Discrete SensingFood and BeverageIndustryProduct

Discrete Sensor Applications in the Food and Beverage Industry

One of the most common types of control components seen in the food and beverage industry are discrete sensors. Discrete applications in the food and beverage industry are processes or operations that perform a series of predetermined steps and typically use devices whose operation is either “On” or “Off”; examples include sensors that detect the presence of an object or motors that stop or run a mechanical device. With only two states, this can sound simple but many systems for discrete applications have thousands of input and output points, creating very complex systems. Discrete applications in the food and beverage industry include:

  • Palletizers
  • Depalletizers
  • Accumulators
  • Case packers
  • Stretch wrappers
  • Conveyors
  • Bottling lines

Many components used in other industries are shared with the food and beverage industry. However, for the food and beverage industry, sensing and control devices are preferred to be rated for harsh environmental conditions and be able to handle regular washdowns.


Motors are the workhorse of many applications and move loads as needed. For the food and beverage industry, they may have a stainless steel enclosure that can withstand washdown. The Marathon PowerWash SXT motors from AutomationDirect are a good example of motors used for food and beverage applications and are offered in single-phase or inverter-duty three-phase to work with just about any application or power source.

motor for discrete sensor application

Local Motor Disconnect Switches

Local motor disconnect switches are used to disconnect power and can be locked out to prevent motion from the connected motor, critical when performing maintenance or other offline operations. If you have motors, you need a disconnect switch for each one. The Bryant 664X33D shown from AutomationDirect is rated for up to 30 amps, is UL 508 rated and has a NEMA 4X environmental rating to provide washdown protection in food and beverage applications.

photoelectric sensor for discrete sensor application

Photoelectric Sensors

Photoelectric sensors detect the presence or absence of an object. They are available in many different sensing, logic and connection configurations. Sensors with IP69K environmental ratings offer the most reliable operation in harsh environments. These DC rectangular harsh duty photoelectric sensors shown are IP69K rated and come in diffuse, diffuse with background suppression, polarized retroreflective and through-beam. Both NPN and PNP logic models are available and all of them have selectable light-on or dark-on operation.

Emergency Stop Pushbutton Control Stations

Emergency stop pushbuttons are devices that will immediately put all machinery into a safe state to prevent personnel harm and equipment damage. The control station shown is stainless steel and washdown rated.

inductive proximity sensor for discrete sensor application

Inductive Proximity Sensors

Inductive proximity sensors detect ferrous metal within close proximity of the sensing face of these sensors. These sensors are used often in very dirty environments where non-contact detection is required. Because of environmental concerns, they need to be rugged and for the food and beverage industry, this means they also need to have an IP69K rating like the one shown here.

Other Components

There are many other components used in food and beverage applications that are available from AutomationDirect:

Read more articles about the food and beverage industry here!