Flexibility, food safety and hygiene softly drive the progressive sweep of productivity gains from Industry 4.0

Food and beverage manufacturing’s approach to Industry 4.0 extends from top-tier digital technologies, through to high-speed, low maintenance, safe and hygienic technologies responding to the accelerated production pace that digitisation brings

The sweeping changes that Industry 4.0 is progressively bringing to the food and beverage industry in Australasia has focused machinery componentry manufacturers and suppliers on anticipating changes in demand that will affect their technologies.

This fourth overall global industrial revolution, led by digital-physical production and enabled by data and technology, is a natural evolution from Industry 3.0 (automated production lead by electronics and IT), Industry 2.0 in the 19th Century (mass production driven by electricity and labour division) and Industry 1.0 in the 1700s (mechanical production driven by steam).

“The major benefits likely to flow from Industry 4.0 for the food and beverage industry are internationally accepted as including greater production flexibility, to respond quickly to changing demands, plus enhanced food safety and hygiene assurance,” says long-established Australian machinery actuation and isolation specialist Air Springs Supply Pty Ltd.

But, compared with massive industries such as mining and automotive manufacturing, food and beverage producers may have been more cautious to embrace change by investing totally in top-tier digital reporting and control technologies and adapting entire processes or plants around them, says Air Springs, which has been a leader in industrial pneumatics for more than 40 years, with a nationwide distribution network.

“We are finding some food and beverage manufacturers are taking more of a softly, softly approach to radical changes and seeing how their very different plants can respond most efficiently to the benefits of Industry 4.0 and automation,” says Air Springs Supply National Sales and Marketing Manager Mr James Maslin.

“It is not that they are skeptical about Industry 4.0 – we all know it is the way of the future, with digitisation leading to production flexibility to meet changing market demands, to benefit from predictive maintenance, and to monitor food safety and hygiene. These changes will be integral to our markets as a clean, green exporter.”

“Automation and Industry 4.0 has to be viewed as a whole-of-process undertaking, extending ultimately from integrated digital control and monitoring at the top of the process, down through conveying, vibrating, sorting, packaging and materials handling processes that move goods across the factory floor and out the despatch door. Efficient, cost-effective and low-maintenance actuation and isolation processes are integral at this level. Manufacturers are committed to Industry 4.0 holistically, but wish to ensure they have the best high-speed, low maintenance, safe and hygienic technologies responding to the accelerated production pace that digitisation brings”.

Faster processes

Clean, tough, silent and no-maintenance Air Springs can cost-effectively replace metal springs and conventional pneumatic actuators in production automation processes. Air Springs are also ideal replacements for ageing metal coil springs that came with OEM machinery that need to be replaced, preferably with actuators and isolators that are easy to fit, don’t break, tolerate aggressive environments and washdown procedures and are simple to replace while production continues. Air Springs Supply’s pneumatic actuators and isolators provide maintenance-free alternatives to metal springs. They don’t require lubrication or upkeep and won’t set (suffer permanent compression) like metal springs, to reduce efficiency.

The benefits of Air Springs Supply’s pneumatic technologies come in the form of machinery components operating downstream from the digital innovation, working within the machinery ensuring it can cope maintenance-free with faster and more flexible processes. The company is the national distributor of Firestone actuators, isolators and pickers and grippers used in high-speed high-repetition production, conveying and packaging processes.

“We are at the highly practical end of the production engineering process, where the machinery being driven by the digital, mechanical and pneumatics confluence actually has to do the job. Our solutions are globally proven but radically different in concept from traditional pneumatics, yet outstandingly simple and reliable. Our air springs’ durability and flexibility are proven beyond doubt – they last millions of cycles before they ultimately need replacement, and even then they don’t collapse like a broken metal spring, potentially causing failures that can bring production to an immediate and lasting halt.

Air Springs Supply’s Airstroke/Airmount range, left, and pneumatic pickers and grippers, right for gentle but speedy and precise bottling operations and handling of other components.

Unlike typical high-speed pneumatic actuators and isolators, its no-maintenance Airstroke® actuators do not contain rods to break or wear. The company’s equally strong and simple rubber-and-fabric Airmount® isolators cannot rust or break, like metal springs used in vibrating screens, conveyors, sorters and materials handling equipment. They are also easy to wash down and highly resistant to grime, enhancing hygiene.


The expanded HQ of Air Springs Supply, left, from which food and beverage manufacturers, processors and packagers have been supplied during the Covid-19 pandemic. Air Springs Supply’s Russell Chown, right, amidst extensive stocks of Air Springs products ranging from tiny Polyactuators to the heavier-duty Airstroke® actuators and Airmount® isolators in individual stroke capacities up to 40,000kg

Cylindrical Marsh Mellow isolator springs (pictured left above) are constructed of a solid rubber core with a hollow centre and several plies of fabric-reinforced rubber as an outer cover. The plies provide the springs with stability as well as a consistent cylindrical shape. Marsh Mellows are widely applicable to vibrating machinery used in food and beverage packaging and processing (above right). Rubber actuators and isolators respond to the post-Covid need for no-maintenance operation, reducing the need for human contact, as well as frequent washdown without deterioration.

Tiny Polyactuators (left) are finding roles in food, packaging and manufacturing and materials handling applications involving tight spaces and light forces, including conveying.