Food Engineering

Intelligent Cuisine Requires Smarter Integration

March 26, 2003


Even before Campbell Soup Co. spun off several product lines last year to Vlasic Foods International (Fayetteville, AR), the company knew the importance of information management. Campbell's Intelligent Cuisine product line of functional foods required carefully controlled ingredient tracking and process control.

As part of its modernization plan, Campbell's purchased a Unix-based modularized Production Management Information System (PMIS++) from Bradley Ward Systems for the Fayetteville plant. After spinning off the 400,000-sq.-ft. facility to Vlasic Foods, the new owner continued implementation. The plant produces a variety of frozen TV dinners, pot pies, breakfast entrees and breakfast sandwiches/biscuits.

"Our information system uses a statistical process control (SPC) module for plant-wide collection, monitor and control of in-process weights, helping to tighten process targets," says Art Shuster, plant manager. "It not only gives our operators real-time information to act upon, but also generates trend reports for management. We also use modules for HACCP and Process Control."

Vlasic's rollout of the production modules is very controlled. "We are taking things slowly and making sure we optimize each module to its potential before rolling them out plant-wide," adds Joy Williams, IT manager. "While SPC is plant-wide, our other two modules are currently product-line specific."

The HACCP module is implemented on Vlasic's fully automated breakfast line. Products include "Great Starts" entrees such as pancakes or waffles, and breakfast sandwiches including egg and meat biscuits. Through the software, IT and operations worked together to plan a HACCP model, then converted the plan's files into monitoring procedures and actions.

Vlasic's Process Control module was implemented on the breakfast line as well as the fully automated pot pie line. "This module currently handles recipe management for these two lines, including inventory control, scheduling and batching," notes Shuster.

Shuster finds it difficult to pinpoint savings to the Bradley Ward system but reports decreased labor requirements as well as standardized procedures, resulting in improved quality and a dramatic increase in consistency of up to 80 percent. "It is really a combination of automation and the PMIS++ system as support to that automation. This software integrates with automation and can only be optimized if automation precedes its' implementation. Another benefit from combining modernization, ergonomics, automation and information software is 4,000,000 man-hours with no lost-time accidents at this plant."

Bradley Ward Systems Inc., 750 Hammond Dr., Building 10, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30328 Tel: (404) 256-4855 Fax: (404) 705-5170 http://www.bwsys.com