We recently held the annual Sanitary Design Workshop in Chicago, and this important food safety training event continues to get better every year (Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery is the exclusive media sponsor of the event). The core focus is “Equipment & Plant Design for Allergen & Pathogen Control in Low Moisture Foods,” covering best practices through presentations and hands-on activities. Snack and bakery companies from all over the country send their up-and-coming sanitation and engineering personnel to this event to elevate their business and bring it in line with today’s top food safety and regulatory standards. Top leadership from General Mills, Kellogg Co., PepsiCo and Nestlé, among others, spearhead the proceedings.

A great new addition to this year’s workshop was an augmented reality demonstration by Harvin AR. Augmented reality technology superimposes a holographic image on the user’s environment, viewable through a special headset (this should not be confused with virtual reality, which is an immersive experience—augmented reality simply adds a digital layer to the real world). At the Sanitary Design Workshop, Harvin AR presented an augmented reality demonstration that walked the user through the steps required to dismantle a conveyor belt, ostensibly for cleaning and sanitation purposes. At the conclusion of the workshop, Kerwin Brown, president and CEO of BEMA, used the technology to guide him through the disassembly of a real conveyor belt—something he had no familiarity with—and he achieved his task quickly and without any difficulty.

The goal was to illustrate the great potential in using augmented reality as a tool in supporting snack and bakery plant staff in maintenance, sanitation and other tasks. Think of it as a next-generation equipment manual—one that goes well beyond what any HMI guide or printed manual could ever achieve. It was a fascinating demonstration, and I fully expect this technology to begin making inroads to snack and bakery operations.

Anything we can do to help speed the learning curve for plant staff to reduce line downtime will quickly reap rewards in terms of ROI. Watch for multimedia coverage of this technology at www.snackandbakery.com in the near future.