary input has obvious appeal. But the potential for automated analysis of the raw data from field devices, particularly vibration sensors, may finally move food and beverage plants from scheduled and reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance.

The migration of consumer electronics tools into industrial operations is allowing plant managers make an end run on IT to inch toward predictive maintenance. Cell phone technology, data encryption and open source programs are helping maintenance capture data on machine health, patch it up to a remote server and receive real-time feedback while making an end run on IT restrictions.

Cloud-based CMMS liberates maintenance from the tyranny of a local server, suggests Greg Perry, senior maintenance & reliability consultant with Fluke Digital Systems, the umbrella for Fluke Corp.’s cloud-based CMMS, digital sensors for condition monitoring and SCADA system for maintenance. Besides short-circuiting IT concerns about data security, a standalone reliability platform avoids the “siloing of yourself from the rest of the world” that occurs with a locally hosted system, says Perry.

Fluke’s bundled service is called Accelix (, a centralized depository of information regarding machine health. .Work orders, parts histories, uploaded photos: The platform hosts an expanding record of every touch point with a plant asset, with the CMMS feeding back information as needed. “Everyone has access and can enter information,” he says. “Everyone is speaking the same language and using it as their CMMS historian.”

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