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Smart manufacturing applications say hello to food processors

Smart manufacturing investments have ramped up over the last decade as end users have identified the need for rapid deployment of modernization initiatives in hopes for increased plant optimization. This modernization trend covers a variety of solutions, and most equate the term “smart manufacturing” with new hardware, such as PLCs. However, besides equipment updates, the biggest trend is data-acquisition platforms.

Platforms such as MES and SCADA provide critical visibility into production-line efficiencies in real-time with KPIs on screens and computers. Due to advanced real-time monitoring platforms, end users are now acting upon the once hidden “micro-stop” KPI — stoppages that last less than 10 minutes — during production runs.

A monitoring challenge for many food companies is how to connect to legacy plant floor equipment with its nonstandard interfaces to ERP, MES and SCADA platforms.

“[Enterprise architecture] becomes a process of stitching all this stuff together,” said Jim Wetzel, director of global reliability at General Mills during his presentation, “The Power of a Digital Platform,” at the 2017 ARC Advisory conference. “How many platforms are we going to need to run an ecosystem? Are they going to connect?”

Wetzel led General Mills’ deployment of its MES platform in 1993 and is currently the chairman of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Council (SMLC), an organization developing an open, real-time manufacturing platform model.

Wetzel stresses the promise of creating applications that go to where the data is most valuable: “The SMLC believes we can contextualize, coordinate and connect other platforms as well as meet you (processor) where you’re at and start this journey on platforms.”

Finding value where data resides is an often heard hymn in the food industry, and Sugar Creek Packing Co., a private-label food producer, is no different. Sugar Creek has six packaging operations in the United States and uses Inductive Automation’s Ignition SCADA platform in five of these plants.

The processor’s server-based SCADA platform is a customizable application that allows end users to build specific functionality via many application modules to meet needs such as alarm management, OEE or MES. The platform also allows third-party developers to build on top of the system.

Sugar Creek installed the SCADA platform on a simple packaging line operation in Cincinnati, Ohio, where it wanted to focus on downtime reduction and weight control for a packaging line that was underperforming. For the downtime component, Sugar Creek wanted to filter “noise” from alarm events, be more specific in its causes and communicate to maintenance technicians in a more efficient process.

“At first, the alarms were configured on what could stop the packaging line and fed into the SCADA platform,” says Dan Stauft, director of operational technology at Sugar Creek during a presentation on implementing SCADA at the ARC Advisory conference. “An E-stop can create 30 alarms and a whole bunch of noise in the downtime table, so we decreased the downtime reasoning code list.” 

The downtime interactive Pareto analysis with the SCADA platform allows operators to cite these stops and, in effect, talk to maintenance technicians while not being on the floor.

“Maintenance technicians can drill down on the downtime code and see how many times it’s happened,” says Craig Langhals, plant manager for Sugar Creek. “Is this a reoccurring issue that drives an operator crazy? Or is it a one-time event that lasted 60 minutes?”

Sugar Creek will add the SCADA platform to its sixth plant due to the overall success in bringing applications to where the operator and data resides.