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Nut oil producer unveils automation platform in its greenfield facility

There are tremendous cross-currents at play in the manufacturing sector due to the accessibility of digital and advanced automation solutions. Meeting these currents head-on is the more conservative side of manufacturing, with its focus on safety, cost-cutting and traditional business models.  

However, business models for food and beverage manufacturers are now rapidly changing. Caloy, a producer of high-end nut oil, is company shifting its business model by processing tree nuts at a greenfield plant in Denair, California, instead of transporting harvests to Europe for refining. 

According to Caloy, keeping the production on site reduces logistics costs and helps expand distribution into the North American and Asian markets. The company produces walnut, pistachio and almond oil that is used in a variety of products.

The refining process at the new California plant includes pressing, screening and filtering locally-harvested tree nuts into commercial oils. For the automation platform, Caloy turned to Rockwell Automation’s Plant PAx distributed control system (DCS) and a unified platform approach that achieves high-level device visibility and faster commissioning due to an automation library based on process-object control code.  

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Engineering Unlimited, a system integrator, used the pre-defined control code for a range of equipment configurations during commissioning for valves, storage tanks and motors. The add-on-instructions (AOI) within the library of control code have modules with pre-defined functionality to rapidly define a function.

With the higher visibility into valves and motors via the new DCS, Caloy focused on energy efficiencies due to California's above-average power costs. One area of opportunity in this area is the use of variable frequency drives (VFD) in place of soft starters. 

“Engineering Unlimited provided a scenario and all the costs of using VFDs versus starters,” says Wayne McCalley, president at Caloy. “The VFDs offer a six-month payback, and we added Allen-Bradley PowerFlex VFDs on almost everything we could, even down to 3-horsepower motors, to help reduce demand and increase efficiency.”

According to Engineering Unlimited, the VFDs are capable of tighter speed control that helps with control loops in the plant, as well as being able to grab all the information from those drives. 

“Caloy can pinpoint problems if a drive faults out and know the reason for the fault,” states Bob Werner, CEO at Engineering Unlimited. “They can reset a drive after clearing the faults. And if it was a nuisance trip with the drive, the process can keep running due to a buffer design for production.” 

The visibility into the plant doesn’t stop with the three-stage processing of nuts into an oil. Caloy also had Engineering Unlimited design the tank farm that stores finished and unfinished oil. The DCS provides visibility into the eight tanks, with four to offload finished product to trucks for custody transfer. The other four tanks are for final mixing.

“Caloy can only send pure oil to Europe,” says McCalley. “Through visibility and reporting capabilities, we can ensure mixing and contamination doesn’t occur in the tank farm where these risks are the highest. For example, we can implement mechanisms to ensure an operator can’t put almond oil in a tank designated for walnut oil.”

The tanks, connected by interconnected valves, use Emerson’s Micro Motion flow meters in the tank area. Operators also use Microsoft Surface Books for human-machine interfaces (HMI) throughout the plant, with these devices helping in troubleshooting operational issues away from the main control room. 

The automation solutions are in place for Caloy, and a greenfield facility makes the transition to a new business model much more manageable. “The efficiencies that we’ve gained with automated controls and cutting-edge technologies are already paying off our investments in this new facility,” says McCalley.