Module 1. Overview of IT applications in dairy industry

Lesson 1


1.1  Introduction

This lesson will introduce the concept and strength of Information technology (IT), importance of computerization in dairy industry, applications of IT in Dairy Industries and an overview of course contents. These topics will be useful to create IT awareness among the students and its importance and applications in dairy industry.

IT has emerged as a frontier know how for addressing complex problems related to any subject. Innovations made in the field of information technology have revolutionized the ways of collection, storage, retrieval, processing & communication of qualitative & value added information.  Information technology has made a great impact on the society. In computer age, not even a single area whether scientific, commercial, art, social, etc., is untouched from the benefits of information technology. It has, therefore, become an integral part of academic curriculum of almost every discipline. IT has played a significant role in food and dairy processing as well, particularly in the solution of problems, data collection and analysis, online production monitoring, image processing, sensory evaluation, quality control, process control, etc., in addition to routine applications such as word processing and graphics.

The dairy sector has grown many folds during the last few decades, the changes being particularly perceivable after the liberalization of Indian economy, which has opened new opportunities in this area. Though India is the number one milk producing country in the world, most of the milk is consumed in raw form rather than milk products partly due to lack of adequate milk processing facilities. The demand for milk and milk products is increasing day by day. With the rise in economic status, the consumer is more conscious about quality of milk products. Multi-national companies are coming forward for setting up of large dairy farms and milk processing plants with huge investments. To keep high quality standards, these upcoming plants are fully automated.  Most of the machines are process control and computer numerical control (CNC) based to perform routine plant operations. Activities related to personnel, finance, marketing, inventory management, supply chain management etc. are being computerized using high end software such as ERP, SAP, etc.

1.2  Information Technology

IT has become a popular word among common men. IT is a converging spectrum of technologies that includes telecommunications (such as telephony, cable, satellite, and computer networks), computing (computers, intranet, the Internet, software and mobile phones) and broadcasting (Radio and TV technologies). Internet is the latest in the range of IT spectrum. IT facilitates in collection, storage, processing, analyzing, retrieval, transfer and dissemination of information and communication services.

Information technology is associated with mankind since the development of printing press. Therefore, it is not a new item, only the method and tools have changed from old time. Developments in the field of IT have transformed the world in information and communication sector. They have made old services more efficient and as well as added new services and new dimensions in the services. IT was the key technology of the 20th century and will also play a lead role in 21st century. Reduction in the prices of computing and communication devices has played a significant role in bringing IT to the door step of common man.  IT has made a great impact on all corners of the society. Today we are living in the age of “Information Society”, that is a society where the ability to access, search, use, create, and exchange information is the key for individual and collective well being. Internet along with World Wide Web (WWW) is one of the most interesting and exciting phenomena of IT for information dissemination.

Information technology includes all matters concerned with the furtherance of computer science and technology and with the design, development, installation and implementation of information systems and applications. Information technology architecture is an integrated framework for acquiring and evolving IT to achieve strategic goals. It has both logical and technical components. Logical components include objectives, functional and information requirements, system configurations, and information flows. Technical components include IT standards and rules that will be used to implement the logical structure. The technology of computers, telecommunications, and other devices that integrate data, equipment, personnel, and problem solving methods in planning and controlling business activities is called Information Technology.

Government of India has also recognized the importance of IT applications in all functional areas including animal husbandry and dairying. This is evidently reflected from the recommendations of the National Task Force on IT for linking all villages through computer network. Subsequently, some progressive states and organizations/institutions have made pioneering efforts in this direction. As a result, a few villages have been linked together through a computer network in some regions of the country, viz., Warna Wired Villages (in Maharashtra state) and MS Swaminathan Info Villages in Chennai, Information Village of MANAGE, Hyderabad, e-choupals developed by ITC Ltd., Secundrabad, etc. These info villages are connected thorough hybrid form of wired and wireless technologies for communications. They are using Indian regional and local languages for effective interaction among the farmers and the experts such as Tamil, Marathi, Hindi, etc.

1.2.1  Strength of IT

Major strength of IT lies in collection, storage, processing, analyzing, retrieval and dissemination of information. The application of electronic communication, information digitization and imaging technologies offers new and effective methods of developing and delivery of instructions, training and learning over the traditional methods. Following are the advantages of using IT tools:

·         Speed and accuracy of data processing

·         Large storage capacity of data or information

·         Variety of tasks can be performed

·         Automation of activities for example process control applications

·         Reduction in cost in long run

·         Reduced manpower requirement

·         Better quality of work, improved customer image, management confidence, etc.

·         Promoting informatics led resource planning and management

·         Strengthening research, education, training, extension and development linkages

·         Improved marketing of milk and milk products

·         E-commerce for direct linkages between local producers, traders, retailers and suppliers.

1.3  Importance of Computerization in Dairy Industry

In India, dairy sector is growing very fast. At present, India is the largest milk producing country in the world.  India’s milk production is increasing at the rate of more than 3.5% while in the world it is increasing at rate of 1%, approximately. A number of dairy plants in organized sector are coming up to handle large quantity of milk to meet the demand of public for providing quality milk and milk products at low cost. A large dairy plant involves diversified activities like procurement of milk, processing of milk, manufacturing of milk products, marketing, inventory control, human resource management, etc. The complexity in these operations increases with scaling up of handling capacity of milk, manufacturing variety of milk products and multiple locations of manufacturing units.  Therefore, it is imperative to employ state-of-the-art information technology tools to manage multifaceted operations of dairy plant and to disseminate information efficiently and effectively by minimizing losses during handling, processing, manufacturing and transportation of milk and milk products.

Applications of information technology have been proved very beneficial in management and operation of dairy plants. Computer based information systems and process controlled machines have assisted the management in speeding up data processing activities and maintaining quality control of milk products. For example various computerized operations like receiving of milk at dock yard and checking its quality instantly, timely payment to suppliers, monitoring manufacturing process, labor efficiency, PFA standard of milk products, tracking employee’s record, etc., have shown tremendous improvement and impact of IT on end users.

Realizing the importance of computerization and information technology two decades back, National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Karnal introduced one full semester course titled “Computer Application in Dairy Industry” in the 4th year curriculum of B.Tech (Dairy Technology) programme in the year 1990. Subsequently, various State Agriculture Universities (SAU) adopted this course for B.Tech. (DT) programme.  High level committee established by ICAR for reforming UG and PG courses offered by ICAR institutes and SAUs, has revised the contents of this course and renamed it as “IT in Dairy Industry” which is currently being offered during 3rd year of B.Tech. (DT) programme.  

1.4  IT Applications in Dairying

Dairying is one of the prospective area in which IT can be effectively applied particularly for office automation, plant operations, food and dairy processing. Successful attempts have been made in the past to computerize various aspects of dairying to improve productivity and efficiency of dairy plants. A few important IT tools and applications which have immensely benefitted the dairy industry are discussed below:

1.4.1  Computer network

A computer network may be defined as “an interconnected collection of autonomous computers”. Two computers are said to be interconnected if they are able to exchange information. The connections may be through copper wires, optical fibers, and wireless maeans. A network may cover a small geographic area connecting devices in a single building or group of buildings that is known as Local Area Network (LAN). A network that covers a large area such as a state, country or the world is called a Wide Area Network (WAN). Computer networks are used for sharing resources and communication within organizations.  

1.4.2  The Internet

Internet is a powerful tool to disseminate information among masses worldwide. Internet is a global collection of computers, which are interconnected to each other through wired or wireless media and makes communication possible among people in a common language. It provides a number of services and tools to access information, for example, e-mail, video conferencing, Usenet and newsgroups, marketing and advertisements, hosting Web sites etc. Internet is growing explosively because of its enormous potential in providing the latest information.

1.4.3  Touch screen information kiosk

This is a powerful medium to disseminate reliable information among a large group of workers and users. It is just like an ordinary computer with touch screen monitor. Information to be disseminated is prepared using visual graphics and multimedia tools.  Kiosk can be used to display standard practices on dairy operations, staff position, organizational setup, products manufactured by dairy plant or other informative material to educate visitors and staff members.

1.4.4  Wireless sensor network

A wireless sensor network generally consists of spatially distributed sensor nodes and base station(s) (or “gateway”) that can communicate with a number of wireless sensor nodes scattered in a region via a radio link to cooperatively monitor physical or environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, sound, vibration, pressure, motion, air pollutants, etc. Data are collected at the wireless sensor node, compressed, and transmitted to the gateway directly or, if required, it uses other wireless sensor nodes to forward data to the gateway. Widespread use of sensor network can improve the monitoring of dairy plant and generate valuable inputs for crisis management. The variety of potentially useful sensors can be applied in different situations to improve the productivity and efficiency of dairy plants, for example, environmental sensors to monitor temperature, video cameras/ image sensors for security, plant operations and observing behavior of staff, visitors, etc. Sensor networks are also being used for real time monitoring of product manufacturing process to diagnose defects in milk products.

1.4.5  Radio frequency identification

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a dedicated short range communication system.  RFID may be defined as “a system that transmits the identity (in form of a unique serial number) of an object (or person) wirelessly using radio waves”. This technology is commonly implemented using RFID tags (also known as transponders) mounted or attached on objects and readers/ writers (also known as interrogators). RFID tags consist of two parts - an integrated circuit (containing unique code, memory for storing and processing of data, modulating and demodulating radio signals, etc.) and antenna for receiving and transmitting signals. These components are enclosed in a temper proof plastic cover of different sizes and shapes. RFID tags are low cost, unique and tamper proof. RFID technology is being used worldwide to trace the dairy and livestock products in stores and during transportation. RFID is also used in various sections dairy plants for tracking the products in storage as well as on production lines.

1.4.6  Global positioning system

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based global navigation system that provides geographical location (longitude, latitude and altitude) and time information of an object anywhere in the world for 24 hours a day in all weather conditions. GPS is owned, operated and maintained by US Government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver for general use around the world. GPS is made up of a network of 24 well spaced satellites placed into the orbit. The location accuracy varies from 10 to 100 meters for most equipment while accuracy can be pinpointed to within one meter with special military equipment. GPS equipment is widely used in science and has now become sufficiently low-cost so that almost anyone can own a GPS receiver.

GPS is useful to trace vehicles during milk transportation from collection centers to central dairy dock yard, and marketing of dairy products to minimize malpractices on route. GPS device is mounted on the vehicle, central computer in control room will keep track of the vehicle through satellite communication. With the advent of low cost GPS devices this technology is gaining popularity.

1.4.7  Decision support system

Decision Support System (DSS) is a specific class of computer based information system that supports technological and managerial decision-making by assisting the organization with knowledge about ill-structured or semi-structured issues. Various applications of DSS in diary industry are such as Cow Culling Decision Support System, MCLONE3 - A Decision Support System for Management of Liquid Dairy and Swine Manure, Dairypert, NutMan, Dairypro - An individual Feed Allocation Decision Support System for the Dairy Farm, Economics for opening a dairy farm for a given number of animals. DSS developed at NDRI, Karnal - An interactive data- driven DSS on dairy production aspects, MSI-NDRI, Web-enabled information system for online searching, ordering and maintenance of dairy cultures, Multimedia information system on transferable dairy technologies.

1.4.8  Expert system

An expert system is a computer program that contains stored knowledge and solves problems in a specific field in much the same way that a human expert would. The knowledge typically comes from a series of conversations between the developer of an expert system and one or more subject matter experts. Expert systems are developed when the problem occurs frequently, and is complex, knowledge of the expert is required, uncertainty is involved, problem is dynamic and involves heuristic factors, and practical value is high. Examples: Animal disease diagnosis system, maintaining quality of dairy products, etc.  

1.4.9  Artificial neural networks

Artificial Neural Network (ANN) is an emerging IT tool in the area of artificial intelligence, where the goal is to develop tools capable of performing cognitive functions such as reasoning and learning. This approach consists of creating a system to mimic the processing power of the human brain. ANN tools have been used by researchers to solve problems related to dairy and food processing worldwide and now in India also. Artificial neural networks are used for pattern recognition aimed at characterization of food properties and for predicting quality deterioration during storage life of the products. A few applications of ANN in dairy are:

·         Machine perception including machine vision, electronic tongue and electronic nose for sensory evaluation

·         Spectral data interpretation for identification of functional groups and quantitative analysis

·         Food Microbiology and Food Fermentation

·         Predicting physical, chemical, and functional properties of food products during processing and distribution.

·         Prediction of shelf life of dairy products based on sensory evaluation

1.4.10  Akashganga

Shree Kamdhenu Electronics Private Ltd. (SKEPL) developed an IT enabled "Automatic Milk Collection Station" marketed under the brand name of AKASHGANGA. It automates the milk collection process at local Dairy Cooperative Society (DCS). This system incorporates an electronic weighing system, a milk analyzer to test milk quality, a personal computer, and accounting and management software that cover all functionalities of the Primary Co-operative Societies. Compared to manual procedures, the AKASHGANGA system reduces labor handling and increases efficiency and transparency in the system, which creates a base for improving the quality of milk produced. That means, milk can be sent on to the cooperative union for processing more quickly, reducing spoilage; farmers can see for themselves the weight and quality of their milk via a display and get printed receipt, which increases their trust in the cooperative process. In addition, farmers are paid immediately, rather than few days later as under manual procedures; and local cooperatives need fewer employees and have better records and reports for planning purposes. The purpose is to integrate entire operations at DCS, e.g., milk receipt, milk sales to unions, local sales, purchases, product sales to farmers, financial procedures such as account ledgers, balance sheet/ profit & loss, audit and inventory management.

1.4.11  ERP applications at Amul dairy

Amul dairy is the largest dairy cooperative society in India with collection of 6 million liters of milk per day from about 10,600 separate village cooperative societies which have approximately 2.1 million milk producing members. To manage such a large network of societies and members is great challenge so as efficiently to improve the system for:

·      Weighing of milk and determination of fat and SNF contents

·      Calculation of the purchase price

·      Timely payment to milk producers without loss of much time to test the milk and work out the purchase price.

Thus the management, in consultation with Tata Consultancy Services implemented Enterprise Resource Planner (ERP) as solution to keep pace with dynamically changing business environment. The project was named as Enterprise wise Integrated Application System (EIAS). This include following IT related actions:

·      Automatic Milk Collection System Units (AMCUS) at village societies have been installed in the first phase to automate milk producers logistics

·      AMCSU  facilitates  the  capture  of  member information, milk fat content, volume  collected  and   amount  payable  to  each member

·      Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad developed and provided an application software Dairy Information System Kiosk (DISK) to facilitate data analysis and decision support in improving milk collection

·      The software DISK offers an extensive knowledge and service delivery mechanism through a Dairy Portal.

·      DISK contains a database on the history of cattle owned by the farmers, medical history of these cattle, reproductive cycle and history of diseases

·      As a large amount of detailed history on milk production is available in the database, the system can be used to forecast milk collection and monitor the produce from individual sellers.

By implementing IT strategies, the management observed radical changes in business performance. It improved the delivery mechanism and brought transparency in business operations. Processing time for payment to milk producers reduced from a week to few minutes.  Distributers are able to place their orders online using Website. ERP helped in monitoring of crucial management practices like demand versus supply and decision making process in easy way since real time data is available on click of a mouse button.