Superior Controls has been a longtime partner to a food manufacturer, completing dozens of projects and continuing the company’s use of Rockwell Automation technology to program process automation controllers for a manufacturing expansion, program a modified mixing system, perform troubleshooting and upgrade support, and more.
Several years ago, Superior Controls completed a fast-track project for a 110,000-square-foot addition to an existing food processing facility for the company, a hummus and dip producer. The expansion included warehouse space, additional and renovated employee amenities and offices, as well as the installation of new processing, packaging, and utility generation equipment.
Superior Controls was brought under contract to provide the programming of the Process Automation Controllers (PACs), HMI, Historian, and Recipe Management systems. The engineering team provided a solution consistent with the existing facility automation, which Superior Controls implemented from late 2009 to early 2011, while improving I/O communications with the use of Ethernet/IP and valves with an AS-Interface.
Phase 2 of the project included automation and monitoring of the utilities, clean-in-place (CIP), cooking, ingredient preparation, garnish, mixing, and filling systems. This was a fast-track project with the order being placed in December of 2013 for on-site commissioning of the first systems to start in April of 2014. All of the systems were designed, developed, and commissioned on time.
The system was implemented using a redundant Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk View SE distributed HMI with six servers and fifteen clients. ACP ThinManager was used to provide the thin client solution. Seven Rockwell Automation ControlLogix PACs were used for providing monitoring and control of the equipment. The combined systems included approximately 1,500 I/O points with 136 drives.
Superior Controls has continued to work closely with the client on many additional projects to give the company flexibility in its control system for batching of products.
“After Phase 2 was complete, we continued to work heavily with the client on general support requests or running certain equipment, they might be trying something new, or they might just want us to remote in and watch it or assist and troubleshoot if they were having issues,” said Senior Project Engineer Matt Martin. “If the client wanted to fine tune the process system with tasks such as changing the sequence, relocating equipment, or adding some functionality, we were typically called in and quickly completed those tasks.”
In the most recently completed project, Superior Controls incorporated a new modified mixing system (MMS). A new pasteurization line was also added, which the client previously didn’t have on site. “This MMS is connected to a pasteurization line which allows for some modifications and improvements to their production that couldn’t be done before. The product coming out of the mixer is then heated to high temperatures for a certain amount of hold time and then it is rapidly cooled back down right before it goes into the fillers that package the hummus into a cup,” said Martin. This is done to eliminate pathogens and increase the shelf life of the product. This specifically helps with their organic products due to the restrictions around preservatives and additives for organic products by still allowing for a healthy shelf life.
The client is working to add flexibility into their production equipment, with the goal of eventually having this line dedicated to organic products. A current project we are working with the client on is to replace a manually involved process for adding organic tahini to the mixing system. Currently it involves a manually wheeled around tote with non-permanent connections. It is being replaced with a dedicated tank removing the need for manual actions and providing the ingredient at a larger scale.
“In terms of technology on the more recent projects, we’re building off of most of the same hardware and software stacks that we were using in the previous effort,” said Martin. “We are still using Rockwell PLCs, Allen Bradley drives, and FactoryTalk View SE. We are using the same infrastructure, just with some added hardware components and expanding upon what’s already there.”
The team at Superior Controls has worked with vendor prepackaged systems to ensure that they communicate with the existing control system and operate properly after installation. “The vendor prepackaged systems will be expecting input from our systems, whether it is ingredients, water, chickpea paste, etc., then it will likely be sent to one of our pieces of equipment,” said Martin. “We often either work with the vendor directly or modify the edge pieces of their software to play well with ours. We fine tune both sides and ensure both the vendor’s and our software are aware of each other and work together correctly and efficiently.”
To have better data to maintain the highest quality control, the client has implemented FactoryTalk Historian and VantagePoint, allowing the company to monitor and report on process conditions such as pressure, temperature, status of hardware such as valves, and also process specific step and phase data. Having this information available allows the client to more easily troubleshoot situations when they arise as well as having a deeper insight as to what areas may be best to next upgrade or make modifications to further improve efficiency.
Superior Controls is proud to have been a part of helping the client grow production volume and product diversity while allowing the manufacturing line to retain flexibility.
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