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Integrated process control that works

The manufacturers of a well-known dental care product have upgraded their plant with a new process control solution designed to allow the operation to expand as demand increases, writes Sean Cahill.

Recaldent is a revolutionary dental care product that prevents cavities and can reverse decay. Developed at the University of Melbourne’s School of Dental Science, Recaldent is derived from casein, a milk protein, and is used in chewing gums, toothpastes and other products.

Recognising Recaldent’s market potential, Cadbury purchased the product from its original manufacturer in Gippsland, east of Melbourne, Victoria. The intention was to develop the potential of this innovative product to satisfy a growing demand for dental care confection. After the purchase of Recaldent, Cadbury became the brand’s sole supplier which meant that worldwide demand would dramatically increase. Cadbury needed to build a new plant to expand their production capacity in order to meet this new demand. They managed to achieve this in record time and the new plant was opened in Scoresby, Victoria.

The new facility gave Cadbury the opportunity to improve the original production process significantly. The old plant lacked integration and flexibility creating many production difficulties and bottlenecks. By upgrading to SIMATIC PCS 7, Cadbury gained an integrated, flexible process control system capable of handling capacity and production changes. It also provides improved data availability and process traceability which accommodated the management needs for transparency.

An integrated approach

As a relatively new product, the production process for Recaldent was still being refined when the new plant was being built. The original manufacturer had used a manual production process and subsequently added various pieces of process equipment each with its own control system. This created a lack of integration and flexibility.

“The old system had quite a few patches and upgrades. There were several sections to the plant that were introduced at different times, so they were stand-alone and not integrated with the rest. There were also multiple software changes over the years and there wasn’t a great understanding of how it was all connected,” said Recaldent area manager, Anthony Kelly.

Siemens Solution Partner Techeng’s director, Adrian Beatty, engineered and installed the SIMATIC PCS 7 control system. Adrian says that the original stand-alone systems had major shortcomings.

“Personnel had to operate one plant from inside the control room then run upstairs to the platform to make sure the other plant was doing what it should be doing. There was no integration at all, just small discrete plants within one overall plant,” he said.

When evaluating the way forward, Cadbury needed a process control system that met several criteria. With a limited budget and ever-increasing demand for the final product, they needed to react decisively. As such, they drew up a list of criteria which had to be met;

· Integrate the entire system in the new plant using existing equipment

· Improve the production process

· Have enough flexibility to allow them to alter the production process and upgrade capacity as desired

· High availability process control system with extensive diagnostics and the capacity to handle extensive validation requirements if required in the future.

After thoroughly evaluating several systems against the criteria, the Siemens SIMATIC PCS 7 was selected.

“Being a process plant, PCS 7 matched very well with what we were aiming to achieve,” said Recaldent’s Kelly. “We didn’t have to change the software structure to make it suit our needs. It’s flexible enough to match the process setup, so we could do what we wanted to do without having to create bespoke code. PCS 7 also gives us the flexibility for future expansion for functions and sections of the plant. If we need another pump, we can just copy and paste it. We don’t have to re-engineer all the sequences.”

Techeng’s Beatty agrees that PCS 7 delivers important benefits including ease-of-design and implementation such as adding valves, pumps, and changing sequences.

“Once the system design is in place, the application is very easy to put together. The Recaldent plant was perfectly suited to the PCS 7 and the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) concept from Siemens because there were several discrete plants which could be implemented as one,” he says.

Meeting everyone’s needs

TIA provides a comprehensive range of products and systems which are designed for the entire production chain. The technology is based on standard interfaces which are designed for long-term stability, thus guaranteeing maximum safeguarding of investment. It also eases the process of integrating devices and ensures a common operator environment.

For Recaldent’s Kelly, the ease-of-implementation and use is a major advantage of SIMATIC PCS 7.

“The transparency of the software enables operators to be guided through the sequences. The software is there in plain English, so it can be used by all levels including operators, maintenance crews, and management. Quite often you wouldn’t be able to provide that level of detail to all those levels without writing very complex bespoke software. Having it there as a built-in feature was a huge benefit for all of us,” he says.

As a consequence, reporting has also been simplified. With an intuitive design and easy-to-implement reporting structure, information can be related quickly and efficiently for analysis. For instance, the plant produces trends from a CIP report. This helps operations personnel from a compliance perspective by providing documentation of pasteurisation and other processes. SIMATIC PCS 7 also provides the option to add validation tools in future if required.

“You never know what the future holds. It’s possible one day that we could be required to implement an extensive validation process. Fortunately with PCS 7, this is something we could easily handle without a lot of time and effort,” said Kelly.

Growing without the pains

For Kelly, there are numerous benefits which have come with the decision to implement PCS 7. Out of these, the ability to upgrade and alter production with a reduced level of engineering and commissioning stands out for him. Demand for the product has continued to increase and the plant is growing to meet this. As a result, recent upgrades have allowed Cadbury to increase production by more than double.

Kelly looks forward to continued improvements and upgrades to meet the growing demand for Recaldent around the world. “This is our third capacity upgrade in two years,” he says. “Now we’re analysing the system to get more benefits from it and also looking at where we need to invest for our next upgrade.”

In a world where personal health continues to grow in importance, the need for oral healthcare products is on the rise. As an innovative and increasingly important product, Recaldent is ideally placed to meet this demand. Cadbury recognised that its production processes need to be flexible enough to adapt with demand, yet structured enough to handle the reporting and potential regulatory requirements. As a consequence, through forward planning and adaptive thinking, they are now well placed to put bright white smiles on the faces of people all over the world.

[Sean Cahill is Siemens’ marketing manager — process automation.]

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