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Natural Foods Revival Meets Manufacturing Efficiencies

Chobani, a leader in Greek yogurt, hits its stride with a software-based SCADA system that allows for greater plant visibility and production output.

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Retail consumers have demanded a new paradigm from food producers and, in return, the market has responded with a natural ingredients or organic revival. Food companies have met this tectonic shift by building flexible control platforms and enterprise systems to produce better vertical supply efficiencies.

Norwich, N.Y.-based Chobani is a global food company that has met the back-to-basics revival with its headline product, authentically strained Greek yogurt. The food maker is now leaning on its global production facilities to move quickly with related products, such as natural grains and dessert ingredients.

Chobani recently invested $450 million to build a production facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, using Inductive Automation’s Ignition SCADA platform, Rockwell Automation’s programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and human-machine interface (HMI) software, and Schneider Electric’s Wonderware historians.

The SCADA platform oversees the entire production platform in Twin Falls, and at plants in New York and Australia. These relatively new plants lean on the SCADA platform to provide more production visibility to operators and executives. The SCADA system, for example, monitors and provides key performance indicators (KPIs) for the processing and packaging operations for all three plants.

With such large factory footprints, better visibility of production data was a key requirement, including mobility. “With our large-screen dashboards on the plant floor, operators can monitor clean in place (CIP), separation percentages and view instant notifications for the process,” says Hugh Roddy, vice president of global engineering and project management for Chobani.

Chobani uses large-screen displays and mobile technologies throughout the plant. Most of these are Ignition-generated displays that allow operations to monitor all processing, filler and packaging lines in real time.

Process control data also travels up to the enterprise level via Chobani’s Cho Dash apps. Process tank data is shared with management and real-time packaging production information was added recently as well. Management is now able to send alerts to plant teams if production output falls below certain levels or modifications are required instantaneously.

The recently added packaging KPIs show how quickly the Inductive Automation SCADA platform can expand monitoring capabilities for this global food producer. The server-based SCADA software has a built-in Python scripting engine that allows users to implement graphic script builders and avoid writing script to display operational parameters, such as changing properties.

More KPIs help operations and maintenance monitor the dense Greek yogurt processing that has twice the amount of solids compared with more traditional U.S. yogurts.

Chobani is implementing 30-40 HMI/SCADA projects at the moment, helped by the low cost involved to add more application clients to the plant floor.

For the company’s packaging lines, Chobani uses the same KPI screen graphics from the plant floor and integrates them into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system at the Idaho plant, creating consistent data representations. “Management can now view a packaging line with our ERP system, see the batch order and view production numbers for each line at our facilities,” Roddy says.

Chobani is moving toward tighter integration between its production and management enterprise levels to drive efficiencies with its supply chain at all three Chobani plants. “We’re in the process of enhancing more and more and pushing some ERP batch order data into our dashboard in real time as it happens across individual packaging lines,” Roddy says.

Chobani recipes don’t change much, according to Roddy, so adding new products is relatively easy because of unlimited clients and development stations. For all three production plants, Chobani uses the ControlLogix PLC platform and a blend of Rockwell’s HMI FactoryTalk View Supervisory Edition and other models of local HMIs for yogurt processing applications. Authorized plant operations and maintenance personnel can see flow rates and adjust set points from two central control rooms, but also have mobile access capabilities on the plant floor.

“When the maintenance department is on the plant floor, they don’t have to radio back to the control room,” Roddy says. “Once they’ve taken control and executed the proper safety lock-out procedures, they can have control. They can start and stop a motor or open or close a valve right on the plant floor.”

Chobani is moving forward with Inductive Automation’s Ignition SCADA alarming system in some areas of its production and moving away from a legacy, third-party software package. “We chose this SCADA software due to its ability to integrate external third-party systems and the seamless installation across our plants with minimal maintenance required,” Roddy says.

Other SCADA projects on the horizon include more manufacturing execution system (MES) module integrations, and top-level enterprise integration and monitoring systems.

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