By leveraging a single process controller and the latest SCADA solution from Siemens, a confections manufacturer realized new levels of process efficiency and plant-wide data transparency to support strong, ongoing growth.
Downstream supply chains that rely on confections manufacturers do not tolerate delays and substandard goods. As such, confections manufacturers face continual pressure to boost productivity, improve quality, cut costs, and speed delivery to market. The challenges are significant—they’re all about survival, and collectively they point to the need for better process efficiencies.
Contrary to common beliefs, a complete plant makeover is not required to affect across-the-board improvements. For one manufacturer, combining modern and centralized efficiencies with parts of an existing platform is producing powerful and profitable results.
An established manufacturer of confections approached Siemens for consultation on how best to upgrade the technology platform driving its production lines. It was a critical time for the manufacturer. Since its inception, the company had expanded plant operations multiple times and was experiencing another promising phase of growth. There was an imminent need to assess how the company would improve to meet new demand, bring modern efficiencies to existing production lines, and easily scale to manage growth over time.
Meeting the Challenge
The manufacturer’s challenge was not to add more production lines (as it had done in the past), but rather to dramatically increase efficiency, production, and speed through other means. The plan called for modernization of systems and technologies to invigorate the business at its core.
The plant produces a larger and more diverse collection of products on its lines compared to similar companies in the confectionery sector. A sophisticated blend of processes and products, combined with high volume and diversity, added complexity to the challenge.
The upgrade would involve moving away from the proprietary OEM system the company had been using for years, as well as eliminating technological barriers to advancement. For example, engineers were unable to easily maintain the existing system. Source code wasn’t always in their hands when they needed it; often, they couldn’t make system modifications on their own. Additionally, engineers and other business units had to work with data from disparate systems. Coupled with inherent manual processes, this situation impeded plant- and company-wide efficiency.
Implementing the Right Solution
Through collaborative consultation with the Siemens team, the manufacturer determined that it could adopt an integrated solution that leveraged existing and new technologies, along with the synergies, customization, and capabilities required by the scope of needs. Emphasis would be placed on promoting an open IT platform and data-driven manufacturing operation. Principal goals were to improve process efficiencies that ensure quality, cost control, and on-time delivery; enhance operations across the enterprise; and give the manufacturer decades of solid and scalable performance.
To achieve this end, the project team installed and configured one main process controller to control product and production lines and serve as the data concentration hub for all points in the manufacturing process. Efficiencies and data transparency are delivered through a client/server SCADA solution with open database access for data transfer to other business systems. All these capabilities are accomplished in a single engineering environment to streamline implementation as well as ongoing development and system support.
To summarize the scope of what the upgraded technology platform needed to accomplish:
- Utilize existing hardware and software in the upgrade to control spending and deliver ongoing ROI on previous IT investments.
- Be completely open for local maintenance, servicing, and data availability.
- Integrate with existing plant, production, and business systems.
- Enable seamless data collection and transfer across functions, from raw material supply to warehouse management and inventory systems, and beyond.
- Allow deep customization for a proprietary look and feel for screens, system interfaces, functionality, operator efficiency, and a large quantity of product recipes.
- Immediately deliver higher levels of efficiency and performance.
- Provide scalable technologies to accommodate continued growth over the long term.
Products selected for the upgrade were Siemens SIMATIC S7-319 controller and the latest SIMATIC SCADA solution. The SIMATIC S7-319 controller is the high-end CPU that offers the largest memory and fastest processor in the SIMATIC S7-300 CPU family. The S7-319 provides high-speed program processing and communications, precision, and the integration of high-performance and complex applications, such as counting, measuring, closed-loop control, cam control, and motion control.
The latest SIMATIC SCADA solution gives the manufacturer solid advantages for ongoing system implementation. Open platform communications (OPC) and an OLE DB server provide visualization and tools for plant-wide and business system data transparency. This engineering framework also offers the tools to code programmable logic controller (PLC) and SCADA systems.
The critical nature of the manufacturer’s product lines required that the system upgrade be implemented in two phases. Phase one was completed in 2015, and the final phase will be completed in 2016.
The new solution delivers 15 percent more time-efficient operations and ensures accuracy by eliminating potential for manual data entry errors. The manufacturer runs 300 to 400 raw material transactions during a 12-hour shift. Before the system upgrade, operators manually input material usage into the warehouse management system. This critical process required one to two minutes per transaction. Through advanced automation, the manufacturer’s speed, efficiency, accuracy, and cost controls are substantially improved.
The S7-319 controller provides the means of communication with all sub-processes in this high-volume, 24/7 manufacturing operation, along with the memory and processing horsepower to handle complex line controls, from material handling all the way to finished product. Operators have greater control and better utilization of equipment that is customized to the manufacturer’s processes. Results include:
- Faster and more precise scheduling
- More efficient spacing of orders
- Higher system utilization that increases daily production
Additionally, integration with other business systems saves time and reduces potential for manual data-entry errors. This is especially important for maintaining correct inventory levels, the lifeblood of an around-the-clock manufacturing operation.
Competitive Advantages Moving Forward
The SIMATIC S7-319 controller used in this manufacturer’s application is unique in the industry. Other controllers typically require many communications modules to accomplish what the S7-319 can do. Specifically, the S7-319 provides all necessary communications interfaces right on board the CPU. This was important for the manufacturer’s desired application. Of the three on-board communications interfaces, two handle serial-based protocols for PROFIBUS networks and distributed I/O applications and drives. Further, the controller also has an on-board Ethernet interface that handles PROFINET protocol for distributed I/O.
Best practices and thoughtful collaboration delivered the design, functionality, and operating efficiencies the manufacturer desired. Siemens provided the tools to allow its Solutions Provider DMC to perform a substantial amount of engineering design work to enable custom interfaces with warehouse and inventory systems, as well as the R&D group for recipe integration. DMC then provided the tool set to facilitate the manufacturer’s access to data across the enterprise.
The Siemens program structure supports the latest best practices and techniques from a programming perspective, such as object-oriented programming and reusable code. These efficiencies are key to getting the most out of flexible open systems and facilitating data transparency. They also cut development time and make the system easier to maintain.Have an Inquiry for Siemens about this article? Click Here >>