Australian dairy firm milks data for potential overseas markets Credit: USDAPublic Domain
Business Management

Australian dairy firm milks data for potential overseas markets

Australian Consolidated Milk (ACM) is looking at taking advantage of interest in its products from overseas markets like Asia, with the help of a “greenfield” intelligent information system, built into its Victorian-based plant.

ACM recently opened a high-tech milk processing and manufacturing facility at Girgarre in Victoria – worth $55 million. The facility allowed the dairy operator’s technology services partner, Advance Computing to go in and build a machine learning and data system from scratch.

The Australian-owned-and-operated dairy products and food manufacturer was established in 2008. It manages about 350 million litres of milk, to produce conventional, organic and A2 dairy ingredients and foods.

ACM requires a risk and logistics management systems to keep track of direct milk flows from suppliers; and an efficient supply chain. It also needs to keep low overheads, to be competitive with market-linked pricing for suppliers and customers. 

In an interview with CIO Australia, Jason Limbrick chief operating office, ACM, said manufacturing in Australia is changing significantly all the time.

“Manufacturers must be adaptive and be able to change and move a lot quicker than it has in the past,” he said.

“You have to be able to be flexible and efficient, because the industry is changing, from what it was 10 years ago. In in two or three years it will be very, very different.”

According to Limbrick, ACM has to be able to move and adapt to those changes, by getting good products to market at a low cost.

“That's not as simple as having quality products or what equipment you've got -- you've got to be out of support services around technology, because without data or information, it's very hard to make decisions,” he explained.

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According to Limbrick, just automating and streamlining tanker unloading has allowed ACM to rein in weekend overtime costs which it believes could save $100,000 a year.

Technology like machine learning deployed by ACM lowers the potential for human error; and guards against the risk of organic milk being contaminated by conventional milk.

Limbrick said there are older and established dairy organisations in Victoria, but where ACM distinguishes itself is the ability to change with the market and use data analytics to distinguish itself from its competitors.

Chris Motton, solutions director at Advance Computing, said the company has been working with ACM since it began 10 years ago. The manufacturing facility at Girgarre allowed Advance Computing to go in and incorporate “greenfield” technology, without being hampered by legacy systems or disparate technology.

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“We developed a finance system for the operations of the plant, as well as systems to cover everything from production management through to manufacturing,” said Motton.

“We used Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement for production planning, logging and quality assurance; Dynamics 365 Field Services addresses factory maintenance; and Azure Cognitive Services supports quality assurance testing using image recognition.”

According to Limbrick the business heads are interested to see how ACM can use Microsoft technology to “really draw better outcomes”.

“We have interest from overseas parties, particularly through Asia, Japan and all over the place looking at what we are doing. They review all systems and are keen to understand what we are doing. All [machine learning, AI] those things are definitely helping [in attracting overseas companies],” he said.

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