Cheese Plant Reduces Downtime, Boosts Quality

Cheese Plant Reduces Downtime, Boosts Quality

Technical support optimizes plant performance and implements best practices for crisis prevention

When a cheese plant upgraded its process control system to FactoryTalk® Batch from Rockwell Automation, the company recognized a knowledge gap between its employees and the new system. Although the company employed skilled technicians with control systems expertise and sought batch expertise to maintain their updated batch application, the plant manager noticed inconsistencies in product quality and inventory leading to lost revenue.

After their experience of an after-hours outage that caused the process line to shut down, the plant reached out to Rockwell Automation technical support and purchased a TechConnectSM Application Support agreement, which includes 24 hour, seven day a week. 365 days a year customer support..

The Helping Hands

A designated technical support team that became intimately knowledgeable with their production systems to support their specific batch application provided the plant the expertise needed to fill the knowledge gap.

The team accessed the system remotely and discovered that the structured query language (SQL) server hard drive was full. They immediately cleared space on the hard drive to restore operations temporarily. The next day, a root-cause analysis identified that automated backups had failed for the SQL server database, causing the hard drive to fill completely. The team devised a plan to implement a database administrator strategy to prevent the hard drive from filling if a backup fails.

In a separate instance, manual changes made to the operating sequence led in periodic outages, predominately during second and third shifts. An investigation by technical support determined that coding modifications to the Allen-Bradley® ControlLogix® programmable logic controller (PLC) were required. Human machine interface (HMI) security settings were also modified to prevent the issue from reoccurring, which reduced outages during the second and third shift.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To solve issues with product quality and material inventory discrepancies between the raw material inputs and product outputs, the plant worked with the support team to review the entire batch process.

Engineers from Rockwell Automation implemented new programming code that discovered inaccurate weight measurements in several stages of the plant’s process. As a result, they recommended replacing defective scale units and performing calibrations more frequently to verify ingredient measurements for accuracy and consistency. This practice improved product quality and the plant’s ability to track and control inventory, preventing at least $80,000 per month in lost revenue.

As a global initiative to further improve upon their inventory discrepancies, the cheese plant decided to update and convert their inventory tracking system to SAP. Before the migration, several modifications to the application were required. As a trusted partner, Rockwell Automation designed a programming code that allowed SAP to communicate with the plant’s process controllers and prevented downtime during the migration.

Moreover, the engineers continue to teach the plant’s internal engineers to help develop their workforce. With the Knowledge Management option, internal engineers gain easy access to solution documents to improve their ability to handle issues. Having the ability to view solution details on the plant’s on-site equipment also helps them to easily identify and solve recurrent issues and improve efficiency.

The Satisfying Result

Through the partnership established under a TechConnect agreement, the cheese plant developed its workforce knowledge and transitioned successfully to a more innovative batch system. Through professional support efforts, the cheese plant benefitted from overall process improvements including product quality and inventory management gains.

By making the most of the application support engineers’ expertise, the plant saved $200,000 per year that would have been devoted to the maintenance of the plant’s batch system.

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