A Need for Modernization
“The Faribault bean plant was designed as a seasonal vegetable canning facility,” explained Phil Hines, director of engineering, Faribault Foods. “When I joined the company in 2005, it was being operated year-round as a rehydrated bean canning facility. We needed to modernize our production infrastructure to meet long-term business goals and deliver the high-quality, sustainable products our customers expect.”
Indeed, with several hundred varieties of product being produced each year, the facility simply wasn’t designed to keep pace with company’s growing business. In addition to producing several of its own product brands, such as Butter Kernel, Kuner’s, S&W Beans and Chilliman, the company also produces private-label brands for many large grocery retailers, and provides copacking, or contract manufacturing services as well.
“We needed to demonstrate and document reliable, repeatable production practices to our customers – particularly to those working with us on copack products,” explained Hines. “Our existing production infrastructure didn’t allow the necessary level of data collection and insight; plus, it was simply less efficient to run in terms of water, air, gas, electric and steam (WAGES) resource consumption.”
Partnering for Success
Once the company decided to invest in a complete facility overhaul, Hines and his team designed a comprehensive plan to identify opportunities for improvement, documentation requirements, and an ongoing timeline for implementation. “We knew this wasn’t going to be a one-time effort,” explained Hines. “We wanted to work with an automation vendor who understood our goals and would commit to our long-term success. That’s why we chose Rockwell Automation.”
Hines and his team selected a process solution based on the Rockwell Automation
Integrated Architecture® system, featuring eight Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix® programmable automation controllers (PAC). Each PAC communicates via a ControlNet™ network to intelligent field devices and twelve human-machine interface stations comprised of Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus terminals and industrial computers running Factory Talk® View SE software. The control system monitors the entire production infrastructure in real-time, including WAGES consumption information, so Hines and his team can quickly identify opportunities for improvement and document each critical step of the process.
Faribault Foods implemented instrumentation from Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork™ member Endress+Hauser for seamless integration with the Rockwell Automation equipment used in the application. “The benefit of working with a Rockwell Automation partner company is that the two companies have already discussed maintenance, communications and technology issues prior to solution implementation,” said Hines. “Rockwell Automation and Endress+Hauser had those details and resources worked out, which helped us simplify implementation.”
The solution also includes more than 60 Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® variable frequency drives for more intelligent motor control throughout the plant. The drives improve equipment efficiency by adjusting cycle speeds, as needed, rather than running at full capacity at all times. In addition, the drives feed critical motor data back to the central control system for improved maintenance capabilities.
Creating Best Practices
During implementation, the Faribault Foods team participated in an Installed Base Evaluation™ from Rockwell Automation to determine a baseline of current parts in use on the plant floor, as well as critical spares necessary to protect uptime and production goals. After completing the evaluation, the company decided to leverage Rockwell Automation Asset Management Services for parts management and 24/7 remote support. With a Parts Management Agreement, Rockwell Automation regularly audits and manages Faribault Foods’ spare-parts needs to help lower maintenance costs. The TechConnectSM remote support contract gives Hines and his team nonstop access to trained Rockwell Automation specialists who are available to help troubleshoot plant-floor issues and identify best practices for ongoing improvements to the control infrastructure.
To ensure a smooth transition, Hines wanted to train his staff on the new technology as soon as the system was online. “Previously, one or two staff members possessed 90 percent of the control system knowledge,” he said. “With the new system, we wanted to make sure everyone understood how it worked.” By partnering with Rockwell Automation, Werner Electric (a local authorized Allen-Bradley distributor) and Alexandria Technical College, plant-floor staff receive training on everything from basic maintenance and troubleshooting, to servo control, to the company’s latest software implementation.
Faribault Foods has been very pleased with how the new control system and support have helped it meet wider business goals. “Whether it’s our sustainability goals or our documentation goals, the Rockwell Automation solution helps us reach both,” said Hines.