Case Study: Methodical Approach to a Systems Upgrade
ECS Solutions, Inc. (ECS) recently helped a client with an upgrade by leveraging ECS’ methodical approach to system solutions. Their client has three very similar processing areas known as casting pits. Each was controlled by an independent GE 9030 PLC system, each with a main, and each controlled by a local BLUE Open Studio HMI from ProFace America.
The 9030 PLCs that were installed were robust and accurate for these areas when originally installed. Over a long period of time, the systems were maintained and augmented by several personnel from both inside and outside the organization. The result, as is often the case in legacy automation systems, is system drawings that are littered with hand comments and sketches on paper drawings. These systems also feature code that works…. until it doesn’t due to getting lost in a discarded section of logic that was thought to be disabled but was never removed. These situations are often referred to as “ghosts” or “gremlins” in the code and they can be difficult to troubleshoot. Frequently, the solution is to reboot entire systems to exit from the offending area.
Case Study: Integrating PlantPAx into an Existing Process Cell for a Pharmaceutical Company
A major pharmaceutical company was in the process of commissioning a control system for a new process cell and asked ECS to provide site support to complete the commissioning and qualification.
The control system supplier had taken a simplistic approach to keep costs down. A single controller with multiple Panelviews provided the heart of the control system that also interfaced with some OEM skids. The control hardware consisted of a quality Rockwell ControlLogix controller with multiple Panelviews. The controller code was all custom with little use of off-the-shelf products and was an assortment of custom blocks of code tied together, providing minimal functionality.
Little to no thought had been put into the operator and how they would run the system to create quality product. Standard operating procedures had not yet been developed. Producing a quality product was dependent upon the operator selecting the correct sequence of functions from operator stations at multiple vessels. This approach exposed the company to a great deal of risk in producing a quality product and controlling the rate of production.
Case Study: An Expansion of a Water Treatment Plant
A municipal utility asked ECS Solutions to design and construct an expansion to one of their Water Treatment Plants. It was proposed to expand an existing facility from ten million gallons per day (MGD) to a total treatment capacity of 30 MGD and upon completion of the expansion, an existing 18 MGD plant was to be shut down.
Earlier, ECS had provided the configuration and start-up support for the SCADA system used to operate the plant and had installed the existing SCADA and control system at both the plant to be expanded, and the one ultimately to be shut down. The proposal provided by ECS Solutions for the expansion covered the control and/or monitoring of:
- Four existing and four new aerators.
- Existing and new primary and secondary settling basins.
- Existing sludge and reclaim equipment.
- All existing and eight new filters.
- Existing and new high service pumps.
- New chemical feed equipment for lime, sodium hypochlorite, fluoride, and polyphosphate.
Case Study: FactoryTalk Batch Integration into a Control System for a Pharmaceutical Company
A large pharmaceutical company was commissioning and testing a new control system that was limited to providing only manual control of Equipment Modules. In some cases, manual control of Phases was available, with these Phases operating as coordination Equipment Modules but not having the infrastructure capable of interacting with a standard sequencing engine. To run a Batch Process the operators were required to manually enter recipe values and capture report information via an HMI, while tracking all activities in the various units. This allowed significant opportunities for operator errors (errors in setting parameters, errors in running the Equipment Modules in the correct sequence, or, in some cases, the physical inability to run multiple Equipment Modules at the same time).
ECS Solutions recommended and subsequently undertook the addition of a sequencing engine that not only stores the recipes (which contained the order in which the phases should be executed) but also stores all pertinent Parameter Values. With this modification, the operator is required simply to select a recipe together with all the equipment needed to run the batch. The batch engine is responsible for coordinating all the activities, including the parameter value transfer and Report information capture. The system also has the capability to prompt the operator regarding those tasks that require operator interaction. The installation of the addition did not interfere with any existing activities and all the existent code and functionality was preserved, with no changes being required.
Case Study: Process Lines to WIP Bins
The plant of a large, packaged food manufacturer contains multiple processing lines and a series of transfer lines to move the finished products into storage bins. Presently there are six process lines in operation but only four transfer lines, which limits the transfer from processing to storage. For example, if all four processing lines are running different products, it is impossible with the existing shared-transfer arrangement to simultaneously transfer all the products to the storage bins. The addition of two new transfer lines would establish one transfer line per process line, increasing flexibility in routing and ultimately increasing production capacity.
ECS undertook the project to install two new transfer lines, this project being carried out in three phases. Phase 1 added a transfer line dedicated to Process Line 5, Phase 2 added a transfer line dedicated to Process Line 6, and Phase 3 removed the shared functionality of the existing Process Lines and Transfer Lines 1-5. The installation of the new transfer lines included adding new conveyors, elevators, sifters, weigh scales, and slide gates for routing.
Case Study: Ignition at Large Food Manufacturer
A large food manufacturer requested assistance from ECS Solutions in replacing a SCADA/HMI system that was unreliable and difficult to maintain. After consultation with us, they selected the Ignition platform from Inductive Automation. Ignition provides a reliable platform that can be supported and developed internally or by system integrators. Ignition would provide the power to reliably replace the existing system and the flexibility to extend the application to other functional areas of the plant, allowing visibility across the plant from a single system. Additionally, Ignition allowed one common platform to be used to control the processing and the packaging areas of the plant.
Case Study: Proprietary Replacement
For many years, a large nutrition company used a Proprietary program that was developed in-house, to manage the recipe database and to calculate the mass balances of the ingredients to meet the nutritional profile of each product. The application/program has become difficult to support and maintain. The customer approached ECS Solutions to undertake a review of the Proprietary application and recommend how it may be replaced or rewritten.
ECS engineers quickly recognized that Proprietary was a custom application, written in Microsoft access with a significant amount of custom VBA code incorporated into FactoryTalkView. The problem became how to obtain the functionality of the Proprietary application in something that was more manageable, accessible for troubleshooting, and ideally “off-the-shelf”. ECS engineers recommended that since the client was running FactoryTalkBatch in their operations, simply adding the Material Manager feature, which is a free add-on with FactoryTalkBatch, the required functions would be obtained. The customer’s management felt that ECS had to dig in and truly understand the very complicated Proprietary application and how critical it was to their operations.
Case Study: Upgrades for a Large Taste & Nutrition Company
A large taste and nutrition company that produces flavored breadcrumbs requested assistance from ECS Solutions to install and upgrade a mixer associated with their breadcrumb line 1. The company had purchased the same type of mixer that is presently used in production but wanted the controls to operate in the same way as those in the existing mixer. Assistance was also requested to reconfigure two lines; the aforementioned breadcrumb line 1 & an additional bread crumb line.
The company had purchased a new mixer from Peerless Food Equipment and required assistance with its’ installation into the breadcrumb 1 line and modification to the controls. The mixer was the same type as that being operated in the line, but the company wanted the controls to operate in the same way as those for the existing mixer 2. The new mixer was equipped with an HMI which ECS decommissioned and then programmed the existing mixer 2 HMI to operate both mixers. The operator interface terminal was also programmed to switch between the two mixers. The large taste and nutrition company had determined that these changes could significantly reduce the downtime being experienced by the line.
Case Study: Repurposing a Tank Farm
A large US food manufacturing company planned to repurpose a tank farm, originally used in the manufacture of ice cream. The repurposing of the tank farm could be considered a greenfield installation, providing various oils to a new fryer system. The new designs would allow the storage and transfer of (1) newly delivered oil, (2) flavored oil to be reused and (3) waste oil to be discarded.
ECS Solutions was hired to help evaluate the existing system which was controlled by five Allen-Bradley SLC 5/03 PLCs. The ECS engineers determined the IO was sufficient for the planned changes as well as many of the existing valves. ECS redesigned the controls incorporating one new Allen Bradley CompactLogix controller to control the system and an Ethernet network to connect each of the existing SLC racks, which would be repurposed as remote IO racks. In addition, we provided new PowerFlex variable frequency drives to control the pumps that would move the oil from place to place. An existing Inductive Automation Ignition operator interface application was expanded to incorporate the oil storage system. In effect, the scope of the project was to evaluate the control systems available and to incorporate new controls where required.
Case Study: Product Life Expiration Automation
All the production processes carried out in a particular process cell within a large, national food manufacturing company, must adhere to certain time guidelines, a consequence of the relatively short shelf lives of some of the ingredients.
A batch process is monitored manually with operators following the batch through the stages and vessels involved. The production times are recorded on paper by an operator and tracked to ensure the time guidelines are maintained. The batching process at the various stages should not exceed the specified maximum time. Failure to meet these criteria will result in the product being scrapped. It is both difficult and cumbersome to reliably record and track the batch process creating the possibility for errors to occur. The food company sought a more reliable way to track the product life of the batches as well as providing information for quality control and regulatory purposes. The company requested ECS Solutions evaluate the possible automation of the time guidelines. ECS proposed a solution for the automation but limited it to the guidelines on the “in process batching” vessels. Automation of other vessels and guidelines could be carried out, but due to information available and a desire to minimize the scope, the project was limited to the in-process batching vessels. (more…)