CxO Panel Discussion: How the New Norm is Impacting the Food & Beverage Factory of the Future

Food and Beverage manufacturers are constantly challenged with producing consistent quality products to meet consumer tastes and demands.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many food & beverage companies, particularly around meeting step-change consumer demand, ensuring employee safety and keeping essential manufacturing operations running during these unprecedented challenges.

This panel will discuss how digital technologies are being leveraged to assist in these challenges and how they can be strategically adopted to add value and solve problems moving into the future.

Watch the recorded panel discussion here.

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Industry 4.0 won’t be marked by the number of shiny toys you own

With my background in automation, engineering and energy infrastructure spanning over two decades, there is a current trend I see that having a larger impact on global manufacturing than any other advancements in the last 40 years. The industrial sector finds itself entering an exciting new phase of evolution, an evolution marked by the unlimited potential of smart manufacturing technologies enabled by IoT and supporting government and industry initiatives such as Industry 4.0.

In fact, a recent report commissioned by two of Australia’s leading Industry Growth Centres has calculated that the economic impact of Industry 4.0 will create 80,000 new jobs and more than $74 billion in economic value.

At this year’s TechEd Conference, our customers and partners had the benefit of seeing the power of Industry 4.0 in full effect. TechEd is Rockwell Automation’s annual automation conference, bringing together the top minds in the industry to demonstrate cutting-edge technology that will dramatically reshape Australia’s public, commercial and industrial sectors.

The event gave a fascinating insight into Rockwell’s view of the next decade and the role automation will play in evolving the manufacturing space. But amidst all this excitement, I couldn’t help but notice an ongoing misconception surrounding Industry 4.0 and successful business digitisation.

Despite a clear interest and even experimentation with emerging technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) diagnostics and Virtual Reality (VR) training, we’re still not seeing the level of full-scale roll outs of IoT technologies in the industrial sector that we see in other parts of the world.

A culprit for this is that the local market has a strong tendency to move towards the shiniest object, examples like AR or VR, without evaluating its necessity to the business or how to effectively implement such a technology. In many instances, solutions with clear use cases such as deploying analytics addressing predictive maintenance and asset management productivity improvement, that bring with them obvious immediate value are clear missed opportunities. They don’t have the same appeal as the cool toys like AR and VR and hence don’t get the same focus and funding

The reality is that you need to know the use case you’re trying to solve for a product deployment to be effective. Recent research from LNS Research suggested 16 per cent of global businesses have gone into deployed systems whereas a substantially higher number of business are stuck at a pilot implementation stage. This is backed up by the World Economic Forum who believe most businesses are stuck in “pilot purgatory”. The interest is there, but nobodies committing to rolling out across their business because they haven’t clearly quantified the return on investment.

As an example, If you have a workplace defined by low incident rates and a knowledgeable workforce, there’s potentially not a lot of benefit in investing in a fully equipped virtual training environment. Industry 4.0 should be dictated by need, not the number of shiny toys you own. In my experience many struggle with what the true payback is. What the return of investment is. There are so many avenues to take, business leaders can easily find themselves jumping between what’s here now and what will emerge over the next four to five years with no rhyme or reason.

It can be difficult to quantify the return on investment and get the funding required, and that’s why I think the short-term benefit is likely in proven existing use cases that can now be deployed more quickly and cost effectively with better outcomes by using newer IoT platforms and solutions. Analytics examples such as preventative maintenance and asset optimisation solutions that help remove bottlenecks in your production addressing low hanging fruit that likely doesn’t need a lot of capital investment are prime examples of easy to justify investments

This is also not to say Australia is a laggard. In many industries including food and beverage as well as mining, Australia has a strong leadership position in the adoption of emerging technologies In my experience, some of the best practices and technology adoption can be found at a local level.

The key is simply to walk and not run into the many solutions and products attached to industry 4.0. Think about what the business problem is before you rush headfirst into trying the cool new toys available. Develop the stakeholder trust and technical ecosystem with quick wins around proven use cases, do the basics well and build the business from within that.

Improving flexibility in food and beverage packaging

Food and beverage manufacturers are constantly under pressure to package a wider variety of products in more types of packaging without compromising productivity. Now they can answer these trends while increasing throughput using the new iTRAK 5730 small-frame intelligent track system from Rockwell Automation. The system uses independent cart technology to support smart, flexible and efficient machines.

Independent cart technology has many features compared to traditional gear, chain and belt conveyors, including unlimited machine flexibility, good traceability and increased uptime. By using magnetic propulsion, the individually controlled carts can quickly start and stop with high precision, which reduces machine wear and is energy efficient. The technology also quickly manages changeovers using pre-configured move profiles that can be implemented with the push of a button from an HMI.

The iTRAK 5730 system has a small footprint. It has a 50mm minimum pitch that makes it suitable for primary packaging applications, such as flow wrapping, end load cartoning, and form-fill-and-seal pouching. The system also integrates into a manufacturer’s architecture, providing analytics that help optimise energy use, monitor parts wear and reduce downtime.

“The iTRAK 5730 system extends the flexibility and productivity benefits of iTRAK to meet the growing demand for customised food and beverage products,” said Michaela Kaufmann, iTRAK product manager at Rockwell Automation. “The technology is truly scalable. Your system can have as little as a 50 mm pitch in a small, standalone machine, or be as large as 100 meters and part of a large, complex line.”

“We are always exploring ways to enhance our offering and better support our machine assembly, food and beverage manufacturing customers; enabling them achieve their manufacturing and throughput goals without restriction,” added Max Kiah, independent cart technology sales manager, Asia Pacific at Rockwell Automation. “The new iTRAK 5730 system will be a great addition to our customers’ existing architecture, helping them to attain greater agility in their packaging and assembly lines, without compromising on quality or safety.”

In addition to delivering a smarter form of motion control, the iTRAK 5730 also offers integrated safety. Features such as safe torque off, Safe Stop 1, a SIL 3, PLe safety rating and the ability to create safety zones help increase confidence in machine safety. Safety zones, for example, can increase safety without compromising productivity by allowing motion to continue outside of the safety zone, even after a trip inside the safety zone.

Furthermore, simulation capabilities allow users to calculate throughput on the iTRAK 5730 system. Users can also create a digital twin that can be used to virtually design, commission and demonstrate the system, and to virtually train workers. Standardised object-oriented libraries also can help create a consistent user experience and accelerate time to market.

Patented technology supplies Australian pet food ingredients to the world

Pet owners are constantly assessing the many food choices available to feed their furry friends. Prepared pet foods are becoming an increasingly popular choice, offering a variety of food types and flavours while meeting nutritional requirements.

With a growing reputation for providing safe, consistent and nutritious pet food, the Australian pet food industry is valued at approximately $1.6 billion with opportunities growing within both Australian and export markets.

Cool Off is the pet food raw material manufacturing division of Staughton Group, which is an Australian, family-owned company with manufacturing facilities in Walget, New South Wales, St George in Queensland and its head office and main manufacturing plant located in Howlong in southern NSW.

Staughton Group oversees the manufacture of bulk raw materials for the pet food industry, as well as retail pet foods and supplements for domestic and export sales. Staughton Group also sources and processes wild game proteins through its recently acquired Wild Game Resources Australia.

Offering unique access to Australian raw materials for pet food manufacture, Cool Off delivers high-quality products including: lamb Mechanically De-boned Meat (MDM), plate-frozen offals, boutique meat meals and natural dried treats – sourcing its red meat offal raw material from more than 30 abattoirs across Australia, processing more than 150 tonnes of raw material per day.

As market opportunities continued to grow, Cool Off designed innovative new technology to help meet this increasing consumer demand.

Automated plate freezing
To help maintain a high quality product, Cool Off developed a unique offal collection process that involved installation of a customised collection and chilling unit onsite at the abattoir. This enabled Cool Off to control all aspects of quality from the onset, providing a dedicated focus on quality of the pet food products, with minimal abattoir labour input. This system has been installed at over 30 Australian abattoirs.

Once the offal was processed, it was pumped into large plate freezers, with the capacity to hold 2000 kg of product, and frozen at -20˚C. The product is then unloaded and palletised for delivery to pet food manufacturers. In the past, this was a labour-intensive process that required manual handling by operators. To increase throughput and limit manual handling requirements, Cool Off, together with VK Logic, designed a new automated plate freezing system. VK Logic has a longstanding relationship with Cool Off, resulting in a detailed understanding of the plate-freezing process. Justin Van Klaveren, managing director at VK Logic, explained that in order to meet increasing customer supply contracts, Cool Off undertook some expansion work at the plant that included building works and new freezer panel rooms.

“There wasn’t a simple, automated unload process for the large plate freezers so together with Cool Off, we placed an arrangement of pneumatically actuated panels and built plate freezer apparatus to utilise the existing infrastructure to release each block one by one down the plate onto a common conveyor belt, eliminating the requirement for manual handling,” said Van Klaveren.

“Given that margins for pet food are not near margins for human consumption, the opportunity for automation becomes more important,” Van Klaveren added.

High-performance architecture
Combining integrated control and safety, the Allen-Bradley GuardLogix was selected as the most appropriate choice for this application. The Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture system, including PowerFlex 527 drives with safety over Ethernet, offered an innovative, modular design to support fast and easy installation and configuration. These compact drives also offered embedded EtherNet/IP communications and standard safety features.

The Allen-Bradley Kinetix servo drives provided advanced motion control for the system and the capability to standardise on a single communications network for easier commissioning, configuration and start up. A FactoryTalk View SE human machine interface (HMI) was used to monitor and control the plant. To help with remote assistance and maintenance, VK Logic had VPN access to the site.

“We saw an opportunity in terms of that single platform with safety over Ethernet. The PowerFlex drives provided an integrated solution with motion, drives and safety all on the one common platform. This helped reduce engineering time and ongoing maintenance requirements,” explained Van Klaveren.

Rockwell Automation authorised distributor, NHP Electrical Engineering, supported this project by identifying the most appropriate equipment to meet the application requirements. According to Jason Campbell, business development – automation at NHP, “There’s no technology that rivals this new patented system. The solution allowed Cool Off to increase throughput, reduce downtime and redeploy operators that were doing manual labour.”

The new automated plate freezing system improved throughput and reduced manual handling requirements.

Patented innovation to meet consumer demand
Cool Off’s patented plate freezing technology was the product of intelligent engineering and problem solving – resulting in an increase in plate freezing capacity by 120 per cent. The technology and innovation around the plate-freezer design was developed together with VK Logic, a business with a growing reputation for “out of box” thinking for large and small projects alike.

The plant is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week as there is significant demand for the product. With consumer demand continually increasing, Cool Off was recently awarded a government grant to double capacity of the plant.

Edward Staughton, managing director of Cool Off and Staughton Group, highlights the significant advantages the company enjoys over international and domestic competitors via its technology: “The quality and freshness of red meat offal products collected from supplying abattoirs and delivered daily to Cool Off at Howlong is guaranteed via the unique chilling system installed at supplying abattoirs. This patented system was developed by Cool Off and VK Logic, using experience gained over 20 years of collecting offals from abattoirs located throughout Eastern Australia. The system ensures all product from abattoirs in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia can be delivered in any season over long distances and maintain its freshness.”

Staughton has inspected many plate freezing systems throughout Europe and America. “The development of our patented automated plate freezing system, in combination with the abattoir chilling system, has given the Cool Off production team a massive international competitive advantage in quality and processing efficiency,” said Staughton.

“Three staff are able to fill, freeze, palletise and warehouse 50 tonnes (pallets) of product in an eight hour shift, which, combined with freeze time of two and a half hours, ensures maximum freshness of all products. With the plate freezers being fully Cleaning in Place (CIP), cleaning time is minimal. I have seen nothing internationally that compares with this system.”

“Cool Off is highly appreciative of the combined efforts of VK Logic and Rockwell Automation in enabling the development, and now the ‘bedded down’ operation, of technologies which are unmatched by international competitors. Cool Off looks forward to working with both these innovative and progressive companies to roll out further R&D projects that currently sit in the company’s pipe-line,” said Staughton.

New Rockwell Automation regional vp looks to spread wings in Asia

Scott Wooldridge has spent most of his career in the automation space, and he knows that now more than ever, automation’s time has come. Over the past 40 years many factories have implemented automation in all its various forms. However, over that time, the main driver was saving on labour costs. And if companies didn’t automate, they took their manufacturing business where labour was not only abundant, but cheap.

And while automation hasn’t always worked – the Australian car industry being one example – the industrialised world is now entering a new phase, which is being headed by the IoT and Industry 4.0.

As the regional vice-president of Rockwell Automation, Wooldridge’s brief covers Australasia, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia. Rockwell Automation has always been one of the big players in the Australasian market, but now it’s time for the American-based automation giant to spread it wings into the ever-increasing lucrative market to Australia’s north. This is a challenge that Wooldridge, and the company, are up for.

“When it comes to our traditional controller space – motion control, PLCs, HDMI, networking – we have large market share, particularly in Australia,” he said. “Less so in the other countries in Asia Pacific. We see huge opportunities for us in these other countries when it comes to our core business. We would be the market leader in Australia and New Zealand, but we have much different competition in Asia. There, we’ve got some home-grown Asia Pacific manufacturers like Omron, Yokogawa and Mitsubishi that have grown up in the region. However, we have differentiated offers in those markets, which is very important.

READ MORE: Rockwell Automation acquires Mestech

“Asia is a region that we are looking at working closely with and collaborating together to be able to exchange resources and best practices across those countries. Particularly on some of our newer product solutions and offerings that are emerging quickly, we can work with agility and share those areas of expertise.”

According to Wooldridge, there is a misnomer that Asia, as a whole, is an emerging market.
“You look at China, and some people call it an emerging market, but it is the second largest in the world now. It’s definitely emerged,” he said. “We do see other markets in the region – Vietnam for example – that are coming from a low base. It is quickly developing a manufacturing base.”

He thinks quality is an issue in the food and beverage industry when it comes to products from China, which has been to Australia’s advantage. He said Australia is seen as a high-quality food bowl into China and its emerged middle class has created a huge demand.
“We can see it in wine exports, for example. We can see it in the dairy products and baby powder, where they have confidence in our quality and they see Australian products as a luxury brand, which is a good thing,” he said. “That’s where we want to be positioned. We don’t want to be a mass market provider. We can tap into the top 10 per cent in China, which is still 150 million people – seven times our population and they are happy to pay a premium for a luxury brand. That is a good reputation for Australia to have.”

As well as increasing the company’s presence in Asia, Wooldridge is charged with consolidating its leadership role within Australasia. He’s sees plenty of opportunities available where Rockwell Automation can expand, especially in the IoT space. While new manufacturing and processing facilities will have automation as part of their build, it is the SMEs and companies that should refurbish that should to look at implementing the IoT products.

Some CEOs and CFOs may think of the IoT as an unnecessary capital expenditure cost. While spending is necessary, there are a couple of positive outputs they should be thinking about, said Wooldridge.

He advises against going like a bull at a gate, and replacing all the plant and machinery at once. Stakeholders should take their time when starting on the IoT journey. There are several plus sides to this. First, it allows those running the factory to see how even little implementations can save on time and other efficiencies. Second, if it is done gradually, companies can fund it via their operational budget because they are saving money on maintenance. Then, there is the scenario of, “what if you don’t implement IoT strategies?”

“We suggest having a five-year plan. Manufacturers will find it more expensive every year to keep the old equipment running,” said Wooldridge. “A lot of the time, we speak to people and they are already spending operationally on old equipment, or old automation gear they might have running, which only does a tenth of what their equipment should do. For a start, they can divert some of that maintenance spend into the new equipment, which will have less maintenance requirement because it is new.”

He is also quick to point out that a plant manager’s expectation that the new digital manufacturing solutions will start providing insights and outcomes quickly is a fair one.

“One of the overarching premises of IoT initiatives is that applications should be quick to deploy and deliver success,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a roll out of technology for technology’s sake. It should be agile technologies that you should be able to get a benefit from within three months of being installed.”

And don’t think that all older equipment needs to be replaced or is redundant, he said. Automation and IoT-enabled equipment can run in conjunction with gear already onsite.

“It is meant to run parallel with existing systems – your control system, your MES system or ERP system, traditional layer one, two, three, or four systems,” said Wooldridge. “An IoT platform should be able to pull data out of any of those systems easily, mash it together, and give you reporting and analytics quickly.”

The company works with the traditional manufacturing sectors, including oil and gas, mining and the food and beverage sectors. Wooldridge said there is good investment at the moment in adopting new technology across these segments including looking at higher levels of traditional automation.

“The reason is, if you are doing a greenfield factory, quite often we hear the term ‘lights out’,” he said. “In other words, how can we get it to the point where it is so automated that it is basically running itself? I don’t think that is practical or possible for all scenarios, but I think we can get far closer. I think if you have global competition, then you need to continue to evolve and invest in automation at a local level.”

Over the next few years, Rockwell expects to a step change in the IoT space and the process markets, such as the more traditional heavy process markets including oil, gas and chemical.

“We are making heavy investments in R&D and partnerships, and to Rockwell these markets are alike,” said Wooldridge. “Very close to automation and factory businesses. But they are new markets, so there is a lot of upside potential for us where we have a lot of customers that have historically used our equipment on a lot of the periphery of their processes – including food and beverage – but not at the core of it, particularly in the heavy industry space. We have ambition to the take the core, as well as protecting our factory and automation space and gaining growth in the IoT platforms space.”

Rockwell Automation acquires Mestech

Rockwell Automation today announced that it has acquired Mestech Services, a global provider of Manufacturing Execution Systems / Manufacturing Operations Management, digital solutions consulting, and systems integration services.

Mestech is a Rockwell Automation Recognised Systems Integrator with  experience applying Rockwell’s software-based solutions within the manufacturing technology space. The company offers technology consulting services, solutions design and deployment, support, plant asset management, and staffing solutions for discrete, hybrid, and process applications across multiple industries. Mestech, founded in 2008, is headquartered in Pune, India with operations in Germany and the United States.

READ MORE: Rockwell Automation’s TechED offers collaborative environment

“The acquisition of Mestech expands our capabilities to profitably grow Information Solutions and Connected Services globally and accelerate Rockwell’s ability to help our customers execute digital transformation initiatives,” said Matthew Fordenwalt, vice president and general manager, Systems & Solutions Business, for Rockwell Automation.

“India is one of Rockwell’s fastest growing markets and Mestech’s footprint and expertise will enable us to implement solutions faster, helping our customers increase their connectivity, efficiency, and productivity. At the same time, by joining the Rockwell family, Mestech will be able to leverage Rockwell’s products and solutions in the areas of control, process, power information solutions and industrial IoT, including FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, powered by PTC, in order to help customers develop the best possible solutions while minimizing risk.”

“We are excited about our future with Rockwell Automation, which will enable us to help more customers simplify their industrial transformations and accelerate their production timelines,” said Yatin Sankholkar, managing director, at Mestech. “Over the past decade, we have grown Mestech into one of the world’s leading manufacturing execution service providers, with a focus on technology consulting and software implementation for managing manufacturing operations. By joining forces with Rockwell, we will be able to expand our market access and offer more customers the benefit of our strong industry expertise.

Rockwell’s TechEd Australia – 3-5 September 2019

Rockwell Automation TechEd is the industry’s premier training and education event designed to help clients improve machine performance, optimise their plant and empower a Connected Enterprise.

Don’t miss the the opportunity to learn, explore and discover techniques for creating innovative high performance manufacturing and production applications.

Discover Cutting-Edge Solutions
Learn the techniques you need to help improve quality, reduce the cost of regulatory compliance and accelerate time to market in sessions led by leading industry companies.

Experience the Latest Technologies
Get step-by-step training on the tools and resources you need to develop solutions and drive results.

Network with Industry Leaders
Exchange innovative ideas with peers from around the region on how to work smarter, faster, safer and more sustainable.

Women in Automation – Pathways and Journey
Join a supportive community of women in automation to learn from their journey and explore pathways to achieve personal success in this industry.

The event will be held at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre from 3-5 September 2019.

Expand the possible with FactoryTalk InnovationSuite

The most successful business of the future will be the one that brings operational intelligence to its human developers. You’ll gain insights that enable you to innovate the way you manage your enterprise, how your workers work and how you deliver solutions to your customers. FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, provides the best of today’s IIoT, data analytics, AR and machine learning in one comprehensive solution. From the shop floor to the top floor, real-time operational visibility unleashes the power of possibilities for greater innovation, efficiency and profitability.

FactoryTalk InnovationSuite creates a connected environment, from the shop floor to the top floor, for real-time operational visibility. It helps you transform operations and develop scalable solutions that address numerous business scenarios. InnovationSuite can help eliminate your enterprise’s pain points around connectivity, data analytics and production while creating greater value in your operations and for your customers. You can achieve:

  • Real-time production and performance monitoring
  • Predictive and prescriptive maintenance
  • Digital work instructions
  • Equipment/machine analytics integration

Data from connected equipment, lines, processes and facilities is flowing into factories faster than ever before. The information locked in these data streams has the potential to transform how industrial producers manage their operations, solve issues and adapt to change. But managing that data and making it useful for the right purpose, at the right place and time is no easy task. Can your decision-makers get the answers they need to make timely decisions?

FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, is a comprehensive suite that brings edge-to-enterprise analytics, machine learning, industrial internet of things (IIoT) and augmented reality (AR) into industrial operations. This powerful solution simplifies the management of your data, supporting the sourcing, contextualizing, synthesis and orchestration of the information needs for every job role across operations.

InnovationSuite collects and consolidates information technology (IT) with operational technology (OT) from your existing equipment and systems for data-driven decision-making aligned with your specific requirements. Your workers are relieved of the burden of finding the data they need. And with instant access to actionable, real-time, data-driven insights, they can be more effective and more innovative.

The most successful business of the future will be the one that brings operational intelligence to its human developers. You’ll gain insights that enable you to innovate the way you manage your enterprise, how your workers work and how you deliver solutions to your customers. FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, provides the best of today’s IIoT, data analytics, AR and machine learning in one comprehensive solution. From the shop floor to the top floor, real-time operational visibility unleashes the power of possibilities for greater innovation, efficiency and profitability.

FactoryTalk InnovationSuite empowers your people with access to real-time and near-time information that gives them what they need to make timely and well-informed decisions. It provides powerful, purpose-built, IIoT solutions.

Integrated features manage complex data to deliver real-time insights
InnovationSuite uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to simplify and automate complex IT and OT data gathering and analysis, learning from and building on its knowledge base for future analyses. The suite collects and organizes data in real time and adds context to give you actionable insights. It also recommends insights of its own, enhancing your ability to understand and respond to issues and opportunities – right now. With InnovationSuite, your applications become more predictive. You get greater control over your operations while better protecting your assets.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, for your operations.

Rockwell Automation’s TechED offers collaborative environment

Rockwell Automation’s Sydney TechED event was one of several events the company holds every year around the world.

It is an opportunity for both Rockwell Automation and its partners to get together and talk about the various projects and latest pieces of technology in the automation space.

“We have found that TechED is the best way for us to enable ourselves and our extended sales team – which are our distributors and system integrators – to learn more about the latest technology,” said Sally Lai, marketing manager, Rockwell Automation Asia Pacific. “This event enables them to discuss the latest technology and to interact with the other partners whereby they can collaborate on projects.”

One of the highlights was the keynote address by technology expert Chris Riddell with a speech titled Beyond Tomorrow. “He shared some insights of what is to come in the future,” said Lai. “He spoke about the technology that we’ll be seeing in the near future. It is the first time we have an external speaker to present on a topic that is still related to what we do, so it was refreshing.”

Commercial marketing manager Laura Hernandez and Lai were very pleased with the event and had great feedback on how proceedings went.

“We had very positive feedback from our customers, partners and colleagues,” said Hernandez. “More than a couple of people mentioned it was the best TechED they had ever attended and that it was well organised and the content was outstanding.”

“I have been to TechED in Singapore and the scale of the one is Sydney is the bigger one of the two in terms of the size of the attendants and content. I think overall it was well attended. We had about 260 attendees at the event and some very good leads and opportunities came out from event for all involved,” said Lai.

There were plenty of sessions covered by Rockwell Automation staff and Platform 1, Platform 2, Knowledge, Technology and Discovery Stations were covered by a plethora of subjects including controller-based batching, designing a safe motor control system, smart safety systems and practical guidelines for drive installation to name a few.

Strategic Alliance Partner feedback was also strong. “I was impressed with the level of engagement that Rockwell Automation customers showed,” said Keith Pereira from Cisco Systems Australia. “All sessions looked well attended, especially the labs. It was also good to see a lot of Cisco concepts positioned, too.”

Factory upgrade safeguards long term gelatine production

Gelatine is a multitalented ingredient for countless applications. Food applications are perhaps the best known examples but they’re not the only ones with pharmaceuticals, emergency medicine and photographic films also utilising gelatine products.

To help safeguard future production of a large-scaled gelatine manufacturing plant, an innovative risk management approach was undertaken to identify and subsequently replace legacy equipment with minimal interruption to the production process. 

Safeguarding gelatine production

The existing legacy distributed control system (DCS) was over 15 years old and although it was still in operation, a malfunction or breakdown during the process presented a significant production risk.

An assessment of new technologies identified that the Rockwell Automation PlantPAx system was the most appropriate choice for this application.

READ: Rockwell Automation helps an iconic Australian biscuit manufacturer with plant upgrade

The PlantPAx process automation system connects process, discrete, power, information and safety control into one plant-wide infrastructure, leveraging EtherNet/IP as its backbone. As a result real time information is readily available throughout the enterprise.

Innovative project execution

In the first stage of this project, the Rockwell Automation Global Solutions team were engaged to conduct a Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) specification.

“We conducted a thorough site audit at the plant and documented the existing system and current processes,” explained Sean Doherty, Rockwell Automation.

To address concerns around risk mitigation, an additional level of testing was introduced for the system with detailed Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT).

Smart commissioning

When replacing a legacy DCS system, if the field wiring is replaced simultaneously a significant risk is introduced.

“In this instance to have someone disconnect 4000 wires and manually reconnect them, the odds are that some may not be connected correctly and you would then need to test every single field connection,” explained Doherty.

“To avoid this, we developed an IO adaptor card to allow us to remove the old DCS and module and replace it with our proprietary designed module so we could signal through our system without having to change the IO wiring. This reduced the changeover time significantly,” he said.

Straight to A-grade quality

This project highlights the importance of careful planning and risk mitigation. From the initial stage of documenting existing functionality to testing and commissioning, the new system was integrated seamlessly and three days ahead of schedule.

Within a turnaround time of approximately four days, it was a smooth transition and the factory continued with manufacturing A-grade quality gelatine.

Miraka benefits from model predictive control solution

Maori-owned Miraka is well established in the New Zealand dairy-processing industry with strong values founded on the cultural beliefs of its owners.

Located in Mokai, on New Zealand’s central North Island, Miraka is unique within the dairy industry.

The company’s milk supply is sourced from 107 local farms within an 85km radius of the factory, delivering a farm-fresh advantage and superior quality products with a global reach to more than 23 countries.

Miraka uses sustainable and renewable geothermal energy and state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, resulting in the power and capacity to process more than 250 million litres of milk into powders and UHT products every year.

Meeting increasingly stringent consumer and regulatory demands is a continual challenge for all dairy manufacturers.

Complex challenges such as consumer demand, product specifications, regulatory compliance and fluctuating costs place strategic importance on continually improving performance and profitability.

With a strong commitment to continuous improvement of current manufacturing assets, Miraka invested in a solution to optimise their milk powder process.

Capacity was maximised by driving to process constraints.

Yield was optimised through improved targeting and reduction of variability of milk powder moisture, protein, and fat.

The evaporator solids and drying profile was balanced to reduce energy consumption.

Process Optimisation

Raw milk is collected from dairy farms daily and transported to milk powder production plants.  A portion of the raw milk is separated into skim milk and cream.

The milk is typically standardised by blending raw milk, skim milk, lactose, and permeate to meet international standards.

The standardised milk is then concentrated in multi-effect evaporators and spray dried to form powder.

Optimal operation of these processes is essential to reduce costs, maximise capacity and meet final product quality specifications.

When embarking on process optimisation, Miraka called on the specialist process control capabilities of Rockwell Automation. Leveraging Rockwell Automation’s Pavilion8 model predictive control (MPC) software platform and their decades of experience in delivering solutions in the dairy industry, Miraka teamed closely with Rockwell Automation engineers to specify and deploy a system to optimise their milk powder production plant.

“There was a high level of engagement from all the key stakeholders which facilitated a fast paced and successful implementation,” said Lynn Medich, Pavilion regional technical manager, Rockwell Automation.

“Leveraging our expertise in deploying model predictive control solutions in dairy standardisation, evaporation and spray drying we worked closely with Miraka to engineer a solution that generates operational improvements and business value.”

Model Predictive Control

All manufacturing processes have variability that can be caused by many factors. The primary objective of the Rockwell Automation Model Predictive Control (MPC) solution is to enhance stability in the process unit through the reduction of variability of key process parameters and optimal control to desired targets.

The Rockwell Automation Pavillion8 system includes modules to control, analyse, monitor, visualise and integrate information and processes. This system encompasses and manages dynamics and changing disturbances that occur minute by minute.

This delivers enhanced process stability so that defined control objectives can be achieved. In the case of powdered milk production, reducing the variability of key process parameters enables plants to drive to their processing and specification limits optimising yield and capacity.

Optimising Milk Powder Production in a Holistic Approach

The Miraka Pavilion8 solution was implemented in phases to effectively introduce model predictive control technology to operators while delivering value. Real time key performance indicators were deployed quantifying the value being delivered as each unit was commissioned.

The evaporation process was optimised in the first phase. Variability was reduced and total solids targeting was improved. The evaporator total solids target was lifted resulting in better thermal efficiency across the evaporation and drying stages and increased capacity.

In the second phase spray dryer model predictive control was commissioned.

“Deploying model predictive control on Miraka’s spray dryer allowed us to improve yield through closed-loop moisture control combined with targeting an increased powder moisture,” explained Kerryn Sakko, Pavilion senior application engineer, Rockwell Automation. Capacity was additionally maximised by pushing the process safely to constraints.“

Implementation of multivariable model predictive control on the standardising process was delivered as the final phase of the solution. Use of multivariable models for liquid composition control combined with inferential models for tracking composition through the entire drying process resulted in reduction of protein and fat variability in the final powder.

Additionally the liquid composition controller included additional objective functions to maximise use of lower cost standardising ingredients.

Training sessions, which utilised the advanced analytics capability of the Pavilion8 system, facilitated operators quickly learning to optimally use the system and additionally streamlined site acceptance tests.

Measuring Process Improvement

Through consultation with Miraka, a set of parameters were identified that would provide information about the effectiveness of the process improvement.

The identified parameters were:

  • Quality (powder moisture yield)
  • Evaporator solids (plant throughput improvement)
  • Dryer thermal efficiency (dryer capacity improvement)
  • Reduction in energy per tonne of product (cost reduction)
  • Protein and fat optimisation (yield)

The Pavilion8 solution provided Miraka an exceptional result. A capacity increase of more than four percent was achieved during the peak season, moisture targets were raised by 0.04 percent, and improved protein and fat control provided the potential to reduce fat plus protein giveaway by more than 100 tonnes per year.

In addition, optimisation of the evaporator solids and drying profiles resulted in an estimated energy savings of greater than one percent per tonne of milk powder during peak production

According to Paul Trewin, general manager operations at Miraka, “The excellence and innovation values of the Miraka Powder Plant team who delivered this project alongside Rockwell Automation greatly exceeding expectations was brilliant to observe.

Rockwell Automation, Inc. (NYSE:ROK), the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information, makes its customers more productive and the world more sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., Rockwell Automation employs approximately 22,000 people serving customers in more than 80 countries.

Allen-Bradley, FactoryTalk, Pavillion, and Rockwell Software are trademarks of Rockwell Automation, Inc.

Rockwell Automation helps an iconic Australian biscuit manufacturer with plant upgrade

Arnott’s is one of the largest food companies in the Asia Pacific region. More than 50,000 Australians have worked for Arnott’s over the past century.

Today, Arnott’s employs around 2,200 Australians across all states and territories.

The company also employs several thousand people across the Asia Pacific region, in countries such as New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

Millions of Australians have grown up with Arnott’s over the past 152 years. For them, Arnott’s is more than a food company – it’s a piece of Australia’s history and a national icon. Arnott’s portfolio of brands includes household names like Tim Tam, Shapes, Iced VoVo, SAO, Vita-Weat, Salada and Tiny Teddy.

READ: NHP to acquire Rockwell Automation related business assets

As consumers continue to seek high quality and variety in product ranges, food and beverage manufacturers are actively looking to invest in new technologies to help them develop a more agile response to changing consumer tastes and increased flexibility in production lines.

Arnott’s produces a wide variety of sweet and savoury biscuits that have been enjoyed by generations. In fact, Arnott’s has invested approximately a quarter of a billion dollars in their Australian biscuit facilities.

The company’s manufacturing plant in Adelaide produces approximately 10,000 tonnes of biscuits annually. To meet increasing local and global consumer demand, Arnott’s recently embarked on Project Flex – a control and HMI system upgrade to deliver increased flexibility and agility for biscuit production.

When embarking on Project Flex, Arnott’s had no hesitation in calling upon their long-standing automation and control provider Sage Automation. According to Stuart Mitchell, senior systems engineer at Sage, “We have been working with Arnott’s in Adelaide for the past 20 years so we are very familiar with the plant. It is a Rockwell Automation site through and through, so we naturally called on them to help with the upgrade.”

With expansion into international markets and a subsequent demand to increase production, it was important for Arnott’s to have the ability to run any biscuit on any line while maintaining product consistency.

The first stage of the project involved updating the legacy oven conveyor’s PLC hardware to improve the way that operators could load new production orders, including a feature that allows different recipes to be stored, selected and produced on the same line. It also involved the installation of two new cooling systems for conveyors including reprogramming of the control system and HMI.

With this new system, Arnott’s were able to achieve greater flexibility on each line with a reduced margin for human error.

The control system upgrade required the migration of legacy SLC controllers to Allen Bradley ControlLogix to help reduce maintenance costs and allow for increased flexibility on production lines.

While justifying the risk and expense of control system upgrades may initially seem like a challenge, investing in modern technologies that leverage the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) helps manufacturers realise the benefits of smart manufacturing.

As Jonathan Footman, solutions architect, Rockwell Automation, explained, “The more connectivity you have across the plant floor helps implement the technology to enable smart manufacturing and progress in the journey towards a connected enterprise.”

To keep the plant running, Arnott’s leveraged the inherent flexibility of the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture system to undergo a staged migration to the new controllers.

The ControlLogix control system offers modular architectures and a range of I/O and network options. Tight integration between the programming software, controller, and I/O modules, reduces development time and costs at commissioning and during normal operation.

To help reduce engineering time, Sage used existing SLC I/O in the first stage and subsequently added some Ethernet Point I/O and Flex I/O on DeviceNet. The RSLogix Project Migrator Tool was used to install the ControlLogix controllers with ease.

“While the majority of the plant uses Ethernet, there is still some equipment communicating through DeviceNet and DH+ so by using ControlLogix, any potential integration issues were overcome because the controller is compatible with all three networks. This flexibility allowed the upgrade to be performed in a staged manner as opposed to having to perform the whole upgrade in one go,” explained Footman.

Investing in modern technologies helped manufacturers realise the benefits of smart manufacturing.

Reducing production loss during an upgrade was often filled with challenges but in this case, thanks to careful planning and a phased approach to the migration, the upgrade was completed with no production loss.

Delivering a wide-range of motor control, Arnott’s installed seven new PowerFlex 525 drives as part of the upgrade. Sage was responsible for the drive integration using existing code to both new and existing Ethernet and DeviceNet networks. Moving to the newer platform increased the operational efficiency and centralised the plant’s control system.

In addition, Arnott’s leveraged the intelligence of the PowerFlex variable speed drives on Ethernet to help operators access real time information in the plant.

“Prior to the drive upgrade, the operators would have to run feedback using analogue set points, which was very time consuming. Now, with the PowerFlex drives on Ethernet, all the diagnostics can be accessed in real time. The drives also have a small footprint, reducing the required panel size,” explained Mitchell.

The HMI design and functionality was updated according to Arnott’s specifications to improve the way operators could load new production orders, including a feature that allows different recipes to be stored, selected and produced on the same line.

Sage designed, programmed and installed the HMI solution allowing for a large number of recipes to be created and stored for each oven. The recipe management page enabled each oven to store recipes with pre-programmed conveyor paths, line speed set points and variables.

The new HMI system utilises PanelView terminals and reduces the number of pages from approximately 70 to only 20, simplifying events with each conveyor having its own pop up with manual controls and speed settings.

The HMI solution allows for a large number of recipes to be created and stored for each oven.

With this new system now in place, Arnott’s was able to achieve greater flexibility on each line with a much reduced margin for human error.

According to Andre Spoor, engineering manager, Arnott’s Biscuits, “Sage upgraded our PLC and HMI with no loss in production and no downtime. It’s a great result for us considering it was such a big upgrade.”

By undertaking a staged approach to the control system migration, the multiple manufacturing control solutions were delivered with no unplanned interruption to production. The system was centralised with all cooling systems being monitored and controlled from a centralised ControlLogix controller.

“The change has ensured that the site improves its ability to be flexible. It has simplified the selection and set up process and therefore reduced operator error and provided control systems for the sites conveyors and cooling systems that are well supported within industry,” explained Spoor.

Thanks to the upgrade, Arnott’s is well positioned to meet the growing demand for increased flexibility and agility in its manufacturing operations. By increasing connectivity across the plant floor, it is realising the benefits of smart manufacturing and is now able to build on this foundation, step-by-step, to work towards a connected enterprise.