Home » Operations: Batching and mixing add flexibility
Hundreds of bottles and cans line the shelves at grocery and other stores around the country. With the proliferation of SKUs and variety of recipes, processing automation equipment can keep track of individual processes at a beverage plant, making operations simpler and more flexible.
Batching and mixing of multiple ingredients can be a complicated process, especially with the increasing complexity in many new products. Processing automation machinery keeps the primary stages of making a beverage as efficient as possible.
“In the old days, you might have had a couple of raw material bins you were blending together in a batch tank,” says Mike Jamieson, global director, consumer packaged goods industry, Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee. “These would have created a few predefined recipes that would then fill containers on your packaging lines, thereby creating a variety of SKUs. Those days are gone.
“There are multiple types of raw material ingredients, multiple types of recipes that you have to blend, and very tight tolerance for quality on the finished product before you put it into a packaging line. We have solutions which allow you to manage multiple recipes a lot easier.”
The solution that Rockwell offers for processing automation is the PlantPAx process automation system, which is powered by the Integrated Architecture solution and the Logix platform and FactoryTalk suite, Jamieson says.
Integrated Architecture addresses a range of control and information needs for discrete, motion, process and batch control, drive control and safety applications, the company says. The process uses third-party connectivity, interoperability and use of open industry standards to integrate information with the site.
Through this system, the company can automate everything from raw materials coming into the plant to finished goods going out the door. The Allen-Bradley ControlLogix is the company’s flagship controller platform, which works under the Integrated Architecture brand. ControlLogix works by not only creating recipes, but executing them as well, Jamieson adds.
“This provides repeatability and reliability of the plant processes, while enabling continuous improvement opportunities from the data-rich environment the programmable automation controller creates,” he says.
To help address manufacturing complexities, Rockwell Automation developed a fluid routing solution within the Logix control platform to “allow a smart selection of routes within the plant to increase the amount of throughput you can get through the valve matrix and increase the overall throughput on your plant,” Jamieson says. Making sure the system runs efficiently and prevents contamination also are priorities, he adds.
To enhance its solutions, Rockwell is in a global alliance with Endress+Hauser, which provides integration of Endress+Hauser instrumentation and the Integrated Architecture platform. The alliance allows control of the flows and transfers of material and processes in a beverage plant, Jamieson says.
Rockwell Automation’s solutions are part of the PlantPAx system, which evolved from investments the company has made in process automation. The integration between Endress+Hauser field devices and the Rockwell Automation PlantPAx system uses open, standard technology at every level of the process. At the controller-level network, Common Industrial Protocol-based networks, such as ethernet, are used to provide connectivity, the company says.
“The Integrated Architecture platform creates an environment where all plant processes and machinery can be integrated via common networks and controllers â€” from ERP system to the sensors and drives â€” providing plant control and business intelligence that is much needed by modern beverage producers,” Jamieson says.
Whatever the process may be, Jamieson says it must be adaptable. “There’s a trend toward flexibility,” he says. “They want more flexible equipment from existing and new assets, but they also want to make sure the consistency and compliance of the end product is improving significantly. If you’re a manufacturer and you’re producing 50 different brands on one line, being able to push a button to identify what ingredients were blended together at what time and using which pieces of equipment is critical.”
Many companies also have started to blend on their own sites to reduce trucking costs. “That also gives them the ability to buy from alternate suppliers, where before they would have a handful of companies that would pre-blend for them,” he says.
Siemens Energy & Automation Inc., Nashua, N.H., offers a complete electrical processing lineup. Everything from the process instrumentation, whole electrical infrastructure, drives, motor, switch gear and all the electrical apparatus from the power pole can be set up for a beverage site, says Ed Montgomery, the company’s food and beverage industry manager.
“One of the key things we do in beverage processing would be our process control system Simatic PCS 7,” Montgomery says. “It controls the entire facility from one central location. You can also have the controls for the plant on Web clients, so you can control it from an Internet-enabled device.”
Simatic PCS 7 also contains a smart alarm management system, which notifies the operator of critical alarms instead of being inundated by non-critical alarms, he says.
Industry-specific libraries exist within Simatic PCS 7’s portfolio to provide standardized applications for individual industries.
“We have a standard platform, the PCS 7, and we add on libraries that are specific to each industry,” Montgomery says. “That makes it very supportable around the world because we have just one package to maintain and support as opposed to different packages for each different industry.”
Siemens also offers a simulation package with the Simatic PCS 7 system, so manufacturers can test batching and mixing.
“One of the key benefits to any automation project or controlled project is the ability to do simulation,” Montgomery says. “You can simulate and test long before you ever go into production. You can test new recipes and new formulas. Instead of doing trial and error on the process itself, you can do it on the simulated system first.”
In addition, companies are asking for systems that rely on a single piece of automation, he says.
“People are mainly asking for one integrated approach, scalable from the smallest systems to the largest without reinvesting in the infrastructure,” he says. “That, in turn, reduces their overall manufacturing cost because they only have to maintain one system as opposed to different systems for different processes.” BI
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Beverage Industry’s November issue features our annual Craft Beer Report where we provide insight about how the craft beer segment is recovering after the onset of the pandemic halted many on-premise sales. Also in this issue we analyze the factions of the dairy drinks and dairy alternatives, the latest trends impacting the use of protein ingredients in beverages, the release of our annual Trucks Report with updates on 2021 releases, and much more!