Colin Nugteren and his team at Dutch analytics firm Notilyze already knew plenty about using real-time data to optimize the manufacturing process.
But their expertise took a tasty twist during the 2023 SAS Hackathon, when a Dutch cheesemaker approached them for help improving quality and output while also reducing food waste.
“Of course, our team knew zero about a cheese factory or creating cheese, but there are a few cheese technologists – that’s an actual job – and they are very knowledgeable about cheese,” Nugteren says. “They know everything about this whole process, but it takes them a lot of time to extract data to put it in Excel or small tool so they can analyze it.
“They said, ‘We have all this data now, but analyzing it to optimize the factory yield or to improve some processes takes us a lot of time. If you have any idea on how to improve that, that would be great.’ So we told them: challenge accepted.”
DAIRY MEETS DATA
The four major factors the Notilyze team looked at that can affect the quality and yield of cheese are salt, fat, moisture and pH. For a cheesemaker that produces 100 million kilograms of cheese annually, any imbalance of those ingredients can be costly – to the bottom line and the environment.
“You need to recognize trends soon as possible and make changes to make sure that the ingredients are optimized for each other,” Nugteren says. “They were really surprised by the amount of power that is in the data and how much we were able to gather, in just a few weeks from a lot of data, learning so much about producing cheese without having a cheese background.”
During the month-long Hackathon, the Notilyze team was able to design a dashboard exploring all components of the cheesemaking process, build models to predict yield based on these components, and develop an API that suggests adjustments to the process based on the type of cheese, current control settings and actual observed data.