Ice cream producer finds sweet solution for increased operational efficiencies

Manufacturing plant upgrades can mean many things to many people, such as moving to a unified automation platform, upgrading older equipment or adding industrial networking gateways to move data to enterprise platforms. For food companies, the bottom line is that plant initiatives need to create better operational efficiencies while future-proofing plants for increased production volumes and flexibility.

Norway-based ice cream maker Hennig-Olsen has more than 48 percent market share in its home country and required a new automation platform to provide a foundation for improved uptime and growth at its Hannevika plant. The company produces 7 million gal of ice cream annually and wanted to remove production bottlenecks.

First-generation manufacturing execution systems (MES) were costly to maintain and lacked flexibility, so Hennig-Olsen turned to AVEVA’s Wonderware MES platform for its operational performance, information server, enterprise integrator and quality functionality.

“Our goal was to find a standard solution due to the last platform being heavily dependent on the supplier,” says Gudvin Baldersheim, IT manager at Hennig-Olsen. “Our existing in-house MES solution was too expensive to maintain and was failing to provide the critical data, such as temperature supervision and maturity tracking for our ice cream products.”

Not only does this food producer have a large market share with consumers, but it also has 55 percent of the foodservice segment in Norway and exports to Russia. Hennig-Olsen’s diverse range of products includes ice cream in single packs and multipacks, desserts, yogurts, cakes, sprinkles, and sauces. Ingredients include fruits, berries, nuts, chocolate, coffee, yogurt and syrups, as well as egg liqueur, Oreo biscuits and Daim chocolate bars.

The plant’s MES upgrade has coincided with the addition of new equipment, including seven production lines; a mixing department; and a production area for chocolate, ripple sauces and nougat. The plant floor automation architecture includes four Omron CJ2 programmable logic controllers and 14 operator stations.

“In terms of tracking, we have simplified our operations, and we can now measure materials in real time anywhere, as well as know the specific batch, date and amount of ingredients,” says Kai Tobiassen, IT manager of production at Hennig-Olsen.

Production managers can now build and view material specifications and grades, bills of materials, and manufacturing procedures as well as define production routing, according to Hennig-Olsen.

Besides supply chain optimization, operators are solving issues quickly. With the new MES system, the ice cream producer now has real-time condition and status data during shifts, and the ability to add key performance indicators and overall equipment effectiveness metrics.

There are many moving parts for this food producer, and this modernization project is another example of a midsize player embracing plant upgrades to future-proof the facility operations for the next 15 years. “Better tracking use of raw materials and finished products is a huge step forward for us,” says Baldersheim. “This is particularly important on the financial side to reduce loss in production and control costs, and we’ve accomplished this goal.”