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Like clockwork: Tetra Pak keeps food and drink safe

11 September, 2017

In the liquid food business, a stern clock often rules the day.

The milk clock.

When thousands of liters of farm-fresh milk arrive for processing and packaging, workers and machines quickly transfer that white gold into aseptic, or sterile, cartons. But if one part fails on the production line, the entire operation may go offline for days, leaving a plant unable to store thousands of soon-to-spoil gallons.

This is where Tetra Pak keeps the milk flowing – safely and on schedule.

Tetra Pak, headquartered in Switzerland, supplies food processing and packaging solutions to manufacturers in more than 175 countries. Tetra Pak is employing new, digital tools that enable its cloud-connected machines to predict exactly when equipment needs maintenance, averting many breakdowns.

Sensors on more than 5,000 Tetra Pak filling machines at customers’ sites, all connected to Microsoft Azure, feed real-time performance data to the company for monitoring and analysis – nearly 700 million data points each year. As a result, maintenance can be scheduled precisely and efficiently.

“We can now proactively support our customers (by) predicting and preventing failures, actually before they happen at our customer sites,” says Ilkka Dunder, director digitalization of services at Tetra Pak Services. The data, in turn, “saves the customer a lot of money and increases the up time of their equipment.”

For the equipment breakdowns that occasionally occur, Tetra Pak has streamlined machine diagnostics and repairs for customers. The company outfits service engineers with HoloLens devices, Microsoft’s mixed reality technology.

A systems specialist can remotely guide a HoloLens-wearing service engineer, who is on site, fixing the machine thousands of miles away. This cuts repair time, allowing the machines to continue to run and the milk to flow.