Successful software integrations cut costs and boost manufacturing efficiencies.

According to the Manufacturing Trends surveys conducted byFood Engineeringover the past several years, systems integrations ? the integration of ?islands of control? on the plant floor, as well as plant-floor process controls with management information systems ? continue to be the major challenges facing food engineers.

?These are the two biggest issues facing food manufacturers today, and the least understood,? says Garry P.A. Diver, president and CEO of Bradley Ward Systems (BWS), an Atlanta-based software firm specializing in Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) for food processors. (BWS currently has more than 350 customers in the food industry.) ?Manufacturers need an integrated approach, up to ERP and down to SCADA,? Diver adds. ?Customers want solutions, not tool kits.?

Achieving these integrations depends on the structure of the MES, Diver continues. Bradley Ward?s Key2Success MES, for example, has a ?framework? based on the Microsoft Windows NT operating system, ActiveX object models and XML (Extensible Markup Language) to interface the HMI (human/machine interface) with management-information systems.

Object technology allows modular or ?encapsulated? programs to be modified without affecting each other, thus simplifying integration by reducing the time and cost required to customize software programs. XML defines structured data, making it easier to link resources with different data structures. ?The XML format is becoming a standard as the vehicle for integrating ERP and MES,? says Diver. According to Bradley Ward, the Key2Success family of solutions seamlessly interfaces upward to enterprise resource planning (ERP), downward to HMI/SCADA applications and across to LIMS, maintenance management, formulation systems and other information systems.

Zartic: food-safety integration

Zartic Inc., a four-plant processor of value-added meat/poultry products based in Rome, Ga., recently installed the BWS Key2HACCP data-monitoring and control system, which consists of:
  • The Plan module, which helps the user perform hazard analyses, identify hazards and critical control points (CCPs), and then create, archive and modify a printed HACCP plan;
  • The Execute module, which collects and stores CCP monitoring and corrective-action information in a database for easy retrieval of HACCP records.
When the Key2HACCP-Execute solution is installed, the framework for the Key2Success MES is also installed, allowing the user to extend real-time information across the plant floor and integrate with information systems.

According to Robert Naegel, vice-president of technical services and business development at Zartic, automating data capture has enabled Zartic to proactively address food-safety issues in the plant through immediate response and corrective action procedures. ?With on-line data capture and reporting, we?ve been able to greatly reduce our cost of regulatory compliance,? he adds. ?The integration of our equipment with [Bradley Ward?s] software allows us to use handheld computers on the plant floor, so we can basically perform our HACCP program in a paperless mode.?

Handheld computers prompt employees on the plant floor when to check a CCP and what corrective actions are available to them, Naegel continues. ?If they?re late on a CCP check, it can set off a variety of alarms, such as beepers or telephone rings. I get an e-mail message in minutes. It makes your HACCP program almost foolproof on the plant floor.?

Zartic will soon implement the BWS Key2Quality software suite for statistical process control (SPC), Naegel adds. This package consists of three modules:

  • QACP, to collect and store quality-control data for offline analysis and reporting;
  • Weight Control, which assures compliance with government net-weight regulations while reducing ?giveaway;?
  • SPC, which automates measurement, on-line analysis, adjustment and reporting of process and product variables to continuously improve manufacturing cost-effectiveness.
Naegel expects the Key2Quality system to accurately measure and control product weights from raw material through finished product, as well as process variables such as cook temperatures, yields and portions-per-package.

?We produce a lot of child-nutrition products, for example, so accurate weights are an absolute must,? he adds. ?Just about any quality variable that you?re currently measuring on paper, you?ll be able to do on a computer.?

Gilroy Foods: plant/warehouse integration

Gilroy Foods (Gilroy, Calif.), a seven-plant ConAgra unit producing dehydrated capsicum (pepper), onion and garlic ingredients, integrates warehouse and manufacturing operations with the SCM/Enterprise WMS Warehouse Management System supplied by HK Systems (Milwaukee, Wis.). The system integrates production execution (PE) with warehouse management (WM) and can be implemented either as a point solution or an integrated component of HK Systems? SCM/Enterprise suite of supply-chain management solutions, which link customer-order, warehouse and transportation operations.

Systems integrator Centek Associates (Seattle, Wash.) implemented SCM/Enterprise WMS for Gilroy Foods. According to Centek Principal Ty Hansen, a typical supply-chain management system handles the ERP planning function but does not adequately execute the complexities of order fulfillment. Integrated software applications known as supply chain execution systems (SCE) have therefore emerged to address the execution component. An SCE system automates and integrates order/distribution management, warehouse management, production management and transportation management. This eliminates the cost of customized software or stand-alone applications to integrate warehouse management with production execution. ?Integrated WM/PE extends the benefits of a traditional warehouse-management system by tracking, managing and automating the order-fulfillment process for both customer orders and production orders,? says Hansen. Bar codes and radio-frequency (RF) technology enable paperless, real-time operations.

Gilroy Foods was purchased by ConAgra in 1996, added to the company?s United Specialty Foods Ingredients (USFI) group, and absorbed a dehydrated capsicum processor acquired by ConAgra. As part of this restructuring, Gilroy was required to change its host ERP software to the system used by other USFI companies. Gilroy had been using a system developed in-house to automate many of its production and warehouse data-collection activities. This system was tightly integrated with Gilroy?s existing ERP application and could not be efficiently converted to work with the new ERP system. Gilroy realized great benefits from its existing execution system, yet could leverage further benefits with a more functional execution system that met the company?s business requirements: to support the new multisite business structure; meet the required ROI; achieve the benefits of the new ERP system; minimize project risk; and minimize project schedule.

In evaluating available solutions, the Gilroy team realized that the risk, schedule and ROI requirements would be compromised unless only integrated WM/PE solutions were considered.

Among its PE functions, the integrated system plans production orders by destination and allocates production to customer orders; allows paperless picking of raw materials and work-in-process; records inventory issued to a customer order as well as receipts against a production order; and prints bar-code labels for new production. Among its WM functionalities, the system plans customer orders by lot, item, staging, sequence and dock; allows paperless receiving, picking and putaway; enables order/shipment scan verification at loading; and prints bar-code labels for receiving and shipping.

Gilroy Foods rolled out its new SCE system on schedule last June to seven sites at a cost within 5% of original budget. The system eliminates 90% of manual data entry and 90% of the paper formerly consumed in order fulfillment. It also eliminates double handling, improves warehouse space utilization and shipping accuracy, and enables order-fulfillment cycle-time reductions of up to 35%. The projected payback is 2½ years.

Ferrara Pan Candy: plant-floor integration

Ferrara Pan Candy Co., a Chicago-based manufacturer of Gummy Bears and other pan candies, networked controllers to improve product consistency and throughput.

After liquified ingredients for pan candies are dropped into tray molds, the confections typically must cure in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. To better control the curing process, Ferrara installed an Infinity distributed control system from Andover Controls (Andover, Mass.) to govern the material-handling system at its plant in Forest Park, Ill.. Andover supplied stand-alone controllers to monitor chillers, boilers, temperature and humidity, while systems integrator ECC Controls of Illinois (Rolling Meadows, Ill.) programmed and networked the controllers into a system.

¿Essentially, the controllers communicate among themselves and tell each other ¿ for example ¿ when a chiller needs 42-degree water,¿ explains ECC President Joel R. Joseph. ¿It gets the curing process down to as short a time as possible,¿ reducing cure time by as much as 50%.

Production at Ferrara begins when trays filled with starch (supplied by Cerestar USA) are conveyed to the mogul system. The starch helps the candy keep its shape and absorbs excess moisture as the mogul fills molds in each tray with hot liquid candy. After the trays are palletized, the computer-controlled system tracks and conveys pallets into curing rooms. During cure, the starch removes excess moisture while the temperature setpoint is carefully maintained for consistent results. When cured and cooled, the candy travels back to the mogul where trays are flipped, the starch sifted out and the candy conveyed to inspection and packaging stations. The wet starch that falls away from the candy is recycled to a vortex dryer/cooler for redepositing in mold trays.

ECC Controls installed five Andover LCX 810 controllers to govern the handling system and vortex dryer/cooler. The controllers receive inputs from process-line sensors monitoring variables such as temperature, humidity, speed and status of push buttons or limit switches. Outputs are sent to motor actuators controlling motors, conveyors, solenoids, alarms and pumps according to the program specified for each type of Gummy candy.

Each of the three curing rooms is controlled by an SCX 920, similar to the 810 controllers, but with more input capacity to handle the additional sensors necessary for curing. An Andover DCX 250 touch-screen displays curing-room status to operators and allows them to vary curing schedules according to the product. Operators can also call-up dynamic graphics of the conveyors, air handlers and vortex equipment.

A CX 9102 network controller supervises all field controllers. ¿By integrating candy production and curing within the same control system, Ferrara gathers real-time data on how much candy it is actually making,¿ says Joseph.

Adds Ferrara Facilities Engineer Sal Rubio, ¿our production rate has vastly increased because we can minimize curing time and maximize throughput using unique temperature and humidity control strategies. We also have reduced our reject rates because every facet of the cure cycle is monitored by the Infinity system.¿