The food & beverage industry is one of Europe’s biggest manufacturing sectors in terms of jobs and added value. It’s estimated that there are approximately 290,000 companies employing over 4.2 million employees and generating an annual turnover of over €1trillion.


But today’s manufacturers are increasingly challenged to satisfy demands for improved safety and sustainability while also complying with stringent regulatory requirements and attempting to account for rising costs.


Thankfully, there are numerous solutions for accessible and economical improvements. Technologies such as sensors, industrial controls, enclosures, PLCs and HMIs, motors and motion controls, pneumatics and fluid controls, and wires and cables help manufacturers capitalize on automation trends that can improve product quality, save time and money, and keep costs down while driving sustainability trends that can reduce energy and food waste costs to bolster competitive edge.


There are several types of sensors that can help manufacturers achieve their food safety, process improvement, and sustainability goals.


Proximity sensors detect the presence of nearby objects without any physical contact, reducing the complexity of food production zone hygiene and cleanability requirements. Variations suitable for use in damp conditions and a wide range of temperatures are widely available.


Pressure sensors measure the pressure of contained liquids or gases and can be used to regulate milk tanks on dairy farms and fermentation tanks in breweries as well as to discharge pressure from diaphragm pumps and sterilization equipment. Due to the stringent safety and sanitation requirements of the food and beverage industry, pressure sensors must be accurate, reliable, ruggedised to withstand high sterilization temperatures, and designed with no gaps for clean-in-place and sterilization-in-place processes.


Liquid level sensors monitor and help regulate the levels of free-flowing substances, such as liquids, powders, and pastes, within contained spaces, like silos and vats, and they can help manufacturers achieve sustainability goals by saving raw materials, water, energy, and labour.


Other essential types include photoelectric, temperature, vision, and flow sensors.


Industrial controls encompass all the various devices, systems, and networks used to automate and otherwise manage industrial processes. They include products extending from contactors, counters, timers, and disconnect switches to panel meters, machine guardingand machine safety equipment, specialized automation, level, safety, and temperature controllers, and even robots.


These types of products can control the speed of conveyor belts or packaging processes to maximize operational efficiency and automatically shut off machinery to protect against injury or equipment damage.


Industrial control products can be quick and easy to set up, which reduces installation costs, and provide precise control performance with a fast-sampling period, which ensures accurate and responsive control capabilities.


Temperature controllers measure the temperature of the thermocouple, compare it to the set point, and calculate the amount of time that a heater should run in order to maintain a constant temperature. They are used in applications including industrial ovens and support energy savings and sustainability goals.


Enclosures are another essential category of food and beverage solutions. These products provide critical protection for the various electronics that comprise industrial control systems, including wires, cables, connectors, fans, and PCBs.


Enclosures designed for food and beverage applications are often engineered to withstand high-pressure and minus temperature washdowns, resist bacteria growth and chemical absorption, and prevent corrosion resulting from frequent cleaning and sanitizing. Many also have streamlined hygienic designs that prevent fluids from pooling on the enclosure and bacteria from harbouring in nooks and crannies.

4 - PLCs and HMIs

PLCs are used to control electromechanical processes in automated manufacturing systems. Sensors send PLCs information about system conditions, and PLCs use that sensor data to transmit programmed responses to devices like pumps, heaters, and actuators that can directly affect the automated process. 


HMIs allow operators to control systems through a display interface that visually represents the process being controlled and can pull up input and output information with a few taps or keystrokes. 


Both types of devices are integral to upgrading legacy food and beverage manufacturing and packaging systems and can help manufacturers integrate time - and cost-saving and quality-improving digitalization and automation trends. 


Motors and motor controls go hand in hand. Industrial motors are used to convert electrical power into the mechanical power required to run applications including conveyors, pumps, and air-moving systems, while motor controls help manage motors by controlling their direction (i.e., forward or reverse), regulating their speed and torque, and protecting them against electrical failures. 


Pneumaticand fluid control solutions offer a safe, versatile, and cost-effective way to power a wide range of systems. Pneumatic systems use the flow and pressure of air or compressed gases to drive automated equipment, and because they’re powered by air or gases rather than oils or hazardous liquids, they can also help food and beverage manufacturers work towards their sustainability goals.


Wires and cables are vital elements of any machinery installation, and when they’re deployed in the food and beverage industry, they must adhere to strict hygiene regulations, ruggedly withstand hazards including corrosive and aggressive cleaning and sanitizing agents, temperature extremes, and water ingress, and reliably resist bio-oils, fats, and fruit and lactic acids.


Many leading connectivity suppliers offer a range of wire and cable solutions optimized to satisfy these and other hygiene and safety demands, and the same goes for cable management solutions such as cable ties, installation tools, cable protection systems, and cable identification.


RS offers an extensive range of food and beverage products from industry-leading suppliers and can provide end-to-end support. Our vast selection of food and beverage solutions includes more than 78,000 in-stock and ready-to-ship solutions.


Well-represented product categories include sensors, industrial controls, enclosures, PLCs and HMIs, motors and motor controls, pneumatics and fluid controls, and wire and cable as well as materialhandling and packaging, preventative maintenance, and facilities maintenance products.


Our team has the technical expertise to help you design for scalability, ensure regulatory compliance and achieve your operational efficiency and sustainability goals. For assistance identifying and deploying food and beverage products optimized to overcome your unique challenges and achieve your goals, please contact your local RS account manager or Sales team.


Article written by Alicia Keene


Category Marketing Manager at RS.