09 Jul The agri-food industry in tomorrow’s perspective
Because the world is changing, it is necessary for the food industry to evolve in turn. Nowadays, the agro-alimentary sector is facing new challenges: new consumer needs, increasingly volatile and unpredictable markets, increasingly strict regulations and standards, future societal and environmental challenges as well as increased competition. Therefore, the food industry must constantly adapt in a reactive manner while developing its growth via a flawless production chain. In order to stay competitive, it will have to stay innovated, while balancing between productivity, and capacity. Digitalized technology is a growing trend in this sector and industries are starting to reorganize the means of their production. The factory of the future is already on its way.
The merger between internet and factories
Cloud computing, big data, social networks, sensors, automata, drones … digital technology is already at the heart of the strategy of agri-food companies. Characterized by the merger between the Internet and the factory, the “intelligent factory” begins to shape the agri-food industry of tomorrow, connected and managed by men placed at the center of a sustainable industrial project, combining ecology, social progress and economic competitiveness.
Nowadays, experts agree that future agri-food industries will only be competitive. “New technologies, communicating sensors, software tools or even information processing, are gradually making factories more and more agile, more and more efficient and more and more competitive” as explains a developer of Coox, a global interconnected system. Moreover, the developer perceives that each industry will be able, in the next 10 years, to model its factory according to its customer challenges, in consequence, each factory will be different. Each project is unique and personalized; each company must be able, depending on its size, to select its courses of action.
This fourth industrial revolution gave birth to a new generation of factories. Whether it is called “Cyber-factory”, “Digital factory”, “Integrated Industry”, “Innovative Factory” or “Industry 4.0”, this major technological breakthrough offers an extraordinary field of innovation, progress and growth. Characterized by the fusion of the virtual world of the delocalized Internet and the real world of industrial installations, Industry 4.0 becomes the essential reference for industrial production.
Regarding the future products, we will speak about “Smart products”. Complex, made up of intelligent, connected, interoperable and safe materials, the products of the future will use constantly modernized technologies and advanced production methods, such as 3D printers. Thus, to the growing diversity of materials (new metallic materials, composites, nanomaterials, biomaterials …) will be added more and more varied combinations between materials. Assembly technologies will therefore be one of the key points of the factory of the future.
Customer’s new attraction for personalized products
While the traditional model of the industry consists in mass producing standardized objects and putting them on the market, personalization and immediacy are becoming standards of commercial relations. 68% of French people say they are actually interested in the consumption of personalized industrial products. This trend will be more sustained in the future as the interest in personalized products is a generational marker: 49% of 18-24 year olds already consume it, compared to 28% for seniors. The future industry model will have the obligation to transform itself to meet new consumer expectations.
Towards cleaner and “zero-waste” factories
According to Jack Legrand, more than ever, process engineering must offer technical solutions that meet environmental, economic and security constraints. This new and green concept aims to design cleaner, safer factories while minimizing the use of resources (energy, fossil and mineral resources). It is a matter of developing robust, flexible and modular processes, while being intensified to optimize resource management.
The “zero waste” society, in other words the recovery of waste, is an issue in the circular economy, which integrates the very foundations of process engineering: global approach to the system, material balance, energy balance, optimization, flow management. The development of this economy must make it possible to reduce the taking of resources, reduce the production of waste and restrict energy consumption. As of the design of a product, it is necessary to think of the valorization of waste that is to say to consider this waste as new raw materials, in order to reintegrate a production sector. Process industries will gradually replace new resources with traditional raw materials. For food, it is a question of satisfying the growing needs which the increase of the world population involves by finding new sources of proteins (vegetable proteins, insects, microalgae…) This transition to a bio-economy will have important consequences on the manufacturing processes and the organization of industrial production sectors. End-of-life management and product recycling will have to be rethought globally in order to develop new value chains that are economically viable and sustainable.
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