Processing Plant Boosts Capacity by 40% with Integrated Motor Control

Processing Plant Boosts Capacity by 40%

Marine-plant product manufacturer implements EtherNet/IP and integrated MCCs for new facility with no downtime, and also improved reliability.

Acadian Seaplants, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, cultivates and processes seaweed for a variety of marine-plant products for plants, animals and people. One of those products is crop biostimulants, which are used to improve plant health and growth. Its facility in Cornwallis, Nova Scotia, produces crop biostimulants in liquid and powder formats. Its proprietary manufacturing process requires a high degree of process control. Before 2006, motor controls and facility communications were hardwired. If the company wanted to change or add a step in the production process, it often had to rewire entire areas of the facility.

Between 2006 and 2008, the company began automating the Cornwallis facility, but the modernization wasn't enough to meet growing demand. In the past decade, natural biostimulant use in agriculture and horticulture has increased, and Acadian Seaplants needed to grow and upgrade its biostimulant production facility in response. The company decided to build onto its existing plant to add capacity and automate the new equipment to increase process control and manufacturing efficiency.

Automation Begins

Electrical supplier Graybar knew Acadian Seaplants already was using Allen-Bradley® CompactLogixTM programmable automation controllers (PACs) from Rockwell Automation. To help Acadian Seaplants grow capacity without adding hardwiring for motor controls, Graybar proposed using Allen-Bradley CENTERLINE® motor control centers (MCCs) with IntelliCENTER® technology. Using EtherNet/IP™, the MCCs integrate easily with controllers in the existing system (Figure 1).

CENTERLINE MCCs integrate with controllers in Acadian Seaplants’ existing system.

Figure 1. Supported by EtherNet/IP, Allen-Bradley CENTERLINE motor control centers (MCCs) with IntelliCENTER technology integrate with controllers in Acadian Seaplants’ existing system for its new facility.

Acadian Seaplants continued to automate its existing space and increased its production capacity by about 50% between 2008 and 2009. By 2011, the company needed to expand again and decided to build a larger plant across the street.

“We had gained a proven, reliable solution in our existing space but needed to implement it on a much larger scale,” says Wade Hazel, engineering manager for Acadian Seaplants. The company's managers also wanted to avoid any downtime so the company could continue to meet orders. In the new facility, they planned to expand its recently implemented integrated MCC and controller solution and provide remote support to reduce maintenance time.

Over three years, the engineering team moved existing processes and equipment into the new facility. The plant science division gained three times more manufacturing space, meaning it needed more equipment. Given its experience in the 2009 expansion, Graybar knew how to help Acadian Seaplants implement the same MCC solution at a facility five times the size of the original operation.

Integrated Infrastructure Implemented

With counsel from Graybar, the Acadian Seaplants engineering team designed an integrated plant-wide infrastructure for system monitoring and motor control over EtherNet/IP.

The network became critical when the Acadian Seaplants team worked in stages to move existing processes to the new site. To start, the team built a piping system over land and under the street to move liquid product between the two facilities. The team installed new equipment and connected it via EtherNet/IP to the existing equipment on the other side of the street.

The team installed three CompactLogix PACs to manage all system functions. The PACs connect seamlessly with other system components via the EtherNet/IP network. System information is fed to a desktop computer on-site, where staff can monitor operations in real time.

The team moved the existing MCCs and installed additional ones to provide precise motor control and power throughout the seaweed-processing facility.

It set up and configured the MCCs using the same software as the PACs — Rockwell Software® Studio 5000 Automation Engineering & Design Environment™. The IntelliCENTER software that monitors the MCC also can send motor control device information directly to the Rockwell Software Studio 5000® software, which recognizes the intelligent components in the MCCs, including variable speed drives and full-voltage starters (Figure 2. The Add-On Profiles (AOPs) provide parameters immediately for each component for faster configuration.

The IntelliCENTER software that monitors the MCC also can send motor control device information directly to the Rockwell Software Studio 5000 software.

Figure 2. The IntelliCENTER software that monitors the MCC also can send motor control device information directly to the Rockwell Software Studio 5000 software, which recognizes the intelligent components in the MCCs, including variable-speed drives and full-voltage starters.

Facility Ready for Increased Market Demand

The new seaweed-processing facility was completed in 2014 with no downtime. A bigger plus: Acadian Seaplants gained the production capacity necessary to meet immediate crop biostimulant demand.

In addition, th facility is operating at 40% higher capacity than the previous facility. With its EtherNet/IP-based design, the facility could grow to 250% depending on future market demand.

“Our facility isn't static,” says Hazel. “We may need to change functions one day, do improvements the next or add processes altogether. With all of our controls connected via EtherNet/IP, our wires became virtual wires, and we can make changes a lot faster at a lower cost.”

With integrated MCCs and controllers, Acadian Seaplants gained a more connected, reliable and continuous facility. Information is shared more seamlessly between processes and operators. If any issues arise, engineers can access the desktop computer remotely, helping to reduce downtime compared to previous on-site visits. Issues appear automatically on the operator screen (HMI).

Based on the successful expansion, the company is considering similar changes at other facilities. The engineering team has begun to automate processes with CompactLogix PACs at the food science division's land-based cultivation facility and would like to move to EtherNet/IP-supported MCCs at the animal science division's facilities in the next few years.

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