Woodlands Dairy anchors a foundation for growth

A dairy producer in South Africa standardizes its automation platform after a recent acquisition and building of a new greenfield facility.

Growth by acquisition presents real challenges to beverage companies and, more so, when a dairy producer is in the process of building a new greenfield facility to meet expansion plans. This scenario occurred when Woodlands Dairy Pty, a South Africa company, recently bought Denmark Dairy and its legacy, dry powder facility filled with older control hardware.

Another driver with this modernization project was the ISO 22000 standard on food safety management. This regulatory rule demands a food safety management system be in place and “effectively communicate food safety issues to suppliers, customers and relevant interested parties in the food chain.” With today's social media saturation, food and beverage companies need to identify food safety issues in a very timely manner.

To start this process, Woodlands Dairy created a single monitoring platform that integrates all disparate production systems — multiple facilities — while preserving past investments in expensive assets and legacy systems. The dairy producer chose Schneider Electric’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) Wonderware platform, InTouch human machine interface and historian modules.

“We needed a centralized environment for process data logging, which would allow us to analyze data in real time and produce reports,” says Jan Barnard, process engineer at Woodlands Dairy. “We also needed flexible security facilities that allow operator access only to designated areas of the plant."

The company standardization initiative started with the new powder processing plant and then moved to the legacy processing plant, the Denmark Dairy facility. This plant included a variety of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) on the plant floor, such as Rockwell Automation’s ControlLogix and Siemens SLC 500 PLCs. According to Woodlands Dairy, the commissioning took six months for both plants, and many areas in the legacy processing facility were upgraded: a new clean-in-place (CIP) station; a new cream pasteurizer/butter plant; milk pasteurizer upgrade, new pasteurized milk silo and production lines; new pasteurized cream silo; and a new milk reception area with its own CIP station.

The standardized SCADA platform reduced engineering costs in the commissioning phase across both build outs, but so did the new monitoring software from Flow Software.

“The new reporting system integrated seamlessly with our existing Wonderware-based infrastructure with its ArchestrA-like plant model,” says Kreesan Coopasamy, automation engineer at Woodlands Dairy. “It's capable of aggregating measurements over any time period, along with an option for manual data entry and report templates.”

Schneider Electric helped with the proof of concept for the monitoring software, and the actual commissioning happened in less than two months. One of the key reports produced by the new system is the opening stock report. The monitoring system sends an email at 6:00 AM every morning to provide an accurate view of the previous day’s stockholding and the current supply situation to plan production accordingly.

“In this business, production runs change on a daily basis due to the yield of the cows that morning,” explains Coopasamy. “That’s why we need real-time information, so that not only the milk, but the powder, butter and cheese lines can also be optimized.”

Also included in the reporting is water usage that is top of mind due to a water shortage in nearby Cape Town. The platform provides reporting on CIP stations, processing equipment, pipelines, water, caustic and acid consumption.

The automation foundation is now in place with the SCADA platform, and flexible manufacturing is now a much more attainable objective for this dairy producer. 

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