Several initiatives were needed at the Taiyo Foods Nori Division’s plant to provide higher quality products, among which humidity control proved crucial. It was necessary to look at humidity in real-time within the area in order to review the entire operation, starting with air conditioning.
An IoT solution using Lenovo’s loT gateway “Think Centre M90n-1 Nano loT” and loT middleware “Gravio” was tested and implemented, enabling the real-time collection of temperature and humidity changes at various factory locations to ensure proper operations.
• The new system not only automates the temperature and humidity inspections previously performed manually but also allows for real-time detection of irregularities and other problems.
• It is now possible to precisely detect changes in humidity in various parts of the factory and pinpoint issues that significantly impact humidity.
• It has become easier to respond to humidity on a data-driven basis, especially taking proactive measures against the decline in production efficiency caused by seasonal factors, such as the rainy season.
• The correlation between the quality of nori products and the humidity in the factory can now be analyzed, making it possible to improve the effectiveness of quality control measures.
Producing seaweed products at a pace of 8 million pieces per month
Taiyo Foods is a manufacturer and distributor of processed seafood products founded in Nagasaki Prefecture in 1958. The company aims to provide “genuine, safe, and healthy food,” which is its motto, and is primarily engaged in the production and sales of cod roe and issei-surimi (horse mackerel fillet-infused seaweed products).
The Omura Plant, the production base for seaweed products, has a monthly production capacity of 7 to 8 million pieces and manufactures various seaweed products. One of the most important factors in maintaining and improving its production efficiency is humidity control.
“The nori products we produce daily, such as seasoned nori, are what we call ‘dry foods,’ and keeping them dry during the production and distribution process is vital. Nori is particularly sensitive to humidity, and if the moisture content exceeds a certain level, the post-production quality of the product will be affected. Therefore, it is essential to maintain proper humidity levels within the factory,” explains Mr. Nakayama.
In addition, the importance of humidity control has increased over the past few years due to the mechanization of production lines.
“In recent years, our factory has also encountered labor shortages. The Omura Plant has been actively mechanizing its production lines to address this problem. Still, as a result, the effect of humidity on production efficiency has become even more significant because when humidity is high, cut pieces and other materials inevitably stick to the machines, increasing the number of times they have to be stopped and cleaned. Therefore, humidity control inside the factory is more important than ever,” says Mr. Nakayama.
To thoroughly control humidity and improve production efficiency, the Omura Plant has begun introducing an loT-based temperature and humidity visualization solution centered on Lenovo’s ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano loT gateway and the Gravio loT middleware. It was jointly proposed by CEC, which is leading the trial implementation, Asteria, which provides the loT middleware “Gravio,” and Lenovo, which provides the edge device, and has already begun verification at the production site.
As part of its humidity control efforts, the Omura Plant conducted periodic inspections of moisture levels in various plant areas. Concretely, the staff in charge visited each part of the plant once a day to check temperature and humidity levels with a measuring device.
This inspection work has given the company a good grasp of the factory’s daily temperature and humidity conditions. However, it was reported that the detailed changes in temperature and humidity at each location had not been fully captured. Mr. Masashi Otosho, plant manager of the Nori Division, describes the problem as follows:
“If we can’t capture real-time changes in temperature and humidity throughout the factory, we can’t see in detail which events have the greatest impact on the humidity within the factory. If we can’t see that, we can’t find the appropriate responses to enhance humidity countermeasures. As a result, the environmental improvement efforts will have a hard time moving forward.”
According to Mr. Otosho, various events can influence humidity inside the factory, such as materials being brought in, products being shipped out, workers coming in and out of the factory, and human perspiration. Therefore, collecting humidity data from various locations in real-time was necessary to capture any changes. For this purpose, Mr. Otosho recognized the great potential of loT solutions.
The data collected and processed by Gravio is transferred and visualized on a PC within the plant’s offices, and the visualized temperature and humidity data is updated each minute. Additionally, an alert function emits warnings when abnormal temperature and humidity values are detected.
Although the ThinkCentre M90n-1 Nano loT / Gravio system has only been in operation for a short time, this IoT solution generates growing expectations.
From a quality control perspective, Mr. Mori points out, “Until now, we have not been able to obtain detailed humidity data, and therefore could not analyze the correlation between changes in humidity and product quality in detail. We believe the loT solution will enable us to conduct such analyses.”
Mr. Nakayama also hopes to achieve stable production with fewer seasonal fluctuations through thorough humidity control using the loT solution. According to Nakayama, the production efficiency of nori products usually drops by about 10% during the rainy season, when humidity is high. Overcoming this seasonal challenge has been difficult for the company year after year.
“If we could raise production efficiency during the rainy season to the same level as during other seasons, we would be able to increase our annual production volume greatly. To achieve this, we must establish an effective method to keep the humidity in the factory below a certain level. We anticipate that the loT’s data collection and visualization will prove effective in carrying out this task,” says Mr. Nakayama.
According to Mr. Otosho, the Nori Division handles approximately 200 different types of products. The ideal environment for the production site is one in which the effects of temperature and humidity changes are minimized as possible so that production can be planned and executed most efficiently. The loT solution is continuously operating to support the creation of such an environment.
“The production efficiency of our nori products depends heavily on the humidity inside the factory. By visualizing the moisture levels inside the factory, the loT solution will enable us to thoroughly control humidity and maintain the factory’s production capacity on a high level.”
Senior Managing Director and Head of Nori Division, Taiyo Foods Co.
Mr. Takahiro Nakayama
“Once we can identify issues that significantly impact humidity within the factory, we will be able to implement effective anti-humidity measures. In order to achieve this, we feel that it is essential to accurately capture changes in moisture levels at various locations throughout the factory using loT.”
Plant Manager, Nori Division, Taiyo Foods Co.
Mr. Masashi Otosho
“From a quality control perspective, analyzing the correlation between humidity and quality is crucial. We expect the loT solution to provide us with a lot of valuable data in this regard.”
Manager, Quality Control, Taiyo Foods Co.
Mr. Kota Mori