In less than 15 years, a maker of planet-friendly cleaning products expanded its reach from a single store to tens of thousands of retail locations across four continents.
Throughout its years of rapid growth, the company had contracted out the manufacturing, packaging and distribution of its products to various companies. However, in order to meet demand and also lighten its environmental footprint, the company sought to bring its dispersed operations together under one roof with its first-ever, in-house production facility.
In recent years, the company unveiled ambitious plans for its new operations facility in a major U.S. city. Those plans included a refurbished wind turbine; solar-panel installations that would move throughout the day to track the sun; and native land renewal – all in support of the factory earning LEED Platinum-certification.
The company’s production timeline was also ambitious, with the initial production launch date being set less than a year after the facility’s groundbreaking. This put significant pressure on the company and its industrial-automation partners to be as efficient as possible in designing, deploying and commissioning the manufacturing infrastructure to meet the timeline.
Immediate Versus Future Needs
The plans for the new operations facility included six bulk supply tanks that would receive and hold raw ingredients. Those supply tanks would transfer ingredients to five mixing tanks, where products would be agitated and formulated into final-product batches. Those batches would then be transferred to the plant’s filling and packaging line.
Given the tight timeline, the company and Grantek agreed to take a staged implementation approach. This meant first establishing a mix of automated and manual operations that would allow the facility to begin production on a limited basis by its desired production launch date.
“They knew they wouldn’t be fully automated by the launch date,” said Doug Hinckley, senior process engineer for Grantek Systems. “The goal for the initial launch was to ensure operators had enough access to use the equipment and create batches.”
From there, the two parties could finish implementing and commissioning the remainder of the system in support of fully automated production.
In addition to the staged implementation, the system had to support the company’s requirements for future scalability and flexibility. This included the ability to eventually accommodate up to two additional bulk tanks and 10 additional mixing tanks, as well as any future system enhancements, such as phase management.