– If you can find a common core technology.
In Dr. Odd Myklebust's view –what will make iProcess succeed? In the not so distant future, all production will be characterized by greater flexibility and customization.
Dr. Odd Myklebust of Sintef and NTNU, expert in innovation management, told the participants at the iProcess Kick off meeting, as the first speaker. Dr. Myklebust was hired to kick the Kickoff off with an outside perspective, from another industry. Being an expert in innovation management, the temptation to ask questions – seemingly dumbfounded by the lack of progress in parts of the processing industry – like "Why do you not just process the fish while still frozen – it would be so much easier!?" – could not be resisted. No obstacle too large to overcome, of course.
The food processing industry will not avoid the quest for flex and cust, with automatisation limits endlessly stretched, Dr. Myklebust said, to be able to use ever more of the raw material and become sustainable production units.
Hopefully, the Norwegian food processing industry will reach what Dr. Myklebust calls The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or rather: Industrie 4.0.
– A gigantic German industry program, characterized by the increased use of communication through the entire chain of production. Also important is the use of Big Data, The Internet of Things and Cyber Physical System in an industrial context so that the industry can make use of them, and thereby become more efficient, sustainable and profitable.
– What special concerns apply for the food processing industry?
– Maintaining the quality of the fresh food, taste-, texture- and nutrition- wise. When you work with steel or electronics, the product does not simply vanish between your fingers.
An important part of the future for processing industries, according to Myklebust, is CPS – Cyber Physical Systems. Simply put; interaction between virtual systems and the physical labourer.
– The use of computer models and real time data transference in the production line.
– Do these new paradigms and systems apply only for industrial producers?
– No. The systems aren't expensive. Computers are cheap. Sensors are cheap. Computer chips are cheap. The know-how and competence might be a bit costly, but these things will be in everyday use in not many years.
Acquiring this knowledge will be the main challenge for the Norwegian food processing industry, in Dr. Myklebust's opinion.
– But I am confident it can be done. Perhaps it is BMW who travels to Hitra to learn about effective and sustainable production in 20 years? It can be done, and in fact it needs to be done, if we want to save the welfare state
In Myklebust's view, the iProcess project will play an important role in doing so. But not without tackling an important challenge.
– There are many participants, but limited funding. A key to success will be finding some form of joint core technology, that can be utilized by each of the industrial partners. They have complex and diverse problems that need solutions. Each partner cannot expect to have customized solutions. There must be some common model. That is up to the research group.
Another important message from Dr. Myklebust:
– The researchers need to come up with something that will benefit the entire industry – not only the ones taking part in this particular project.
If we can do this, the iProcess project will be a success, he says.
– This is a ground breaking project, with an incredible Norwegian consortium gathered, with extremely skillful scientists and an industrial consortium able to impose requirements. I think it is unbelievably important that the Norwegian Research Council is now funding this kind of project – I think it's a first. If that is kept up, I am certain that Norwegian food production can be among the most profitable in the world – with world class quality. And I am sure iProcess will be an important part of the development of the future Norwegian food industry.