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The Indian food and beverages market is expanding rapidly and is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 7.5 per cent during 2009-13 and would touch US$ 330 billion by 2013. The food retail industry, currently at US$ 70 billion is predicted to grow more than double to US$ 150 billion by 2025. India’s food retail industry is poised for exponential growth. With the evolution of innovative food processing capacity and the emergence of organized retail, change in consumption patterns along with fast changing demographics and habits is fuelling the next growth trajectory for the food industry in India. The Indian fast food market is growing at an annual rate of 25-30%. Foreign fast food chains are aggressively increasing their presence in the country. For instance, Domino’s has planned to open 60-65 outlets every year for the next three years (2010-2012) while Yum Brands Inc is also preparing for massive expansion across the country with plans to open 1000 fast food outlets by 2015.

Exports of agricultural products from India are expected to cross around US$ 22 billion mark by 2014 and account for 5 per cent of the world’s agriculture exports, according to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA). Exports of floriculture, fresh fruits and vegetables, processed fruits and vegetables, animal products, other processed foods and cereals stood at US$ 7,347.07 million in 2009-10, according to DGCIS annual data published by APEDA.


The Indian non-alcoholic drinks market was estimated at around US$ 4.43 billion in 2008 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of around 15 per cent during 2009-2012.The fruit/vegetable juice market will grow at a CAGR of around 30 per cent in value terms during 2009-2012, followed by the energy drinks segment which will grow at a CAGR of around 29 per cent during the same period. With food production expected to double by 2025, large investments are already going into food and food processing technologies, skills and equipment.

Automation in F&B Industry

Key industry trends

  • The dairy industry in general has moved from the production of milk to several value-added products like milk powder, cheese, and butter. As production volumes and plant scales have expanded, most of the mega dairies have moved to distributed control system (DCS) control architecture from the control systems based on programmable logic controllers (PLC). Usage of an advanced control system like model predictive control (MPC) has found success in the milk powder plants of some of the mega dairies. MES has wide acceptance in the Indian dairy industry owing to large manufacturing operations. Data Historian software suites have also found increased usage due to regulatory requirements of the domestic and several export markets.

  • Brewery automation is a combination of several batch, sequential, and process control in the brewing process and high-speed discrete control in the packaging section. Usage of software suites targeted specifically at the brewery industry, like the Braumat of Siemens and Brewhouse of Rockwell Automation has become a norm. 

Customer requirement specific solutions

The F&B industry in India has different types of automation requirements, for example, an automation-savvy global F&B giant, an indigenous mid-sized manufacturer or a small player, depending on its usage. Differential automation ranges from single loop proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controllers to individually controlled island of automation to a fully integrated automation & IT system. Today’s global and highly competitive business environment poses challenges like increasing business complexity with several product lines and a need to interface several business processes like manufacturing, supply-chain, and marketing. There should be shorter product life cycle with even shorter time-to-market and rising manufacturing costs, fluctuating commodity prices and low margins.

The automation solution

Automation of F&B processes presents quite a unique set of challenges. Some of the most pressing automation requirements for the industry are:

  • Scalability and flexibility of control to cope with ever-changing product lines, changing customer preferences, and seasonal demands

  • Streamlined manufacturing system for timely manufacturing, because many ingredients have limited shelf-lives

  • Adaptive control system to maintain consistency of taste amid changing recipes, variable quality of ingredients, and other environmental factorsLocal and international safety compliance standards like international food standards (IFS version 5), HACCP, ISO 22.000:2005, and BRC

Integrated approach

Integrated plant-wide control system along with packaging line automation with identification and traceability systems have posed several advantages for the F&B manufactures to enhance efficiency across manufacturing and business processes. The integrated automation system imparts flexibility, provides scope for improvement ,optimisation, and reduces business risks. F&B manufacturers need detailed insight into production efficiency, production margins, and final profitability. The usage of manufacturing execution system (MES) integrated with enterprise resource planning (ERP) system empowers manufacturers to maintain tighter control on all aspects of business.

Need of domain expertise

Automation of F&B processes is unique in the sense that it entails several combinations of process, sequential, batch, and discrete control within one unit. F&B manufacturers pay a premium to automation vendors who demonstrate domain expertise. Domain expertise include understanding of subtle aspects of food technology, regulatory requirements, and substantial working experience with particular F&B segment.

Presently in F&B automation technology the trend is towards having a dedicated suite of automation products targeted at specific end-users. Companies like Siemens and Rockwell Automation have several dedicated product lines targeted at dairy, brewery, tobacco, and edible oils among others. The products comprise several specialised programs and control algorithms targeted at every production process, from the reception of raw materials / ingredients, process control, printing and packaging management till the final dispatch of the finished product. This suite of products provide seamless connectivity to the plant ERP system, enabling the manufacturer to have control on the overall profitability.

Future scenario

The need for automation in the F&B industry is expected to be fuelled by efficiency requirements, regulatory obligations, and demand for higher profitability. As the scale of operations become increasingly complex for F&B manufacturers, they are expected to become ever more conducive to invest in most new technologies and products to collaborate between various manufacturing and business processes in-house along with network partners. Automation will increasingly become a key differentiating factor among competitors already challenged by low margins, strict regulations, and shifting customer preferences. As India braces itself for a continued consumer boom, the coming years are expected to be exciting for the F&B Industry