Researcher Karin Östergren, of Lund University and The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, told FoodProductionDaily.com that the model is a simultaneous evaluation of environmental impact and efficiency.
She said that food production is a source of large environmental impact and reducing this can to a large extent be achieved by choice of ingredients but also by environmental efficient processing and management.
However, while evaluating industrial production from a process perspective by computer modelling is considered a “common tool”. Östergren said that to include the environmental impact in the same model was “rare”.
The new model used the Lean management philosophy inspired by the Japanese automotive industry (Toyota Production System) which focuses on taking away all sources of unnecessary environmental impact.
Östergren said: “Lean manufacturing aims at ‘doing more with less’ and at the same time giving customers what they want, when they want it.
“A successful lean manufacturer is one that is able to involve its employees in daily improvements in quality, flexibility, delivery, cost and consumer value while, at the same time, reducing all kinds of waste and excess in production.”
The model works on the idea that producing food for people’s convenience will cause some environmental impact. However, it is possible to ensure that raw materials are used well in order to optimise processes so there is no waste, and still achieve a product of the same quality.
Östergren said: “We take into account the whole life cycle.
“The environmental impact imposed by a production step in a process does not normally include the impact of waste but, on the other hand, if we waste raw material we have produced it for nothing which causes an unnecessary environmental impact."
“Since the primary production of food generally is responsible for the largest impact, any waste further on down stream the food chain becomes very important.”
The numerical model evaluates the environmental impact of a change with respect to the input of resources and emissions from the whole life cycle.
New and innovative production systems are needed to respond to the market requirements of efficiency and competitiveness, according to Östergren.
Some of the advantages for using the tool to evaluate process efficiency and environmental impact include identifying bottle necks and identifying critical areas of environmental impact. It can also be used in existing process lines as well as a tool for developing new process lines.
The model is not available to buy as a service or as a software package as Östergren said the intention was just to develop a methodology.
However, this method can be applied to any food production process.