AI is doing a lot in the food & beverage industry – and has the potential to do more.


Copyright: – “The Use of Artificial Intelligence in Food Processing”


There are a lot of uncertainties associated with manufacturing of all kinds, especially food and beverage products. Which of many possible factors are causing a process to fail? What constitutes a “good” product, and what should the threshold be before product must be reworked or discarded?

Answers to these questions can come from the processing equipment itself.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are ways for the systems that run processing equipment to deal with gradations, subtleties and causations that are too complex or numerous for the human mind. AI is already being used in some food processing applications and has the potential to be used in many more, including maintenance, sanitation and logistics.

“AI and machine learning will impact most areas of manufacturing and supply chain in some manner,” says Richard Phillips, director of smart manufacturing at systems integrator Polytron, a member of the Control System Integrators Association. “We are already implementing solutions around schedule optimization, predictive maintenance and predictive analytics within food & beverage.”

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AI, at its most basic, is a field in computer science that mimics human thinking, learning and memory. It can discover patterns and correlations that probably wouldn’t occur to human observers in applications where there are too many variables for the mind to handle.

“Any application where someone needs to review complex data, many times from multiple sources, and look for subtle correlations in the data may be a candidate,” Phillips says. “Due to the difficulty in processing all of this data, often times gut feel or tribal knowledge end up being the basis for decisions. This results in great variability and therefore lack of consistency in decision-making across the organization.”

Making the grade

One of the most common applications for artificial intelligence is in sorting, grading and inspecting both ingredients and products. AI can help in two ways: by setting standards and specifications, and by helping to determine a cause if product suddenly starts to go far out of spec. […]

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