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Chobani gains efficiency and agility with automation

Chobani has taken the yogurt industry by storm since it debuted in 2007. The Norwich, New York-based company is credited for popularizing Greek yogurt to a mainstream American audience, meeting consumer demand for yogurts with more protein and all-natural, healthier ingredients. Today the company is the top Greek yogurt brand in America and the second-largest overall yogurt manufacturer in the country, behind Dannon. As it boosts production volume and expands its product line to stay competitive in the increasingly crowded yogurt segment, Chobani uses Ignition software by Inductive Automation to enhance productivity and integrate flexibility into its operations.

With 2,000 employees and three manufacturing plants in Idaho, New York and Australia, Chobani turned to Ignition to help keep production running smoothly. Ignition by Inductive Automation is an industrial application platform with integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Chobani uses Ignition at all three of its plants — on filler and packaging lines, for quality control, in asset management, with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and in capital-expenditure project management.

All aboard

With Ignition acting as a centralized hub for operations, Chobani employees can access data easily from the plant floor all the way up to the executive level across its three facilities. That data has helped employees increase productivity and reduce downtime, according to Hugh Roddy, vice president of global engineering and project management for Chobani.

“Our people, they want to be involved,” Roddy says. “They want to be part of what we’re doing here at Chobani. Having the data from Ignition at their fingertips really helps our employees be more efficient, and it makes them feel part of the team.”

Ignition has also given operators the freedom to roam the plant and still have access to data on phones and tablets. “Ignition has given us the ability to be mobile on the plant floor,” Roddy says. “Our operators and maintenance people don’t have to run back to the control room. From anywhere, we can control a valve or a pump, and get full visualization of what’s happening in the plant, from raw receiving all the way through packaging.”

In addition, Ignition aids the convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) at Chobani. The single platform creates numerous efficiencies. “Ignition has been a very good bridge for OT/IT collaboration,” says J.C. Givens, global network services manager at Chobani. “We’ve been able to make gateways available to both networks, so whether people are in the office making decisions or on the plant floor making decisions, IT and OT information are both available.”

No limits

Ignition’s unlimited licensing means that Chobani doesn’t have to pay extra for additional tags, clients users, or projects. Unlimited licensing has helped Chobani keep up with rising demand for its product. “Because of the unlimited licensing with Ignition, we can roll out as many clients, as many places as we want, whenever we see the need,” says John Furby, automation engineer for Chobani.

One advantage is the ability to set up a single HMI for a special need. For example, Chobani used this capability for a specific location within its new plant. “Previously, operators used a radio to call in and have someone start each step of the process for them,” explains Trevor Bell, automation engineer with Chobani. “With Ignition, we’re able to have a special HMI out there, just for them. Ignition makes it really cost effective to do a one-off scenario like that.”

Without the typical licensing issues, Chobani can implement new projects much faster. “With Ignition, we’ve been able to roll out several different projects more aggressively to get data to the operators on the plant floor more quickly,” Givens says.

Chobani also appreciates Ignition’s ability to speed up the development process. “Whenever we can save time in developing an HMI and implementing it, it’s really valuable for our team,” Bell says.

Customization is easier as well. “Ignition gives us a software system that we can actually develop to our own,” says Roddy.

Furby agrees: “The template development in Ignition is especially easy. We can make custom data types and custom graphics that we can easily roll out to all of our projects.”

For a growing brand like Chobani, the Ignition software has proven to be flexible and robust enough to enhance its operations as it scales up globally and innovates with new products. “Once we took Ignition on board as one of our enterprise platforms, everything has improved exponentially across the board from an operational standpoint,” Roddy says. “We believe Ignition gives us endless opportunities here at Chobani.”