Nutritional plant links production data to the enterprise

Interoperability among production systems has been a sturdy challenge for food manufacturers over the years, with culprits sometimes being proprietary control systems not playing nicely with enterprise systems or multiple networking protocols within the plant. The automation community has been active for years in recognizing these challenges and promoting standards to allow data to move freely within a plant.

ExxonMobil introduced a new automation working group called the Open Process Automation Forum to help drive open architecture platform solutions for the process industry, including the food, nutritional and beverage industries. The working group features many automation suppliers with “the express goal of secure, interoperable process control architecture,” according to the organization.

Recently, Netherlands-based DSM Nutritional Products encountered an interoperability challenge at its plant in France with a legacy manufacturing execution system (MES) and other enterprise systems, such as its plant-floor SCADA on the plant floor and ERP software from SAP.

This processing plant produces vitamins and natural colorants for food and beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical customers. All premix vitamin production revolves around custom orders and the need to deliver supplies within four weeks of order reception; this includes laboratory analysis certificates.

The batch processing platform at the Village-Neuf plant can produce more than 1,000 recipes from more than 200 raw ingredients using ABB’s 800xA control system. This control platform can run seven different mixers with capacities ranging from 240 to 8,000 L.

With more traceability needed due to increasing food safety demands, the company scrapped its custom process control system that required strict sequential execution of process steps and was inefficient.

“The premix team took the implementation of the new MES as an opportunity to reassess and optimize the implementation of their process,” says Gilles Nodot, product manager at DSM Nutritional.

Optimization for DSM meant finding an MES solution based on the ISA-95 standard and the company picked ABB’s Enterprise Connectivity System (ECS) and the cpmPlus module. This connectivity module allows DSM to connect directly to its ERP system and facilitate quicker integration to production systems and equipment on the plant floor. The module interfaces with many systems, including IBM’s Maximo (ERP), OLE Database, XML, OPC, and TCP/IP to name a few.

ABB’s platform for the food and beverage industry offers multiple MES modules, such as production management, quality management, electronic work instructions, weigh and dispense, material management, OEE and more.

While DSM didn’t provide complete details on all MES components from ABB, some premix production steps can now be performed in parallel to avoid bottlenecks.
According to DSM, all materials do not have to be available for production to begin. “Now weighing and portioning can begin as soon as materials arrive,” says Nodot.

Flexible scheduling and real-time information is also helping drive efficiencies to the company’s ERP software and business side.  “We now have real-time information about the entire process, says Nodot. This process now permits a detailed planning process with reduced demand for storage of raw materials.”