Food Engineering
TECH FLASH

Remote rabbi restart

June 26, 2012
SMS relay
The SMS relay connects remotely the boiler system at a kosher food plant to the rabbis who are responsible for restarting the boiler. Source: Phoenix Contact.

Kosher food plants are pretty particular about quality, and they have to be if they want to maintain their Orthodox Union (OU) seal on the packaging of their products. One of the requirements to maintain the integrity of the OU seal is that a rabbi is the only person who can check the production system and give a blessing to restart a boiler if it should go down for any reason.

A major issue for an eastern Pennsylvania kosher food plant is that its rabbis don’t live near the plant; the closest is 90 miles away. Therefore, if a boiler goes down, and the plant loses steam, the plant has to wait two to four hours for a rabbi to arrive to bless and restart the boiler. This is a lot of production time to lose, and no plant manager wants to have any downtime in a production facility.

The processor reached out to Loman Control Systems, a CSIA-certified integrator in Lititz, PA, for a solution. The two companies worked together to resolve the distance problem by granting remote control of the boiler. As both companies looked deeper into the problem, they discovered remote operating devices that would not only send a signal, but could also receive a signal back from the source. The device they picked was the Phoenix Contact SMS relay, which Loman tied into the boiler system.

Now, if a boiler shuts down unexpectedly, and the temperature drops below a certain set point, the SMS relay automatically dials one of the rabbis and sends a text message. The message might say, “A boiler is down. Please restart.” Once a rabbi receives the message, instead of driving to the plant, he simply responds with a text message saying, “OK. Start the system.” The SMS relay translates the text into a start signal sent straight to the boiler.

The SMS relay looks like a small programmable controller. The device, paired with a prepaid GSM SIM card from a cell phone, uses text-message commands to control the boiler. According to Juan Escolarte, a Loman-certified technology manager, the selector switch chooses a phone number to send the custom text message to. The output block is programmed to turn on if a certain password is submitted.

“Once the rabbi receives the message on his cell phone, he enters his own unique password and replies with a text message and the command to start the boiler,” says Escolarte. “We try to make it as simple as possible for them. We are using only one output, and we tell them what message to send. It’s a dynamic system that can be programmed any way you want.”

According to Escolarte, there is no reason this device couldn’t be used for other systems, for example, remote pumping stations, pipelines or unmanned wastewater treatment plants. This relay, however, proved to be the right device for the remote boiler control. The processor says the rabbis are pleased with it, and it minimizes downtime, saving this kosher processor money.

For more information, visit Loman Control Systems, the Control System Integrators Association and Phoenix Contact.