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Last week I had the opportunity to attend a ManTech meeting on World Class Digital Transformation.  The meeting was extremely small which made networking difficult.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by what the speakers had to share.

One speaker is an automation engineer at Chobani, the Greek-style yogurt powerhouse.  His name is Nathan Piccola.  The Chobani yogurt factory is located in Twin Falls, Idaho.  It opened less than 5 years ago, in 2012.  Chobani has a unique manufacturing challenge: They use no preservatives and include live cultures in the yogurt.

As an automation engineer, Nathan’s main concern is uptime. Secondary to that, he'd like to find ways to optimize the yogurt production. 

Reaching limits with on-premise data

At Chobani they have a historian who keeps meticulous notes on all the production runs.  However, their data lives on premise in silos. This makes it difficult to form deep insights.  Manufacturing data is stored in one silo, corporate data in another.  Nathan expressed concern that the factory is quickly maxing out their existing data storage.  If the data was stored in the cloud, it would be easy to add on terabytes of additional storage.  Unfortunately, scaling an on-premise data storage system is not quite so easy. 

Flow transmission and IoT

Nathan really likes self-powered and wireless devices, which reduce Chobani's instrumentation cost by 75%.  The main savings come from the ability to get rid of the conduit and wireless overhead.  Also, self-powered and wireless devices allow for more flexible instrument placement.

Why does this matter?  Factories like Chobani use devices called flow transmitters to measure the efficiency of the manufacturing pumps.   Suppose one pump has a throughput of 90 pounds per minute, compared to a second one running at 80 pounds per minute.  The flow transmitter initiates an increase in the slower pump so the whole system runs more efficiently.  But this only works if the throughput is being measured accurately.  By untethering the flow transmitter, the automation engineer can A/B test the location of the flow transmitter and optimize the system.

I found all this interesting as a specific case of how cloud and digital transformation can have a very real impact on the way people work and a company’s end customer – in this case yogurt lovers.


At SAP we have deep experience helping consumer product companies transition to the cloud and digitally transform their businesses.  We’re heavily invested in IoT as well.  Learn more about how Digital Transformation is impacting Consumer Products visit Consumer products: Reimagined for the new economy.