School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

Research

Digital technologies for improving productivity and resilience of food manufacturing

Digital technologies for improving productivity and resilience of food manufacturing

Actors across the food manufacturing supply chain are evolving their practices to reduce waste, meet the food security challenge and address changing consumer needs, aided by the emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). While such improved connectivity promotes greater collaboration and customer service, it also presents new challenges and obstacles.

Our Aim

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has recently highlighted that 50-70% more food must be produced by 2050 to meet the needs of the growing population and changing dietary demands. Studies also emphasise that over the past 40 years climate change has caused the loss of a third of the Earth’s arable land and that roughly one third of food produced globally for human consumption is wasted.

This project aims to encourage and enable the wide-scale adoption of digital technologies across the food sector and to develop a roadmap for implementing a transition to Industry 4.0. These include sensor technology and image recognition for real-time data collection and processing, industrial robots for food customisation and personalisation, and connectivity via ‘Internet of things’ to drive further automation and improved productivity and resilience within the food supply chain. While these technologies can help to reduce costs, arguably more important is their contribution to managing complexity, controlling operations and improving responsiveness.

Our Research

This project explores the opportunities presented by adoption of modern digital technologies within food manufacturing through three lenses, namely:

Lens 1: SMART real-time resource efficient production,

Lens 2: Resilient and productive food supply chains, and

Lens 3: Improved consumer engagement to promote sustainable consumption.

Our Outcomes

The project has identified actionable insights that are being pursued through a number of regional and national initiatives that maximise the benefits achievable through implementation of digital technologies. These include creating new food safety, quality and traceability standards; developing common standards in taxonomies for data sharing, and in data security, access and storage; generating new cost-benefit analysis tools to promote innovative business models; and finally developing user friendly cost-effective digital tools to support much needed behavioural change to improve sustainable food consumption.

Professor Shahin Rahimifard - Professor of Sustainable Engineering

We aim to support actors across the food manufacturing supply chain to evolve their practices, based on the opportunities offered by Industry 4.0 and associated digital technologies, to address chronic productivity and sustainability challenges. 

Professor Shahin Rahimifard - Professor of Sustainable Engineering

Athena Swan Bronze award

Contact us

The Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering
Loughborough University
Loughborough
Leicestershire
LE11 3TU