Cloud-Based Software Modernizes Cleaning System Reporting

Sani-Matic worked with Rockwell Automation and PTC to develop a SaaS offering that replaces largely manual, paper-based data collection processes.

Cloud Based Software

Seeking to modernize clean-in-place (CIP) and clean-out-of-place (COP) processes by automating cleaning system reporting, Sani-Matic introduced SaniTrend Cloud software as a service (SaaS). The software is designed to help food and beverage and other industries convert from a largely manual, paper-based data collection process to one that enables customers to capture cleaning-cycle data and quickly generate the reports and notifications needed to meet regulatory requirements such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

Cloud Based Software

To achieve this, Sani-Matic partnered with Rockwell Automation and PTC’s ThingWorx to develop a cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) software solution that enables customers to automatically generate cleaning cycle reports and analyze operational data. This enables manufacturers to troubleshoot more effectively, analyze cleaning cycle overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) over time, and gain insights into system operation.

SaniTrend Cloud is available with any new PLC-controlled, automated cleaning system from Sani-Matic. It can also be retrofitted with any existing Sani-Matic automated cleaning system that has an Allen-Bradley CompactLogix or higher PLC processor. Peter Barrie, product management director for Sani-Matic, explains how the software works and why it’s needed in the food and beverage industry.

PFW: Tell me about Sani-Matic’s partnership with Rockwell Automation and PTC. How did you end up developing SaniTrend Cloud?

Barrie: This was back in early 2019. For us, even further back in 2018, we started looking at IoT solutions in general. We build automated CIP, or clean-in-place, and COP, or clean-out-of-place, systems for food, beverage, personal care, nutraceutical, biopharm, and pharmaceutical industries. In all of those industries, there are regulatory requirements for recording that the equipment was cleaned properly—not only that we did this cleaning, but we did it at these temperatures and chemical concentrations, and things like that.

Peter Barrie, Sani-MaticPeter Barrie, Sani-MaticWith current methods, a lot of times it’s manual, sometimes it’s someone walking around with a clipboard. Paper chart recorders record temperature activity on these paper charts, but they’re super hard to interpret. They require paper storage and are not a super-efficient method.

IoT stuff was starting to build and we looked at solutions for that. In 2018, we looked at a couple of different solutions. Then in early 2019, we were also on a path to and are now at the Gold OEM Partner level with Rockwell. So, at the time, we were sharing strategies and product development things. And one of them was this cloud-based product. That was right around when they were developing their relationship with PTC, developing the FactoryTalk InnovationSuite product line. We had some discovery sessions, and they brought in some technical folks and did some demos. They looked good and looked like something that we could make work.

We’re a manufacturing company—we have a lot of custom engineering and automation, but we’re not going to build, from the ground up, ISO-certified data security centers and things like that. We knew we had to partner with someone, and with Rockwell and the PTC relationship, they bring all of the data security, network structure, and knowledge of IoT solutions.

PFW: Tell me more about the need for something like SaniTrend Cloud in the food and beverage industry.

Barrie: The product delivers two things for customers. Back in 2018, when we started looking at this, the main thing was there’s a regulatory need for this. When our sales team is talking about this product to our customers, that is the thing that lights up the light bulb in their mind, like maybe this cloud solution is a viable option. And then the other solution it’s providing is efficiency gains. That can be from the system itself, but also, more importantly, from the operators who are using the system.

We calculate OEE, overall equipment effectiveness. That’s traditionally on the production equipment, but we said, ‘Hey, why can’t we apply it to our cleaning cycles. Let’s take those OEE—availability, performance, quality—parameters and apply them to our cleaning cycles.’

What that allows us to do is monitor and optimize those over time, but also operational user-efficiency items like text and email notifications. On a clean cycle, there are quality people that have to look at that data before they release it back to production. If they can get an email after a cycle is complete, and they can go in and check that data and give it their approval or put comments on it within the portal, then everything just got more efficient. Right now, they have to walk down to the plant floor, check that paper record, bring it over to someone else, and all that kind of fun stuff.

PFW: You mentioned the paper charts. Explain the downsides of using this traditional method for tracking cleaning cycles vs. the technology that Sani-Matic has introduced. 

Barrie: Interacting with those [paper charts] is very inefficient. A lot of times you can be running a bunch of different CIP cycles over the course of a 12- or 24-hour period. When you’re looking at that, it’s hard to really interpret—was this good or not?

On the flip side, our product is very interactive. You can click on it, you can zoom in on it, you can review it really easily, you can export it and get the raw values in a table in Excel format, if you want. It conceptualizes each of those clean cycles into a report. You can see all the temperatures and all the conductivity.

You can access the portal on a phone, tablet, desktop… It allows a quality person working over in the office, not in the manufacturing space, or someone remote, to easily grab that stuff vs. a paper track record. There’s a lot of paper handling that can be avoided.

PFW: Are there other digital solutions that manufacturers are using already? 

Barrie: In the last 10 years, companies have been starting to build their own reporting functions. A lot of times they will communicate with other plant equipment, and they can be tied into a plant historian or a custom-built data recording platform. That is a step in the right direction. The problems we’ve seen is if it’s a software company or a third-party integrator, they might grab a few data points. But we’ve built the solution that’s going to grab all your data.

I’ve seen situations where people go down the path of trying to develop their own custom-built solution, and it’s just failed. And they have to go back to paper chart recorders or something like that. When you can just easily get something from an OEM who does this every day—we feel we can provide a lot more value to it.

PFW: Explain more about how SaniTrend Cloud works. 

Barrie: Our systems are automated CIP and COP systems, and they are equipped with a PLC and an HMI and the SaniTrend Cloud products. We add in the industrial edge device to that panel, and that edge device basically averages up all that data. There’s an internet connection, obviously; we can do that with Ethernet or Wi-Fi—and then send the data off to the cloud, where it is securely put into a portal, where the company then can log in and review that data.

There are also live dashboards in there. So, with almost no delay, you can be standing next to your CIP system, and on your phone, bring up the dashboard and basically see tank levels and flow rates and all that kind of stuff, almost live. 

For the cycle reports, if I do a two-hour wash cycle, after that’s completed, that gets all packaged up, and within about a minute, that data is then in the cloud to review. There are two areas of data. You do a lot of live dashboard stuff, so you can see things on the fly. But then each of those clean cycle reports are packaged up about a minute after. A quality person could be subscribed to an alert where they see this CIP cycle just finished, they can log in, review that data, add comments to it.

Operators can similarly add comments. If there were alarms on the system, the quality person would see that, and maybe an operator would want to explain what that alarm was. That hub is where the data is stored and where the users—whether operator, supervisor, quality, sanitation crew—that’s where they go in and interact with that data.

PFW: What are examples of the types of reports customers are interested in? 

Barrie: We grab all the critical clean cycle data, but we also are grabbing events, such as alarms, or operators pressing start and stop and abort and things like that. A lot of these cleaning shifts are overnight, so one person said, ‘I can see that this person did this instead of this,’ so it’s a training opportunity. With a paper chart recorder, it’s not even a question, that data is not getting grabbed.

Also, as a diagnostic tool, you can, for example, that there’s an instrument air pressure alarm at 3 a.m. every day. I can investigate with my team at the plant the cause of the alarm. Maybe we shut down the instrument air for maintenance. Or maybe we need to figure out how to fix that. Anything that’s going on with the system, we track and log so that they can use the software not only as that regulatory cleaning cycle data requirement, but also as a troubleshooter for the actual system and training for operators. If an operator hits start and abort, you’d be able to tell that. It records which operator was logged in at the time. Numerous customers have seen value just in that. It’s an opportunity to know what’s going on and then train people what not to do or what to do in place of that.

PFW: Any plans for upgrades to SaniTrend going forward? 

Barrie: We are starting to develop a system operation report. Users are going to use this platform differently. Some people might treat it in a hands-off way—my clean cycle data is up there for regulatory requirements, but I’m not going to take the time to dig through my logs and see how operators are using it. Sani-Matic is offering proactive system operational reports, so that every maybe six months or a year, we can go do a deep dive of what their system has been doing, looking for recurring alarms or OEE scores. We can provide a summary of how their system has been doing with some recommendations.

There’s a documentation storage area within each of these systems in the central cloud software. We preload commonly asked-for documents that oftentimes get forgotten about or lost—like spare parts lists and electrical drawings. They can also keep the manual in the centralized area, so when the maintenance person needs it two years down the road, they can grab it.

We’re also doing how-to videos of how to replace this or how to do that. We can automatically push product-specific videos to the customer.

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