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CPG Company Uses DCS to Launch Its New Production Facility on a Tight Deadline

Simplified device setup provides deployment and commissioning time savings

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  • CPG company needed to meet consumer demand by building new production facility on tight deadline and implement a scalable, flexible process control system that allowed for staged implementation and future expansion


  • PlantPAx Modern DCS
  • Rockwell Automation library of process objects gave PlantPAx programmers preconfigured objects to simplify device configuration
  • PlantPAx alarm builder tool automated the creation of device alarms
  • PlantPAx architecture enabled manual control of devices prior to full automation


  • Simplified device configuration saved more than a week in deployment and commissioning time
  • System was configured for limited automation at launch to meet target launch date
  • Architecture designed to support future expansions

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.

Grantek Systems, a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner, was tasked to lead a deployment of the automated control systems for the tanks, transfer and mixing systems.

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.

Quick Startup

The PlantPAx® modern distributed control system (DCS) from Rockwell Automation was selected for the system’s process control. The company has plans to grow its capabilities and its physical footprint, and the new system enabled both. A future addition of information solutions is also enabled through a seamless integration with the FactoryTalk® software suite from Rockwell Automation. When additional lines are needed, the system design can be duplicated.

The system is responsible for controlling the transfer of ingredients from the supply tanks, the agitation of product batches in the mixing tanks, and for delivery of the batches to the finishing and packaging line.

The DCS was configured with unique faceplates and controls that allow operators to manually start and stop processes from the human machine interface devices on the production floor. Pre-allocated tags were created for the future FactoryTalk Batch system to allow operators to simply switch over from manual to automated mode once the new system was in place.

Just as important, the DCS helped simplify and shorten deployment processes in support of the tight launch timeline. One of the biggest timesavers was the use of the Rockwell Automation library of process objects, which includes pre-defined controller code, display elements and faceplates. For example, objects with embedded displays gave engineers the control variable, process variable and set point to help ease the tuning process.

“The PlantPAx system includes a display with a trend that’s already created with it,” Hinckley said. “So right off the bat you can observe your response and tune the gains.”

Engineers also took advantage of the pre-configured library objects that were available for the Endress+Hauser flow meters used on each of the supply and mixing tanks.

“Without the pre-configured objects within the Rockwell Automation system, I would have had to use the raw data from the flow-meter input and wrap my own logic around it, which would have been a lot more effort on my end,” Hinckley said. “The PlantPAx system took a lot of that low-level code and did it all for me, which saved us about two days’ worth of programming time.”

The PlantPAx alarm builder tool, which automates the alarm-configuration process, created additional time savings for building the system’s device alarms. Hinckley estimated the tool enabled him to do in one day what otherwise could have taken as long as one week to complete.

“Once we started commissioning, alarm builder was critical for getting those alarms created in time,” he said. “The number of objects in the system that we would have had to go through and manually create messages for would have been a project in itself without this tool.”

Cleaning Up Nicely

The facility was successfully operational by the company’s target date. Although it was mostly reliant on manual operations, production kicked off with single-shift, single-batch runs.

With this limited level of production underway, commissioning began to automate the processes.

It took about five weeks to program and automate the first mixing tank. However, because the equipment phases, user-defined data types (UDDT), and devices were identical for each of the five mixing tanks, the team was able to duplicate the remaining four tanks in a period of just two weeks.

“Using the same group of logic, we just created another instance of it and pointed it to another set of valves for each tank,” Hinckley said. “The duplication process was very easy.”

As a result, the five mixing tanks and all delivery sequencing were fully automated by mid-March.

Moving forward, the scalable and modular PlantPAx architecture also will allow for an easy expansion to operations. In the near future, that includes integrating FactoryTalk Batch software to support recipe executions and deliver batch reports, and FactoryTalk Historian software to log critical production information and track clean-in-place parameters. Longer term, the system will be able to support additional bulk and mixing demands if demand requires.

The results mentioned above are specific to this company’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.

FactoryTalk, PartnerNetwork and PlantPAx are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.


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