Favorite Brands International moves from manual to automated as plant personnel test the input/output on a newly installed PLC at one of its Chicago plants.
Candy manufacturer Favorite Brands International of Bannockburn, Ill., needed to add capabilities to three production lines at one of its Chicago plants. Each line only allowed FBI to produce one product, one color, and one flavor at a time, store it off, move on to the next line, then manually blend everything back in prior to packaging. "To produce one packet of product, we would have to change over the whole processing system as many as six times," stated Pat McEvoy, former head of engineering at FBI. "Many times, that changeover would lead to lost production time."

FBI manufactures non-chocolate candies and snacks, including drops and mints, fruit roll-ups and gummi-type candies, as well as caramel-based candies and ingredient supplies. As a co-packer, FBI packages the majority of its non-chocolate candy products.

Looking to expand and automate their processing capability, FBI selected equipment that required a lot of design and utility work. "When you put in a complex processing system, if you don't have the proper utilities for it, it's not going to function properly," commented McEvoy. They turned to an old friend, Shambaugh & Son, L.P., Fort Wayne, Ind., for help. "We've done a half a dozen multi-million dollar projects over the last five years with Shambaugh, but this was more complicated due to the technology we were installing."

The project focused on phasing the installation of three types of equipment: color blending systems, cooking systems, and packaging systems. Each system was installed at separate times in an attempt to keep production up, according to McEvoy. "We couldn't take down any of the systems for extended periods of time, so we had to have each of the three basic components individually scheduled. It required a lot of integration of production scheduling, and demand planning." For Shambaugh, it required pre-fabrication.

A roof-mounted air-handling system constructed by Shambaugh & Son, L.P., controls the new air-conditioned cooling conveyors that send the product directly from the processing area into packaging.
"We pre-fabricated a lot of the piping, pumping and heat exchangers," said Mark Shambaugh, president of Shambaugh. "So rather than having the guys on-site, we did it in our fab shop, shipped it, and plugged it in." According to Shambaugh, pre-fabrication reduces the need to perform field engineering, which can add costs and downtime, as well as result in increased errors and poor quality workmanship.

Start-up of the new equipment was accomplished in a phased approach that met plant operations requirements established in the planning stage. The expanded processing system was implemented by the addition of more packaging machines and automated cartoning and case packing equipment. The new systems added more capability and flexibility to the equipment, improved the amount of rework because of the addition of more dosing and weighing systems, as well as freed up 40,000 square feet in the facility for future expansions. "What we basically ended up with was fundamentally a state-of-the-art processing system all the way through packaging," stated McEvoy.