Plant dishes out food to airline passengers and environmental abuse to panel PCs. 

Robust Model CP72xx series panel PCs from Beckhoff ensure that LSG Sky Chefs personnel are always in control of the processes. Source: Beckhoff Automation, ©Photographer: Jens Görlich.

LSG Sky Chefs, headquartered in Neu-Isenburg near Frankfurt/Main, Germany, is the catering subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG. The company employs approximately 28,000 people at 200 sites in 51 countries. LSG Sky Chefs maintains two state-of-the-art production plants at Frankfurt airport. The larger and newer of the two is situated in Gateway Gardens and serves Lufthansa exclusively. A second plant, located on the airport grounds, provides meals to other international airlines. The two plants produce 93,000 meals daily.

Several synchronized steps must occur before meals are delivered to passengers. Cakes and rolls are baked, and just-delivered fruit and vegetables are processed into starters and salads in the cold kitchen. The ingredients for the main courses for first-class passengers are prepared in the warm kitchen.

To guarantee safe food, freshly cooked dishes must be cooled immediately and wait in cold-storage depots for transport to the aircraft.

“In the case of long-haul flights, we are informed of the final number of passengers 24 hours before takeoff; in the case of domestic and short-haul flights, only four hours before,” says Peter Salbreiter, group leader of works, IT and IT processes at the Frankfurt site.

Each airline’s detailed specifications regarding arrangement and weight must be maintained throughout the entire production process. Uniform menus are created from starters, desserts, rolls, chocolate boxes, napkins, jam and cutlery, as well as salt and pepper at the modern workstations. The filled trays are stowed in trolleys and made available on the supply ramp together with the complete flight load. The deep-frozen main courses for the business and economy class sections are stowed in oven inserts.

The production floor area covers 19,000 square meters (204,000+ sq.ft.) and requires automation to handle quick turnarounds; panel PCs from Beckhoff Automation were chosen to monitor and control the processes and logistics. Panel PCs from another manufacturer were used before the relocation to the new production facility. “But only with moderate success,” Salbreiter remembers, because the environmental conditions can place special demands on the devices. The durable Beckhoff panel PCs meet class IP 65 protection requirements (dustproof/waterproof).

“We mainly use the Beckhoff panel PCs to visualize and control our processes,” says Salbreiter. Each of the 10 workstations on the suspended electric conveyor are equipped with a panel PC. As the backbone of the flow of material, the conveyor interconnects the entire production including the cold-storage depot.

“The trolleys are transported by this system-regardless of whether they are returned from the aircraft or are standing ready, cleaned and filled for the next flight,” says Salbreiter. Seven PCs are installed in the automatic warehouse for small parts, which contains more than 65 different items of tableware, plates, cups and cutlery. Four panel PCs are used for facility management. Eight PCs serve the fleet management of the plant’s 105 elevating platform vehicles. The remaining six are located in different places in production and are used exclusively for the visualization of the processes.