This report explores the mechanisms of optimizing food production in industries to improve quality, reduce cost, and prevent wastage. It outlines existing production equipment and technologies and proposes state-of-the-art alternatives that can help achieve optimized food production.
Food processing industries across the globe are charged with the responsibility of feeding a rapidly growing metropolitan population amid concerns of environmental degradation and dwindling resources. Although the fine details concerning the interior operation of food processors are not public knowledge, a sizeable number of these industries still rely on old-fashioned equipment that compromises the quality of their products culminating in large numbers of rejects and high production costs. Contrary to popular belief, this phenomenon is not unique to the developing world. Many food industries in the developed world have embraced state-of-the-art technology to facilitate the production of high-quality products at minimal costs, but many more are yet to follow suit.
While some food processors seem to be in a state of oblivion about their inefficiencies, the dynamism of the world’s demographic statistics coupled with the dwindling of resources necessitates an emphatic focus on optimizing food production. According to Finn (2013, p. 2), the UN extrapolates the world population to hit 9 billion by the year 2050. Moreover, about 75% of this population will be metropolitan.
These statistics imply that the world’s food production system will be under immense pressure to sustain the global population. As such, an optimized and highly efficient food production system will go a long way in abating acute food shortages. The purpose of this report is, therefore, to examine existing food production processes and outline how they can be optimized to improve food quality, reduce production costs and eliminate wastage.
This report only focuses on the food production processes at the industrial level. This implies that the quality, cost, and wastage issues explored herein are only those that revolve around the industrial processes that transform raw materials into food products. The issues that are illuminated by this report are of great importance to food processing industries because today, every manager is under pressure to enhance the quality and quantity of their products by reducing resources.
Optimizing Food Production to Improve Quality
The primary concern of every business organization is always to meet customer expectations. In order to achieve this task, there are several golden rules that organizations must observe. One of these rules is for the organization to meet the quality expectations of the clientele. For the food processing industry, the standards are even higher because product quality is inextricably linked to the health implications of a product.
Nonetheless, food processors have continued to utilize production equipment that has the potential to jeopardize the quality of their products. Raab & Lesinski (2004, para. 2) note that according to CDC statistics, seventy-six million cases of food-born diseases occur in the US annually. It is therefore arguable that food-processing industries contribute to ill public health. However, several mechanisms that can help curb this menace by enhancing quality while at the same time improving production levels are explored below.
Production Equipment/Technology Overhaul
During food processing, food particles can be caught in the equipment thus providing fertile breeding havens for harmful microorganisms such as bacteria (Raab & Lesinski, 2004, para. 3). These organisms can potentially contaminate food. Further, equipment used by industries can also contaminate food. For instance, some industries use soap and water lubrication or mineral oil lubrication to facilitate the smooth running of conveyer belts (Emerson, 2012, p. 4). The use of these lubricants presents industries with challenges including premature wear, build-up of wear-paste, equipment corrosion and hygiene issues (Emerson, 2012, p. 4). Water and soap lubricants also pose the challenge of worker safety and hygiene issues since the water sometimes finds its way to the floor. As a result, they produce contaminated (poor quality) final products.
The development of new generation technologies that enable the dry running of conveyor belts not only serves to eliminate safety and hygiene issues but also enhances the operation speeds of industries (Emerson, 2012, p. 5). As a result, food-processing industries can today operate faster and for longer periods while maintaining high quality in their products. In addition, the cost benefits that accompany the enhanced operation of the food processors give them the option of investing more funds in quality enhancement.
Automation of Equipment
The advent of computers has revolutionized virtually every aspect of human activity. Food processing industries are not an exception to this revolution. The maintenance of high product quality in this industry depends on the processors’ ability to preserve food without destroying delicate nutrients. Thermal food processing is one of the dominant food processing technologies used to ensure that food retains its nutritive value and remains fresh for a long (Abakarov & Nunez, 2013, p. 428). In order to deliver the optimal temperatures that are required for such processes with the desired precision, the use of computer-controlled equipment has proved instrumental. They serve to eliminate human error in delicate processes and increase operation speed numerous times, beyond the ability of humans.
Optimizing Food Production to Reduce Cost
As the world’s population grows, food production is also expected to grow to match the influx. Moreover, the world’s urban settlements are rapidly expanding. These developments dictate that more food products be supplied to the market. In addition to this need, industries are always under pressure to increase production. Unfortunately, these pressures increase while resources dwindle. This state of affairs makes cost reduction another golden rule in the operation of a manufacturing plant. In response, organizations have embraced a variety of mechanisms through which they seek to strike a balance between the output requirements and resource availability.
Planning is a fundamental aspect of cost reduction. It works best if the entire production process is scrutinized to develop a clear concept of every stage. This approach ensures that best practices are selected for every stage of the production process. The end result is a more agile and efficient production process that leads to massive savings for an organization.
A good example of an organization that draws unlimited benefits from proper planning is the Kellogg Company. It developed a large-scale linear program that it calls the Kellogg Planning System (KPS) (Brown et al., 2001, p. 1). The system’s purpose was to optimize production, inventory, and distribution. It has worked extremely well for the company since its inception. The secret behind its success is that it came in as a tailor-made package to supplement the conventional enterprise resource planning system (ERP), which Kellogg was using before (Brown et al., 2001, p. 2). The program guided Kellogg’s production decisions on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. As a result, the company was able to save between $35 million and $40 million annually while at the same time achieving high outputs (Brown et al., 2001, p. 2).
Incorporation of Modern Technology
Modern technology plays a role in improving quality as well as minimizing production costs because technological development spans all areas of human activity. The use of modern conveyor belt technology as outlined in the section on food quality improvement has cost implications as well. When equipment can operate for months on end or even years without requiring major maintenance input, a company is able to deliver more output per unit time and cut down on operational costs (Emerson, 2012, p. 9). Further, modern conveyer belt technology does not require lubrication (Emerson, 2012, 2). This attribute eliminates lubricant costs as well as water reclamation costs in cases where soap and water lubricants are used.
Further, the use of computer-controlled equipment leads to production agility, quality consistency and eliminates losses that result from human error (Abakarov & Nunez, 2013, p. 436). This combination of benefits has a synergistic effect that results in massive savings. Computer technology also enables organizations to cut down on employment costs since computers can combine several tasks that could only be handled by several employees at a go. Robots, which are also computer-controlled, have become popular in hi-tech industries because they eliminate recurrent expenditure on salaries as well as compensation for accidents that often result from human error (Abakarov & Nunez, 2013, p. 434).
Optimizing Food Production to Prevent Waste
On average, the world about 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted annually at various stages of the food chain (Finn, 2013, p. 2). This figure accounts for about a third of global food production. If this trend continues, the challenge of feeding nine billion people by the year 2050 is insurmountable ( Lazarte, 2013, para. 1). To avoid this looming disaster, a proactive approach is imperative in handling food at all stages of the food chain. At the processing level, the following techniques can be instrumental in curbing food wastage.
Materials management entails the handling of materials from their purchase as raw materials to the delivery of finished products (Asaolu et al., 2012, p. 1). The cost of materials occupies over fifty percent of every manufacturing or processing company’s production costs (Asaolu et al., 2012, p. 1). It is thus important to handle them with utmost care to minimize wastage and ensure profitability. The food processing industry in most cases deals with very delicate raw materials. Effectively managing these materials can tremendously reduce their spoilage or damage during the processing phase. Proper handling of materials also has the advantage of ensuring output thresholds are attained on top of minimizing wastage.
Use of Appropriate Technology
Equipment manufacturers have rolled out numerous production technologies that have revolutionized manufacturing. The use of automated equipment and the introduction of robotics into the production arena are examples of these technologies. They heighten production while minimizing wastage and costs (Abakarov & Nunez, 2013, p. 433). Food processing industries can utilize these technologies to minimize wastage since they are often high-precision equipment that can eliminate human error and inconsistency in product quality.
The manner in which product packaging is handled by a food processor largely influences the extent of damage and wastage of its products (Gustavsson et al., 2011, p. 5). The materials used in the packaging of moisture and oxygen-sensitive products should be able to protect them against such. Temperature-sensitive products also need to be packaged in a manner that minimizes the effect of temperature on them. Failure to observe these critical factors can lead to the spoilage of food products causing unnecessary wastage. Thus, food processors ought to consider all eventualities before using any material for packaging.
In conclusion, optimizing food production is an important concept that promises massive benefits if wholesomely adopted by food processing industries. The initial investment costs may appear impeding but the long-term benefits of adhering to all its requirements ought to be an adequate encouragement to do so. Food processors have in the past, paid attention only to small portions of the outfit yet some of them have reaped good returns in terms of improved quality, higher output and better efficiency. Thus, choosing to pay attention to the entire outfit promises unprecedented returns to the food processor that goes down that path making it a worthy undertaking.
Some organizations have made spirited attempts to optimize their food processing activities and have commensurately benefited from their efforts. Food processing is bound to expand to meet rising demand. If food processors optimize their production processes, they will, to a given extent reduce the pressure on resources. Therefore, food-processing industries should concentrate on the following four areas to optimize their production.
- Maximize the use of raw materials through proper management to eliminate wastage.
- Pay close attention to packaging since it affects the quality, shelf life and cost of a product.
- Make the overall efficiency of equipment a priority since it bears heavily on the final product.
- Initiate and stick to continuous improvement programs because optimization of production calls for getting better every day.
Abakarov, A. & Nunez, M. (2013). Thermal food processing optimization: algorithms and software. Journal of Food Engineering, 115 (4), pp. 428-442.
Asaolu, T. O., Agorzie, C. J. & Unam, J. M. (2012). Materials management: An effective tool for optimizing profitability in the Nigerian food and beverage manufacturing industry. Journal of Emerging Trends in Economics and Management Sciences, 3 (1), pp. 25-31.
Brown, G., Keegan, J., Vigus, B. & Wood, K. (2001). The Kellogg Company optimizes production, inventory, and distribution. Interfaces, 31 (6), pp. 1-15.
Emerson. (2012). Optimizing conveyor technologies: Using innovative conveyor technologies to increase sustainability and reduce costs in food and beverage manufacturing. Emerson Industrial Automation. [report] St Louis, USA: Emerson Electric Co., pp. 1-18.
Finn, S. M. (2013). Valuing our food: Minimizing waste and optimizing resources-the scope and significance of the global food waste problem. (Scholarly Commons Working Paper No. 3-02). Silver Bay, NY: University of Pennsylvania.
Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., Van Otterdijk, R. & Meybeck, A. (2011). Global food losses and food waste. Save Food. [report] Rome: FAO, pp. 1-16.
Lazarte, M. (2013). Stop food waste with ISO standards on world environment day! – ISO. Web.
Raab, M. J. & Lesinski, D. J. (2004). Optimizing food plant efficiency and safety – opportunities for synthetic food-grade lubricants. Web.