Food Engineering

SPC Software Pays For Itself In One Year's Time

October 3, 2007


One of 13 CBC portable SPC/Weight Workstations is used to check package weights. Source: Hertzler Systems.

With four production facilities, Consolidated Biscuit Company (CBC) is the second-largest privately-held cookie and cracker producer in the US. Its McComb, OH, facility pumps out 100 million cookies and crackers a day. Today, the plant is breaking new ground with an old concept: statistical process control (SPC).

Though CBC used paper and pencil-based control charts for years, giveaways remained an issue.  SPC was in place for package weights, but the frequency of the checks and the location of the scales made for long response times when a problem was found. Reducing giveaways represented a significant cost-reduction opportunity, and the newly hired director of quality, Kevin Rackham, was given the task.

Rackham and his team developed a portable weight monitoring and tracking system with appropriate SPC software that could provide an accurate and reliable means of documenting product weights and ensuring compliance with packaging weight laws. The data collection station is a tall stainless steel and plastic cart on lockable casters.  Each cart houses a PC with a keyboard and mouse, a barcode scanner and a scale.  A wireless network ensures the ultimate flexibility. 

Hertzler Systems Inc.’s GainSeeker met the team’s technical requirements for SPC software.  Users sign in by swiping a barcode on their badge. Supervisors can add new users from stations anywhere in the factory.  GainSeeker pulls scheduling information from the master schedule on CBC’s AS/400.  When an operator signs in and indicates a packaging line, he is presented with a list of products scheduled for that line on that shift.

In the McComb plant, 13 production lines feed two to 10 baggers on each line.  CBC’s control plans require five-piece samples be taken every half-hour from each bagger. To accommodate the volume of samples, 13 SPC carts are used now across the facility.  A packaging operator takes the hourly sample to the cart, swipes a badge, selects the bagger number from a drop-down list, selects from the scheduled products and begins weighing.  One bag of cookies is placed on the scale.  As soon as the scale stabilizes, the weight is recorded, and the operator is prompted to remove the first bag and place the second bag on the scale.  After all five bags are weighed, if an out of control condition is observed, the operator is prompted to enter the cause of the condition.   

“We really don’t know what we did without it,” commented Deb Keeler, quality manager.  “Operators are paying more attention to their weights, and we [management] have better visibility of what’s happening.”   

The cost savings resulting from improved process control in packaging paid for the GainSeeker system’s purchase and set-up in well under a year.  The success in the packaging department has gained the attention of plant leadership for upstream, real-time process control.  Other applications are being explored by the maintenance department for preventive maintenance documentation and sanitation schedule compliance verification. u

For more information: Adrienne DePew, 574-533-0571, info@hertzler.com.