PACE Zenith Awards 2014: Food & Beverage Award sponsored by ifm efector
WINNER: AP Automation
Project: Grinding and Batching upgrade
After partnering with AP Automation to modernise its manufacturing plant, Thompson & Redwood, an animal feed manufacturer, has achieved a seven percent increase in production while reducing its energy consumption by two percent.
Based in Upper Swan, WA, Thompson & Redwood has been providing local farms, studs and stockfeeders with quality animal feed for over a quarter of a century. But over the many decades of repetitive action, the plant has certainly seen better days.
Thompson & Redwood Projects & Operations Director, Henry Little, realised the need to upgrade his plant in the face of increasing operational and industry pressures.
“Over the years, we’ve noticed a decrease in the number of technicians that are familiar with our unique system which has led to massive downtime issues and loss of production during equipment failure.
“In addition, with changes in the food safety regulations, we are now required to trace back any batch of product for quality assurance. Our existing system was not capable of this,” explained Little.
The batching software is designed to work with any number of raw materials and an unlimited number of recipes which makes it adaptable to any grinding and batching application.
AP Automation, a Siemens Solution Partner, was engaged to devise a solution that would see the plant grow in line with its modern requirements, become more efficient, while being robust enough to handle the repetitive grinding and batching functions.
“The Thompson & Redwood plant was experiencing the typical growing pains of a facility this age,” said Andrew Phan, AP Automation’s Managing Director, after his initial visit.
“Due to its obsoleteness, we couldn’t re-use any of the plant’s existing equipment, which was PC-based and had limited visualisation and diagnostic abilities – all very common of technologies from 20 to 30 years ago,” Phan continued.
Phan devised a risk-free solution that would help Thomson & Redwood improve product quality and reap the benefits that a modern control system offers.
[Thompson & Redwood realised the need to upgrade their old systems (top) in the face of increasing operational and industry pressures.]
AP Automation’s strategy was based on the use of generic applications, allowing Thompson & Redwood to quickly and easily adapt to any grinding or batching application required.
With a growing number of products including 25kg and 40kg bags of feed for poultry, horses, sheep, cattle and birds, generic software applications were used to allow Thompson & Redwood the flexibility to quickly change from one production line to another, in a simple and easy-to-setup way.
Recognising that Thomson & Redwood is a small business with no ‘deep pockets’, the generic software applications were not just for the sole purpose of plant flexibility in its current operations but also provide the feed manufacturer with the flexibility to cost-effectively upgrade the facility when required.
Phan also explained that the new active front end drive implemented as part of this upgrade would achieve energy savings due to the reduction of harmonics which would result in virtually no energy losses.
The Siemens’ Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) concept covering all aspects of industrial automation, was the foundation supporting AP Automation’s successful design.
TIA delivers risk-free integration of hardware, user-friendly software, visual diagnostics for proactive maintenance and fault detection as well as automated reporting, to name a just a few features.
Phan has utilised TIA technology to the benefit of his customers for many years. He explains: “As an engineering company, we have the freedom to integrate any equipment into our designs as we see appropriate and we’ve found TIA to consistently bring results.
“I’m especially pleased with TIA’s diagnostic ability, as this has assisted many of my clients in preventing a lot of potential breakdowns and issues while maximising their uptime and most importantly, their profits.”
“In terms of the batching, reports are automatically produced and exported to MS Excel. The batching software is designed to work with any number of raw materials and an unlimited number of recipes which makes it adaptable to any grinding and batching application. It also displays the status of the batch on the overview screen,” explained Little.
With a growing number of products, generic software applications were used to allow Thompson & Redwood the flexibility to quickly change from one production line to another, in a simple and easy-to-setup way.
For Thomson & Redwood, the key attraction of this solution is its ability to adapt to any grinding or batching application with ease and its advanced diagnostics capability.
“The improvement in efficiencies is due to fine tuning of the new system and reduced down time, and, as a result of these efficiencies, we’ve also seen energy savings of two percent which is a bonus given the rising cost of energy,” said Little.