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Increasing yield with data*

09 March 20206 min reading

In October, Bühler launched its new Bühler Insights Yield Management System in a bid to drive up production rates in smaller, often family-run milling operations in Asia, India, and Africa. Interest in this system is spreading to larger automated producers in all regions as early adopters report higher profitability from increasing yields.

Gernot Ruppert Bühler Program Manager Smart Mill

Regardless of business size every food producer needs to know how much raw material is entering their plant relative to the volume of product produced. This is the basic metric where profit is to be found. And there is no better way of keeping control of such a critical equation than to meticulously weigh, record and analyze every raw ingredient entering a plant and every finished product that leaves, which is why Bühler has recently launched its Bühler Insights-based Yield Management System (YMS). Initially targeted at the milling industry the YMS uses specialized intake scales to weigh every ingredient that enters a production plant and sends the data to Bühler Insights for analysis. Output scales then weigh all the finished products leaving the plant, again sending the data to Bühler Insights. Producers now have the data to be able to tweak a recipe and see what impact it will have on yield. They can assess yield over time, visualize and compare production lines within a facility or see which plants are operating most efficiently in different geographical regions. And it all happens in real time.

SPEEDY ANALYSIS One of the most significant benefits of YMS is the immediacy with which data is collected and analyzed. It means producers get instant feedback on how changes in production parameters impact yield. Alarms can be set so that when yield falls below set parameters operators are instantly alerted to make adjustments. The presentation of data can also be customized. Customers are able to interpret the data picked up by the scales in an optimal way and then distribute the results to whoever requires it. The chief executive, plant manager, miller and operator receive the same up-to-the-minute information and so are all in a position to immediately contribute to key production decisions. For large scale food producers operating in highly sophisticated automated environments this may already be underway. But food producers are a diverse community. Whether it is your geographical location, size, product type, scale of output or level of prior investment, there is nothing homogeneous about the food sector.

While Bühler believes that YMS and the added functionality it brings to producers is set to be of interest to a wide range of different food manufacturers, it has chosen to initially concentrate marketing on smaller scale, often family-run milling operations in regions such as Asia, Africa, and India. These are the food producers anticipated to see the greatest production growth in the coming decades as their economies expand.

“The good thing about YMS is that you don’t already need to have an automation solution, all you need are the specialized scales such as Bühler’s Tubex Pro and Bühler Insights,” explains Gernot Ruppert, Bühler Product Manager Milling Solutions. “It means smaller companies will be able to easily transition from manual records to a system where you can see production rates, last week, last month, and compare what is now being produced using a certain recipe or a certain process. YMS means you can go back in time to see what you produced when and how.”

Early on-site installations of Bühler Insights YMS are producing encouraging results, with the new data streams resulting in yield improvements of around 1 percent.

Bühler plans to modify and improve the new YMS by the middle of next year so that larger clients, who may already be operating plants with automation solutions can also be connected to YMS. “We can see there is a need for customers who already have a yield monitoring system as part of their automation solutions to provide greater transparency,” explains Ruppert. “For example, we have customers with multiple plants in several locations, some with Bühler solutions, some with non-Bühler automation, and some with no automation. These clients are interested in Bühler Insights YMS to be able to monitor and compare yields from all of these plants.”

ONLY THE BEGINNING The most powerful functionality of YMS relates to the way that it links to Bühler Insights, an online platform that enables customers to collect data and information from their plants and machines. This data is stored on secure servers on the Microsoft Azure Cloud. Bühler Insights offers powerful data analytics and data visualization capabilities with the goal to increase transparency of production processes and make the potential for optimizations visible. Today, 85 percent of Bühler machines can be connected to Bühler Insights and benefit from the enhanced data analytics and data visualization capabilities to increase product yield and quality. Part of that process involves using historical data to calculate the most efficient production parameters. So, the longer the YMS is in operation, the more efficient the data analytics algorithms will become. “Once we have enough yield data and are able to detect anomalies, we will be able to better correlate data, analyze parameters and provide feedback to customers based on the monitoring we are doing,” explains Ruppert. The idea is that more efficient algorithms will result in higher yields and hence, greater profit.

But there is another rationale for embedding YMS into Bühler Insights. Bühler has set itself a series of sustainability targets to cut water consumption, energy usage and food waste by 50 percent in its customers’ value chains. Bühler Insights is key to achieving this goal as it drives up food production efficiencies. Because of its stand-alone nature and the relative ease with which it can be installed, YMS is able to provide yield production increases to thousands of smaller, manual milling operations that may have previously been unable to benefit from the power of digitalization. By increasing productivity in this harder-to-reach manufacturing community, Bühler is one step closer to achieving its new sustainability goals by 2025.

*Reprint from Diagram #180

[box type="shadow" align="alignleft" class="" width="300"]ADDED VALUE + Results in yield improvement of around 1% that directly impacts the bottom line. + Allows you to compare yields across production lines using different manufacturing and automation solutions. + Enables smaller companies to easily transition from manual solutions to the benefits of digitalization. + The ability to set alerts when production falls below set parameters to enable operators to make immediate adjustments.[/box]
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