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Chris Irwin | 14 Jul 2020

Optimizing Food Production & Manufacturing with BAS

BAS-Food-Production-Manufacturing

When most people think about smart buildings and building automation, they think of large office buildings or city centers. But Building Automation Systems (BAS) have applications far beyond that of the corporate office world. This software technology can be applied in any building with HVAC, IoT devices, security systems, lighting, refrigeration or energy management needs. The possibilities are many and varied!

One industry especially relevant now is the food industry. Indoor farming and food processing plants are the perfect use case for BAS software. As more plants transition to implement IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) devices, they will need comprehensive BAS software to manage the many facets of food production, automation, energy, and quality management. Here are some of the ways that food production facilities can benefit from Building Automation software. 

Environmental monitoring 

The environment of your facility is of utmost importance for food production. The temperature, humidity levels, amount of light, and concentration of specific gases all factor into maintaining the growing crop or food quality. If the environment is not properly maintained, product quality is lost, and food safety becomes an issue. All of these factors can be managed automatically by BAS to ensure the environment maintains its integrity. BAS can monitor your HVAC to ensure proper temperature and airflow, plus control of humidity and gas concentrations where management of these parameters is required. Lighting can also be controlled to ensure that the appropriate level is maintained - something very important for indoor farming. 

A mushroom farm, for example, grows its products in a minimal amount of light. In order for the mushrooms to grow properly, they must also monitor the air and the concentration of gases. Ventilation is vital to the production and can be monitored with sensors and managed with BAS. The same is true for indoor or vertical farming, where there is a need for controlled-environment agriculture. Using wireless sensors and dashboard technology, helps optimize and automate the control of the environment in the building. 

Beyond monitoring current conditions, having an automated system that can provide a record of historical conditions and failures can be of huge benefit in preventing control failures and to uncovering quality issues.

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Removing human error

Are there processes in your facility that require human intervention? Like re-setting building controls after a cleaning operation or changing modes in between different processes? Relying on humans for manual changes leaves a large margin for error as it’s easy to forget after a long/early shift. By linking your HVAC and process controls to BAS, the automation removes the human factor, meaning less risk. 

Energy management

For many building operators, the energy bill is the largest single expense. With BAS, energy management is easier, making your building more efficient as you fine tune the use of lights, HVAC, and other equipment to reduce costs, with the savings achieved flowing straight to your bottom line. BAS can also help facility managers get LEED certification or a Living Building Challenge (LBC) 3.1 certification, both stringent sets of requirements that can be easier to meet with data and automation on your side.

Real time and historical data

Using BAS means you have access to real-time data that gives you the ability to know - in an instant  - what the temperature, humidity, or air quality is in your facility through easy dashboard technology. All of this is available from a mobile phone or tablet as well. 

Going back to the mushroom farm example, good supervisory software (such as FIN Framework) has the ability to store media as well as data points. For mushroom farming, as with other crops, photos can be taken and stored to monitor growth remotely. This gives farmers remote access to how their products are doing so that they can change ventilation rates and ultimately optimize growing conditions without having to disturb the environment by entering the facility.

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Improve the supply chain

BAS delivers more than automation, it delivers data. Data can help provide food manufacturers with end-to-end traceability into the supply chain so that profiles and predictive models can be built. Also, defects and issues can be detected earlier in the supply chain. Detecting problems early-on and pinpointing where in the supply chain they occurred can reduce the total number of problematic goods that entered the market and can also help identify the root cause of the issue. 

Proactive maintenance

Having automatic control of equipment and access to its data can help recognize the need for maintenance actions so that untimely failures do not impact production. Real-time data and smart alarms help diagnose problems immediately. Applications like equipment summaries can help visualize a wide range of related data and identify abnormalities. With edge-to-cloud technology,  such problem diagnosis can be achieved remotely. FIN’s Edge2Cloud technology goes one step further by allowing remote access to your building’s automation and IoT systems in an easy, secure, open, and scalable way with no need to set-up a VPN. 

Harnessing data for future growth

Finally, building data provided through BAS software can help the C-Suite plan for future projects or expansion. Food manufacturers rely on fine-tuned, repeatable processes in order to maintain quality, efficiency, and food safety. Through the use of sensors and alarms monitored by a BAS, a facility or plant manager could have better control of their environment and deeper insights into their valuable data. 

About the author

Chris Irwin