Unified automation platform helps food manufacturer gain production efficiencies

A large food manufacturer of oil and fats recently upgraded its tank routing system to meet growing demand and complex customer requirements.

There are many different drivers for modernization projects in today’s processing plants, such as operational efficiencies, legacy equipment or momentum toward enterprise flexibility. Enterprises, big and small, are realizing lower automation costs are providing a range of solutions, such as unified automation platforms.

A unified automation platform for plants and enterprises is a common strategy in the food and beverage industry, especially as food production becomes more complex and regulated. Besides rigorous regulations, a unified automation platform ensures interoperability and standardization for multiple plants.

Nutriswiss choose a unified automation platform approach for its Lyss, Switzerland plant to meet increased production efficiency with its large, raw material tank farm. The company produces custom-made oils and fats for the food industry, restaurants and retail stores. Applications include frying fat, coating for spices, base marinades and baking ingredients.

The fats and oil manufacturer chose the Siemens platform for the production and routing area that features Simatic PCS 7 control technology, Simatic Batch and the brand’s Route Control software.

“We had systems from different manufacturers and had to decide at the beginning of the project, not only how to modernize the automation technology, but also how to design it so that it would meet the needs of our business,” says Patrik Marti, product manager for MES/PLS at Nutriswiss.

Approximately half of Nutriswiss’products are custom food formulas, and research and development is a sizable component in producing custom products. The new batch system  allows R&D technicians create many different recipes and change them without special automation knowledge.

“In our view, this shift of responsibilities from the process to the specialist departments was an important step in allowing us to respond in a more agile manner to new requirements,” says Marti.

The plant features many processes such as fat melting, fat processing, fractionation, hydrogenation, interesterification, formulation, and crystallization, as well as filling and packaging.

Siemens Solution Partner Deleproject AG of Uetendorf, Switzerland designed and integrated the control platform for the tanks. This tank routing platform manages 22 tanks currently, with a planned expansion to 120 tanks in the future. The routing software integrates into the PCS 7 process control platform and offers many types of routing. For production personnel, a plant operator can specify the tank source and destination locations, or the software will execute the best route, according to Siemens.

The route control platform also allows an operator to determine, check, control, monitor transport routes and also manually route the path.

Besides routing raw materials for production, the system integrator developed a separate application that centrally manages the material transfer and communication to the production area, according to Nutriswiss. This mapping provides a comprehensive view of materials in real-time via graphic representations of pipes and the direction of transfer on monitors.

The application can also handle automatic evaluation of the appropriate tanks and the allocation of production orders across several tanks. Essentially, the platform automatically switches the routes for each order while an operator monitors the flow.

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