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Metalquimia Deploys Integrated Architecture for Process Automation

Food industry machine builder commissions Automatismes Girona, S.L. (AUGI) to implement advanced control and information system to control and supervise its most innovative project, the QDS (Quick-Dry-Slice) System

Challenge

  • Metalquimia required an advanced control solution for a patented dry curing technology for sliced meat. It turned to Automatismes Girona, S.L. (AUGI), a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner

Solutions

Results

  • Reduced total processing times
  • Eliminated time spent in chambers
  • Simplified production
  • Optimised energy efficiency

Background

Metalquimia is a world leader in the technology and manufacturing of turn-key lines for the production of meat products. From the early 1980s, the company, located in Girona, Spain, has focused on innovation and high quality.

This innovative approach is evident through a number of different patents the company has achieved, such as the first automated hydraulic injector with spray effect or, more recently, the QDS (Quick-Dry-Slice) System, a technology for accelerated dry-curing of sliced meat products. All of this has undoubtedly helped Metalquimia to become a leading company in the meat industry for process innovation.

In order to automate its products, the company works with Automatismes Girona, S.L. (AUGI), an engineering company specialising in the development and implementation of comprehensive solutions in the field of industrial automation for the upgrade of many kinds of machinery and processes. Thanks to its diversification, AUGI covers a wide variety of industries such food and feed, paper, textile, machinery construction or renewable energies.

A few years ago, AUGI also achieved the Rockwell Automation Solution Partner status. Solution Partners are system integrators that make a commitment to deliver high quality technical solution and customer service, leading with Rockwell Automation technologies. They are often specialised, with application or industry experience complementary to Rockwell Automation and have the ability to deliver across a broad area.

Challenge

Metalquimia’s QDS System is a production process in which, after a prior heating cycle, frozen meat slices undergo a quick tempering drying phase at controlled temperature and humidity. According to Pere Canadell, Automation Manager at Metalquimia: “It comprises an automated line starting from the frozen product in bar form, which are then sliced, passed through a drier and then placed in packets perfectly stacked and ready for sale.” This innovative process drastically reduces the total processing times, simplifies production and achieves a significant improvement in energy efficiency.

The system integrates several components, such as a slicer, transport conveyors, tray loaders, drying tunnels with climate control and packaging machines. AUGI was commissioned to develop automated and integrated control of the whole machine. “The process involved several complex considerations. On one hand we had to control the drying process very precisely, which requires optimal climate control management,” explains Canadell.

“On the other hand,” he continues, “product overlapping was also relevant in order to obtain attractive-looking trays and provide traceability, since all trays are identified by an RFID tag.” This results in a reduction of time and costs, since a large number of items can be read at once and a view line is not required between the tags and the reader.

Multiple axes were also involved via shafts, motors, drives, synchronisms, cams and servo drives for the placement of slices in mosaic patterns. And of course,” adds Xavier Mir, Process Automation Manager at AUGI, “all this had to be integrated in order to work seamlessly.”

Solution

In order to address all these considerations, both Metalquimia and AUGI decided to work with Rockwell Automation. The system, using an EtherNet/IP™ network architecture, includes Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix® programmable automation controllers (PAC) and Allen-Bradley Kinetix® 6500 servo drives for motion control, as well as Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® AC drives, distributed Allen-Bradley POINT I/O™ and, for operating interfaces, Allen-Bradley PanelView™ HMIs and FactoryTalk® View Site edition (SE). “We know these  products very well,” states Mir, “to integrate communication networks, motion control with shafts, remote peripheries, all with the proper synchronization, it’s better to use solutions provided by one recognized company such as Rockwell Automation.”

All these solutions work much better in combination, because they enable end users to experience a significant improvement in productivity with higher speeds and flexibility. And with a standardized platform, the system is designed to optimize and improve reliability. Thanks to the implementation of these combined elements, controlling and managing production lines becomes easier and more efficient, with reporting and responding to real-time data contributing to an improved process that helps to avoid failures.

Results

Rockwell Automation solutions have contributed to create an innovative process, unique in the world, whose patent is owned exclusively by Metalquimia. With the added advantage that, thanks to the versatility of the installed components, it can be seamlessly fitted to the production needs. “I think that we made a good job of implementing the automation solutions into the QDS System,” states Mir, who expressed satisfaction with the technology support of Rockwell Automation products and the results obtained.

What’s more, Rockwell Automation solutions and automated equipment help to reduce the overall process time and simplify the production, since a unique line undertakes the distribution of meat slices, automatic ultrafast drying and packaging in trays. The result is a consistent final product for the consumers.This process provides an additional advantage because it removes the necessity for cold storage of meat slices, thus accelerating the meat curing process and freeing space at the plant. The lower process time allows the energy efficiency to be improved as well; in fact, the energy consumption decreases around 30% if compared to conventional drying.

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

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