Computers are everywhere. Just as they are increasingly being used in the home, they are also increasingly being used in all aspects of the food industry, including the production plant. But they are useless without software, the programs that tell them what to do.
This column will discuss what several experts see as developments in the area of software for food processing, and will briefly describe various software packages for use in food processing and related applications.
Timothy A. Haley, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Food Science and Director of the Computer Integrated Food Manufacturing Center at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. (phone 765-494-9093) foresees food manufacturers taking advantage of new software that enables manufacturers to efficiently plan production resources based on market forecasts. Such software will be able to help food companies schedule personnel, equipment, and utilities and allocate optimal use of their manufacturing lines. In the past, this was a very difficult and tedious procedure because of the number of variables plant managers needed to take into account. New software technology will help to automate this procedure and thereby maximize productivity and improve the bottom line.
Some of the new software technology uses a mathematical method—combinatorial mathematics, or “combinatorics”—that has been around since the early 1960s but is seeing increased use as computers have become more powerful and much more efficient at complex computations. Combinatorics uses advanced algorithms to optimize a set of decisions. An example, Haley said, is the traveling salesman problem. Faced with having to visit a number of different cities across the United States, he must choose which itinerary is most efficient. By analogy, food manufacturers must schedule a certain number of people working a certain number of hours for a certain hourly wage, with many different products and pieces of equipment available. There may be hundreds, thousands, or even millions of choices to make. To evaluate each individually would take forever. Combinatorics minimizes the number of calculations and helps maximize profitability, and a number of food companies, including the Coca-Cola Co., are looking into its use in their operations.
Another trend is the use of specification software packages to electronically document specifications for raw materials, finished product standards, production standard operating procedures, equipment maintenance schedules, job descriptions, parts specifications, etc. Having a corporate-wide software specification tool helps to standardize across the enterprise.
Yet another trend is keeping processing records electronically rather than by pen and paper. However, processors who use computers to generate and maintain required records—such as required retort process control records, required container seam/seal analysis records, or required hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) records—should be aware that they must comply with Title 21, Part 11 of the Code of Federal Regulations, which specifies the conditions for use of electronic records and signatures as legally binding equivalents of their paper counterparts.
In terms of control systems, a trend is the move to use of desktop computers in place of programmable logic controllers to control manufacturing processes. Many of the major control system providers, including Rockwell and Fisher-Rosemount, are now providing PC-based controller solutions.
Purdue’s Computer Integrated Manufacturing Center, Haley said, is working in four areas: development and evaluation of intelligent sensors for food processing; modeling and simulation of food processes; design of control strategies; and information management. The center conducts research funded by food companies, equipment suppliers, and sensor and control system manufacturers, as well as by government grants.
Haley mentioned some questions to ask in selecting a software program or package:
• What are the vendor’s qualifications? At least some of the software engineers should be licensed, degreed, or otherwise qualified and aware of standards.
• What sort of internal standards do they use for validity?
• How many of the software packages have been installed—10 or 1,000? Are you buying one that’s only been installed in one plant?
• What resources is the vendor planning to put into the software in the future? Have they stopped putting attention to it, or do they plan to continue? Hardware will be progressing, so unless the vendor is committed to making sure that the software stays current with the hardware, you may be out of luck in the future.
Douglas Marshall, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Food Science and Technology at Mississippi State University (phone 662-325-8722), also had some suggestions for selecting software. Cochair of the IFT short course, “New Software Tools for Product Applications,” presented last July, he advocates caveat emptor, buyer beware. Software development is not that difficult to do, he said, and there are lots and lots of vendors and potential for problems. The food industry is very specialized, and a lot of software packages are outrageously expensive for things that don’t really work. He suggested asking the following:
• Can you “test drive” the software before buying to see if it actually works in the specific application you want?
• Will the vendor stand behind the product? Is there a help desk, or just a Web site? Will they help you get the software to work on your machine, on your process?
• Who else has used the product? Word of mouth among peers is worth a lot. Take advantage of listservs in your area to ask questions and get responses from others.
• What are the system requirements to run the software? Is the software is compatible with your system?
• Will the vendor provide updates? One major problem to be aware of, Marshall said, is that the software/computer industry is evolving at a breakneck pace, and companies do go out of business, in which case you may be stuck with no help and no upgrades.
The following are brief descriptions of some software programs for food processing. Note that inclusion here does not constitute a recommendation of them.
• Process Manufacturing Software improves productivity and efficiency by coordinating the entire manufacturing business. Modules are available to manage purchasing, bar coding, inventory, formulating with lab analysis, costing, production, quality control, labeling, government compliance, sales order entry, bills of lading, and a complete suite of integrated financial applications. Formulas include an unlimited number of raw materials and intermediates, manufacturing instructions, labor/overhead costs, and quality control data. Formula revision history is maintained automatically, allowing reversion to prior master formulas at any time. A nutrient database provides more than 80 nutritional parameters for thousands of ingredients. For more information, contact Batchmaster® Software Corp., 13001 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach, CA 90740 (phone 562-799-8888, fax 562-799-8833, www.batchmaster.com).
• Networking Software links metal detection systems, checkweighers, temperature controllers, and other process controls to a combined location at the plant level and across multiple plant locations. The AE Info 2010® software features a forms automation system designed to collect HACCP documentation. Corporate food safety and quality control managers can access reports from a plant without taking plant management away from their duties. The software steps employees through the forms process. No information will be missing because an entry must be completed before the employee can move on to the next task. The program can be used to document quality assurance programs, inspection programs, HACCP programs, safety compliance programs, and preventive maintenance programs. Information collected from portable store and forward devices can be used with such monitoring products as the on-line temperature sampling station, on-line process monitoring (pH, viscosity, humidity, moisture level, flow rates, pressure, etc.), and continuous monitoring and data collection from equipment such as metal detectors, product inspection equipment, weighing equipment, etc. For more information, contact American Engineering Corp., P.O. Box 336, Collegedale, TN 37315 (phone 423-396-3666, fax 423-396-3668, www.americanengr.com).
• Automation Software Package, Key2Success, is an integrated suite of modules for automating plant floor operations for food manufacturers. The standard modules, which can be configured to the individual plant, include Key2Framework, an operating system which links all the modules; Key2Production, which relates to production requests and responses; Key2HACCP-Plan, which helps in creating a HACCP plan; Key2HACCP-Execute, which automates the collection of critical control point monitoring data and corrective action data; Key2QACP, which automates the collection of data which are important to food quality but do not involve food safety; and others. For more information, contact Bradley Ward Systems, 750 Hammond Dr., Bldg. 10, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30328 (phone 404-256-4855, fax 404-705-5170, www.bwsys.com).
• Formula Management Software, the Formula Tool Integrator, allows for ease and flexibility in the creation and costing of ingredient formulations for the flavor industry. It allows a formula creation department to keep track of all projects entered into the system via a project management module. Management and staff can track projects via project status and workflow processing queues. The core of the system is the formula workbench module. This allows the chemist to create formulas from scratch, retrieve a production formula and use it as a base, or merge and compare two formulas into one. The formula editor can view up to 20 separate formulas or 20 versions of a formula at the same time. Ingredients can be added and subformulas utilized by a drag-and-drop feature. For more information, contact The Akers group, Inc., 29 Main Ave., Elmwood Park, NJ 07407 (phone 201-475-7600, fax 201-475-7667, www.akersgroup.com).
• Plant Design and Automation Software described in a 6-p brochure includes CADWorx/PIPE and CADWorx/P&ID. The former is a computer-aided-design program for creating orthographic, isometric, and 3-dimensional piping drawings, and the latter is a program for creating comprehensive process and instrumentation diagrams. For a copy of the brochure, contact Coade, Inc., 12777 Jones Rd., Suite 480, Houston, TX 77070 (phone 800-899-8787 or 281-890-4566, fax 281-890-3301, www.coade.com).
• Piping Software, the SSE/Sanitary™ piping module for the CADWorx/PIPE software, is designed for use by the food, beverage, pharmaceutical, bio, and chemical industries. From the toolbars, the user can automatically insert and draw any and all fittings and valves. The piping design program can be used in any sized project using 2-dimensional orthographics, isometrics, or 3-dimensional modeling. A working demo of the piping module is available on the Coade Web site at www.coade.com. For more information, contact SSE Software Corp., 3004 S. Preston Hwy., Louisville, KY 40217 (phone 502-634-3050, fax 502-637-3803).
• HACCP Management Software prompts the user through U.S. Dept. of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration requirements to ensure that a complete HACCP plan is developed. Intuitive tools designed for beginners facilitate process flow diagramming, and defined HACCP tasks with simplified templates move the user through plan creation effortlessly. Automatic creation of hazard analysis tables ensures that no element is forgotten. Linked files make plan modifications easy—if a process step is changed, the HACCP tables and corrective action procedures are automatically updated. For more information about the Key2HACCP-Plan software, contact Bradley Ward Systems, 750 Hammond Dr., Bldg. 10, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30328 (phone 404-256-4855, fax 404-705-5170, www.bwsys.com).
• Formulation Software for developing least-cost recipes for multistep food products allows product developers to formulate new products to meet quality requirements, product specifications, and label requirements at the lowest cost. The program can formulate a recipe for products with multiple steps in a single computation, addressing complex constraints such as process shrink at various steps, label requirements for subproducts, and common ingredients among subproducts. Developers can define the specifications for a finished product by entering nutritional targets, such as calories, grams of fat, etc.; compositional targets, such as percent fat, protein, and carbohydrates; quality targets, such as color; minimum and maximum ingredient usage limits; sequence for labeling; and alternative ingredients. Once the specifications have been entered, a least-cost recipe is generated that includes the quantities of each ingredient in each subformulation and the finished product, and the specifications for each subformulation and the finished products. Additional recipes can easily be formulated by changing any of the specifications. For more information on the ROI Product Development System, contact Resource Optimization, Inc., 531 S. Gay St., Suite 1212, Knoxville, TN 37902 (phone 800-528-2047 or 423-522-2211, fax 423-522-7907, www.resourceopt.com).
• Thermal Processing Software, TPRO™, provides analysis and calculation of thermal process information, including heat penetration calculations. It also provides the flexibility to change any parameter that may affect thermal process calculations, as well as flexible ways to do calculations by the general method and the Ball method. For more information, contact Norback, Ley & Associates, LLC,3022 Woodland Trail, Middleton, WI 53562 (phone 608-233-3814, fax 608-233-3895, www.norbackley.com).
• HACCP Recordkeeping Software, Q-Pro Software, is designed for HACCP, SSOP, and quality control record keeping, providing reports that meet or exceed FDA requirements for HACCP and SSOP inspections. The data can be input directly into the computer without being put on paper first. The software can be run on a variety of computers, including small, portable, watertight, and environmentally resistant units that can be used right in the processing area. The software keeps records well organized and easily accessible and allows the reports to be printed or transmitted instantaneously using fax or e-mail. The program lists CCPs, critical limits, monitoring procedures, and predetermined corrective action plans and provides verification methods and records, a system of monitoring records, corrective action reports, calibration records, monitoring records, and sanitation-control records. The Quality Control Module lists defect inspectors, shows the performance level of the defect inspectors, assigns points according to seriousness of defects, automatically provides the grade of the product, provides a complete list of defects for each inspection, shows the efficiency of production lines, provides a list of defects for each product, and averages the inspection data for evaluation. For more information, contact East-West Technical Services, LLC, 34 Batterson Dr., New Britain, CT 06053 (phone 860-223-5165, fax 860-223-6005).
• HACCP and Food Safety Software, doHACCP™, assists in producing and maintaining accurate and consistent HACCP plans for food safety. It models the flow of materials as a series of inputs, operations, and outputs and builds the flow-of-materials diagram. It leads the user through the HACCP protocols and ties all HACCP planning information to that diagram. On-line assistance features include hypertext links within the support system and on-line documentation, context-sensitive help, and a “how to get started” button within the software. For more information, contact Norback, Ley and Associates, LLC, 3022 Woodland Trail, Middleton, WI 53562 (phone 608-233-3814, fax 608-233-3895, www.norbackley.com).
• HACCP Auditing Software, auditHACCP™, helps confirm safe operations and compliance with government regulations. It determines if controls are placed where the risks exist and helps to verify safe practice. It focuses on coordinating inspecting and auditing internal operations, remote plants, suppliers, co-packers, and clients, as well as compliance with government regulations. It provides real-time access to regulatory information and past audits. The program is a joint development effort of Norback, Ley & Associates LLC and J.J. Keller & Associates. For more information or a CDROM demo, contact J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 368, Neenah, WI 54957-0368 (phone 888-373-3171, fax 920-720-7645, www.jjkeller.com) or Norback, Ley & Associates LLC, 3022 Woodland Trail, Middleton, WI 53562 (phone 608-233-3814, fax 608-233-3895, www.norbackley.com).
• Meat and Seafood Processing Software, the PDS System, is designed to quickly capture all the pertinent information management needs to control the processing operations. The system helps management organize, monitor, and control such functions as breakdown formulas, cut room analysis, recipes, production, yield reporting, inventory movement, and waste. It provides the computer services necessary for (1) item breakdown, the process of cutting a larger portion of meat or fish into smaller items as defined by a cutting formula and then reporting and analyzing the results of the process; (2) recipe/fabrication/item buildup, the process of combining items according to a pre-established recipe or formula to produce finished products and then reporting on the process and analyzing the results; (3) bill of materials processing, the process of combining raw materials, consumables, labor, and overhead to arrive at manufactured costs; and (4) combination/boning line operation, producing any number of finished products from any number of raw materials and then analyzing and calculating the results. For more information, contact Provisioner Data Systems, Inc., 3467 W. Hillsboro Blvd., Suite 6, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442 (phone 888-332-9898 or 954-427-7007).
• HACCP Compliance Software Modules are available from J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. doHACCP™ guides the user step-by-step through building a HACCP plan, with HACCP protocols built into the software. It helps create and print flow-of-materials diagrams; link preventive measures to hazards and flow of material diagrams; work through critical control point decision trees; and maintain consistently formatted documents for every product under HACCP. doSOP™ shows how to record and organize standard operating procedures; create categories and subcategories for SOPs, including quality control, machine maintenance, and sanitation; integrate SOPs with the doHACCP program, using the same flow of materials diagram; and print SOP text for one or more SOP operations. recordHACCP™ helps customize templates and create and print forms for data collection at critical control points. It includes 34 templates that are reproductions of forms published by USDA. For more information on the Keller-Soft™ HACCP Compliance Software, contact J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc., P.O. Box 368, Neenah, WI 54957-0368 (phone 888-373-3171, fax 920-720-7645, www.jjkeller.com).
• Combinatorics Software, the VirtECS Problem Description System, allows for rapid adaptation to new scenarios. The software focuses on three main elements: tasks, resources, and equipment. Under each of these elements are over 100 descriptive elements for specifying routings, bills of materials, primary and secondary equipment, processing rates, inventory levels, demands, etc. The elements are connected together in a visual and interactive interface which allows the user to make changes to data with just a few mouse clicks or keystrokes. In addition to rapid “What if?” question formulation, the system automatically constructs a material flow diagram from data imported from a database, instantly transforming a voluminous amount of tabular data into a live diagram which can be interactively changed and probed. A detailed scheduling model can instantly be converted into a long-range planning model, and vice-versa. Only one set of data must be maintained, and the types of questions that can be answered with the same model can range from detailed operation to strategic analysis. The system’s diagnostic subsystem filters three classes of errors: (1) fatal errors, the inclusion or omission of data which will render a scheduling or planning problem infeasible, e.g., a missing routing which manifests itself as a missing connection in going from raw materials to finished product; (2) suspicious data, the inclusion or omission of data which may complicate a schedule or plan, e.g., missing storage or slightly mismatched rates; and (3) extraneous data, data which have little to do with the desired task—the system can generate reports on and exclude these data as they appear. For more information, contact Advanced Process Combinatorics, P.O. Box 2324, West Lafayette, IN 47996-2324 (phone 765-497-9969, fax 765-463-5126, www.combination.com).
Manufacture of cooked cereals. U.S. patent 5,997,934, filed 5/14/1997, issued 12/7/1999 to O. Geromini et al. Describes a process for the manufacture of cooked cereals or dry pet food by preparing a mixture of water and a dry premix of mainly cereal flour or semolina, cooking the mixture to gelatinize it, and extruding it by pressing it through an extrusion die with the aid of a gear pump.
Process for preparing improved oven-finished French fries. U.S. patent 5,997,938, filed 11/7/1997, issued 12/7/1999 to K.M. Taylor et al., assigned to The Procter & Gamble Co. Describes a process for quickly oven finishing (baking) oil-enrobed prebake fries to provide oven-finished French fries that have virtually the same taste and characteristics as deep-fat-fried French fries. The process involves trimming and cutting raw potatoes into strips; blanching; reducing the moisture content oven by drying or parfrying; and immersing in oil at about 270–335ºF to further reduce the moisture content and ensure that the oven-finished French fry develops an outer crust similar to that of a deep-fried French fry.
Method for processing rice. U.S. patent 5,997,930, filed 11/26/1997, issued 12/7/1999 to J.H. Kendall et al., assigned to Riviana Foods, Inc. Describes a method for processing rice to produce a quick-cooking rice ready for packaging, including the sequential steps of presteaming the rice to cause it to absorb moisture, steeping the rice in water to further process the rice and cause it to absorb further moisture, steam cooking the rice and cause it to absorb further moisture, and drying the rice in preparation for packaging. The method uses pressure cooking below 15 psi in a steam vessel. The method provides for the uniform cooking of the food granules in a continuous processing system without using or excreting excess water, and while avoiding the gluing together of the food granules.
Continuous manufacturing process and apparatus for preparing pre-cooked bacon. U.S. patent 5,997,925, filed 7/22/1997, issued 12/7/1999 to C.B. Wilson et al., assigned to Swift-Eckrich, Inc. Describes a continuous manufacturing process for preparing cooked or precooked bacon without the conventional curing and smoking for long time periods. A green pork belly is cut into slices, which are then moved continuously in a processing direction while cure ingredients are applied to them, then cooked for long enough for them to be no more than about 45% of their green weight. The product has the organoleptic properties of cooked, conventionally cured and smoked bacon.
Apparatus for continuous manufacture of viscous food products. U.S. patent 5,996,475, filed 3/9/1999, issued 12/7/1999 to G.F. Smith, assigned to Kraft Foods, Inc. Describes a method and apparatus for continuous manufacture of viscous food products such as process cheese–type products. The formulation is continuously pumped through a processing chamber comprising an elongated tube or housing having a rotor which shears the formulation as it travels longitudinally through the tube while imparting little or no axial motion to the formulation.
Method and control system for controlling pasteurization of in-shell eggs. U.S. patent 5,993,886, filed 12/31/1997, issued 11/30/1999 to L.S. Polster. Describes a method for controlling pasteurization of in-shell eggs. The method involves enveloping the eggs in a heated fluid and periodically determining (1) the internal temperature; (2) at least one log kill rate of Salmonella in the eggs based on the internal temperature, and (3) a cumulative log kill as a function of the log kill rate and time; and comparing the cumulative log kill to a predetermined value, generating a signal when the cumulative log kill is approximately equal to the desired degree of pasteurization.
Ice Cream Automation Software Developed
Software for automation of ice cream manufacturing has been developed at the Pennsylvania State University, University Park. Written by industrial engineers at the university in cooperation with Motorola Corp., the software enables the staff of the University Creamery to change flavors, control equipment speed, and switch from low-fat to full-fat frozen desserts and back again more easily, faster, and more cost effectively.
Richard Wysk (phone 814-863-1001), who holds the Leonhard Chair in Engineering, said that the new approach has the potential to be applied to any food manufacturing process. The software can produce a simulation that the plant manager can use to preview the actual process and product flow. He described the approach and a prototype at the Industrial Engineering Engineering Research Conference in Phoenix, Ariz., on May 24.
Writing the software to control machines and synchronize their activities can be the most expensive part of plant automation, Wysk said. Writing software for automated ice cream making had the added challenge of requiring a hybrid controller that works for both continuous and discrete processing activities. For example, the same controller has to manage the continuous process when the dasher scrapes ice crystals into the ice cream mix to control ice crystal size, as well as the discrete activity when the ice cream is packaged. Using concepts from a shop floor control system, called RapidCIM—developed by engineers at Penn State, Texas A&M University, and Systems Modeling Corp.—Wysk and colleagues developed a prototype hybrid controller for the Penn State Creamery. The new prototype is being used with new equipment donated by Gram and Taylor to make ice cream solely for research purposes. Arena RT software developed by Systems Modeling Corp., Swickley, Pa., is being used to get feedback from the equipment.
Normally, Wysk said, computer simulation is used to analyze a system, but now we’re using the same software to analyze the system and then to physically control the system being modeled.
PROCESS EQUIPMENT, both batch and continuous, for the food, confectionery, and other industries is described in a 12-p brochure, “Process Equipment Solutions Guide.” Included are descriptions of laboratory and pilot-plant equipment, direct steam-jacketed kettles for heating and cooling, self-contained steam-jacketed kettles, agitator kettles, thin-film heat exchangers/evaporators, scraped-surface heat exchangers/evaporators, refrigerated food production systems, and other equipment. For a copy of the brochure, contact Groen Process Equipment Group, 1900 Pratt Blvd., Elk Grove Village, IL 60007 (phone 847-439-2400, fax 847-364-3097, www.groen.com) —or circle 363.
GRATING MILL, the Crop Chopper, produces uniformly sized pieces with clean-cut edges. Suited for granulating, low-fines chopping, coarse prechopping, grating, or pureeing of such products as non-stoned fruits, vegetables, herbs, roots, and other products, the top-loading mill features two expeller bars welded to seven fixed blades. As product enters themill, the blades slice it into approximately 2-in pieces, and the bars swipe the pieces against the concave side of a curved perforated screen. Portions of the product are grated off by the sharp edges of the holes in the screen, passed through the holes, and ejected. The EG400/50 model can process up to 6 tons/hr, and the EG400/75 can process up to 10 tons/hr. For more information, contact Goodnature Products, Inc., P.O. Box 866, Buffalo, NY 14240 (phone 716-855-3325, fax 716-855-3328, www.goodnature.com) —or circle 364.
SPRAY NOZZLE MAINTENANCE HANDBOOK discusses costs associated with improper nozzle performance and describes the basic problems due to erosion/wear, corrosion, clogging, high temperature, caking, accidental damage, and improper assembly. For a copy of the 56-p booklet, Manual 403, contact Spraying Systems Co., P.O. Box 7900, Wheaton, IL 60189-7900 (phone 800-957-7729, fax 888-957-7729, www.spray.com) —or circle 365.
ULTRAVIOLET LIGHTS are designed to eradicate the microbes that contaminate food and beverage products. The UVC Emitters™ borrow from laser technology to gain efficiency when operated in moving air environments, even when the air is cold or freezing, providing continuous eradication of mold, bacteria, and phage. A variety of fixture designs and tube lengths are available, allowing the lights to be applied in almost any food processing application. For more information, contact Steril-Aire, Inc., 11100 E. Artesia Blvd., Suite D, Cerritos, CA 90703 (phone 562-467-8484, fax 562-467-8481)—or circle 366.
FLUID HANDLING SYSTEMS can be custom designed for the processing, filtering, or transfering of liquids. The turnkey systems can be portable or skid mounted. Systems can feature any configuration of vessels, valves, fittings, controls, pumps, mixers, gauges, and other components. For more information, contact Pope Scientific, Inc., 351 N. DeKora Woods Blvd., Saukville, WI 53080 (phone 262-268-9300, fax 262-268-9400)—or circle 367.
SCREENING AND PROCESSING EQUIPMENT for bulk solid materials and slurries are described in a 6-p catalog. It describes applications, principle of operation, size range, capacities, and key features for vibratory screeners, centrifugal screeners, static sieves, fluid bed dryers/coolers/moisturizers, and pellet coaters. For a copy of the Condensed Catalog, contact Kason Corp., 67-71 E. Willow St., Millburn, NJ 07041 (phone 973-467-8140, fax 973-258-9533, www.kason.com) —or circle 368.
ULTRAVIOLET SYSTEMS for disinfection of beverages, dairy products, and packaging are described in a series of 4-p brochures showing how UV disinfection works and what its benefits are. For copies of the brochures, contact Aquionics Inc., P.O. Box 18395, Erlanger, KY 41018 (phone 800-925-0440 or 606-341-0710, fax 606-341-0350, www.aquionics.com) —or circle 369.
by NEIL H. MERMELSTEIN