Automation
TECH FLASH

When batching systems no longer keep up

Regulatory requirements demand that batch software provide electronic recordkeeping

October 29, 2012
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Rockwell batch software
FactoryTalk Batch software meets regulatory requirements for electronic recordkeeping. Source: Rockwell Automation.

When a multinational, Midwest-based condiment manufacturer recently acquired a new manufacturing plant, the company quickly realized the custom-made batch software and human-machine interface (HMI) system were becoming obsolete, resulting in increased maintenance costs, wasted batches and limited production flexibility.

Because the legacy systems were aging and did not comply with corporate standards, they were no longer supported by the manufacturer or company resources. The custom batch system had no scheduling or historical batch recordkeeping capabilities, making it difficult for plant managers to manage production. Often, the only way managers were made aware of wasted batches was when there was a shortage of raw materials for a given recipe because those ingredients were used when they shouldn’t have been—a big problem for a facility that produces more than a dozen product varieties. In addition, the inflexible nature of the system was keeping the plant from making software programming changes for routine enhancements, which meant that if an issue were to arise, the company was at risk of incurring significant plant downtime.

The food processor determined it needed a new off-the-shelf batch software and HMI system to deliver increased control and visibility. To do so, the system needed to produce detailed records of batch and process data as well as integrate enterprise resource planning (ERP) system data. The system also needed to be flexible enough for repeat uses in other corporate facilities.

The processor contracted the services of Cybertrol Engineering, a control and information systems integrator and member of the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork program. Cybertrol Engineering implemented a manufacturing intelligence solution using Rockwell’s FactoryTalk software suite.

The solution included FactoryTalk Batch software, which provides operators with electronic batch reports and access to real-time data through tighter integration with the ERP system. The enhanced integration allows the company to drive the batch schedule from, and store all recipes in, the ERP system. All procedures remain in the batch software, allowing enhanced reliability for recipe execution, flexible product changeover, fewer operator actions and less probability of operator error.

The system integrator (SI) also implemented FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI software to provide data analysis to business network users as well as plant operators who can use it to gain access to historical production data throughout the facility. The software taps into information from systems across operations that have been automatically identified, gathered and stored by the suite’s Historian software. VantagePoint EMI provides management reports to track and compare batch cycle times, so users can identify and correct maintenance and procedural problems that affect productivity. For example, if a transfer pump begins to wear, operators see transfer times increase and have the ability to schedule a rebuild with minimal interruptions to production.

The SI also implemented FactoryTalk View Site Edition software to provide production personnel the ability to set up unique parameters, such as agitator and transfer pump speeds. Using the suite’s security module not only helps protect critical machine settings, it requires supervisor overrides for certain functions, reducing losses previously caused by incorrect operator actions.

With plant floor and ERP system integration, plus access to real-time data, the processor was able to immediately identify and correct production issues that had been causing lost batches and estimates it saves at least one batch per month.  

Based on the success of this plant, the corporate business has already rolled out similar manufacturing intelligence solutions to other facilities. The production superintendent says plant staff never discusses the system, because they’re not having issues with it.

For more information, contact Ben Durbin, Cybertrol Engineering, 763-519-7816, bdurbin@cybertrol.com.

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