Automation Technology for Food Processing and Manufacture

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Automation Technology for Food Processing and Manufacture

Industrial manufacturing technology is constantly changing. In the 1700's, we first really saw the concept of "specialization of labor" in which an individual specialized in one aspect of an item's production. With the Industrial Revolution the 1800's, people began using machines to do their work for them. Through the 1900's to today, we are seeing electronics make even more sophisticated machines possible. It seems with each new step of technology, industry is becoming more and more automated, completely changing the role people play in production. The average "worker" is nearly extinct, having been replaced by engineers, technicians, and the machines originally created to make their jobs easier.

Automation technology is used in every large scale production industry. I chose to learn about automation technology with regards to food processing in particular because it is a field I am familiar with, and it will continue to exist and evolve as long as people and animals need to eat.


Large scale food production is more involved than one may think. The following are illustrations of a generalized food processing plant, such as one used to make cereal:

Food Process

Packaging Process

These processes are automated using technology created by companies such as Rockwell, Siemens, and Texas Instruments. For the sake of example, I will talk about Rockwell, because it tends to be the leader in the industry.

The Technology

PLC's (Programmable Logic Controls)

- actual sensor inputs are called tags

. speed sensors

. counters

. thermocouples

. photo sensors

. scales

. density sensors

. on/off switches

. anything that can measure the change of the state of something

- each sensor is connected by hardwire to the PLC

- PLC's are connected by Ethernet to a central hub, making data available to all

stations on the network

- form elaborate logic trees

- offers near infinite flexibility

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