How the Cheese Slices

Cougar Automation Technologies’ customer, a large manufacturer of processed cheese, had both a plant-floor problem and a “back-office” problem.

The company obtained ingredients from other dairy plants it owned to blend into its product - cheese slices for restaurants and grocery chains. The problems were not specific to the actual process or packaging lines, but with the inconsistent quality of ingredients going in, as well as with ERP integration.

The problem was maintaining an accurate inventory since operators were required to custom-blend each batch to assure a consistent quality product. Further, the company had implemented an ERP system from SAP AG, Walldorf, Germany, but data had to be entered manually into the SAP system from the existing system.

The company had existing PLC 5 controllers from Milwaukee-based Rockwell Automation, the SAP system and information technology products from IBM. Blending those ingredients, Cougar mixed up a batch of real-time connection of factory floor information to the SAP system.

Craig Smith, vice president of new projects at Cougar, states, “There were unique bar code labels on the barrels of raw materials. The system we designed reads the information from them and relays it wirelessly to the PLC. The information goes through the PLC to the batch software system, and enters the SAP system modules for inventory, production orders and the like. We are tracking ingredients by particular batch.”

To move information from the batch process to SAP, Cougar chose WebSphere, from Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM. This application is capable of bi-directional communication using OPC, an open connectivity standard.

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