Food Industry Struggles with Barriers to Automation
In a recent Food Processing article on the barriers to automation, our own Process Specialist, John Parraga, shared his expertise in the following section:
Man and machine
No matter how, or how much, a plant is automated, there’s still the human factor. Floor workers have to operate, monitor or otherwise interact with equipment, and it’s important that they be prepared to do so.
Perhaps the most important factor is attitude. As long as there have been machines doing what humans used to do, some of the humans have resented it. And if a worker decides, consciously or unconsciously, that a machine isn’t going to work, it won’t work.
“Operators can make or break the success of a new automation system,” says John Parraga, a process specialist at control integrator ECS Solutions. “Listening to their needs is sometimes more or as important as listening to other system stakeholders.” That means giving them a sense of ownership from the beginning, by asking them how they operate the current or previous system and how they would like the new one to be different.
“Even though the system designer has a good idea of what is required and what the new system may look like, it is important to listen to the operators say what they need,” Parraga says. “With this simple step, operators feel empowered to influence the final design and will support onboarding activities for all operators.”
Those onboarding activities are critical. The most sophisticated, efficient piece of equipment in the world will be useless if the people who have to run it don’t know what they’re doing. Inadequate training (or none at all) is one of the biggest stumbling blocks as automation increases.
To read the entire article, CLICK HERE!
2020 ECS Engineering Scholarship Recipient Announced
Daniel Vollmer, a senior at Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, IN has been named the 2020 recipient of the ECS Engineering Scholarship. While in high school Daniel played 4 years of football and was named Academic All-State in Football in 20220. He also participated in the Memorial’s Academic Superbowl Team and served as Captain for 3 years. For 4 years he belonged to Memorial’s History Club and was President both his Junior and Senior year. Additionally, he is an Eagle Scout with Boy Scouts of America. Daniel is also a member of the Memorial’s National Honor Society and was chosen as a recipient of Building Tomorrow’s Workforce Leadership Award. Daniel has participated in numerous community activities while working multiple jobs as well.
In the Fall of 2020, Daniel will attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale focusing on a dual major in Computer Engineering and Computer Science.
Congratulations to Daniel from all of us here at ECS Solutions. We wish you the best as you continue your education!
ECS Named One of the 50 Top-Selling Integrators
ECS Solutions is excited to have landed on the list of the 50 top-selling Ignition integrators by Inductive Automation. Each integrator’s ranking on this leaderboard is based upon their total sales of Ignition for the current calendar year and ECS continues to see success with Ignition for our clients.
A message from ECS about COVID-19
The world is grappling with an issue of enormous scale and human impact, and our hearts go out to all who have been affected by the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). You have our personal commitment that this situation has our full attention. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our employees and their families, our clients and our customers. We are taking the necessary steps to stay informed and engaged with the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization guidance for preventing and reducing the spread of COVID-19.
In order to ensure workplace safety and maintain a safe environment to serve our clients and customers, we are doing the following:
- Working remotely as much as possible
- Conducting meetings by video conference, even in office
- Taking proactive steps to review and refresh general safety procedures with associates.
- Being extra vigilant and intensifying preventative measures, such as implementing enhanced sanitation and hygiene practices across all of our operations.
- Working closely with our partners to assess and modify customer-facing services in order to provide a safe and comfortable environment.
Please remember, we have staff ready and available should you need an “emergency” engineer. Our engineers are all over the country and are able to respond to your needs quickly if needed. Do not hesitate to reach out should you find yourself in need.
These are challenging times, but we feel confident that as a company and country, we will get through this together.
~Randy Otto, Vice President
ECS Shares Expert Advice in Recent Plant Engineering Articles
The following are excerpts from two recent articles written by John Parraga, ECS Solutions’ Batch Process Specialist, that were featured in Plant Engineering.
- Designing an Equipment Model
According to ISA/S88 guidelines, a manufacturing process can be represented in terms of two models: A procedural model and an equipment model. The equipment model includes a functional group of equipment that can perform a finite number of specific, minor, processing activities. It is important the equipment model is well-designed and provides flexibility and modularity as well as impacting the equipment’s overall performance. One approach to equipment model design is based on the use of phases, which is where the phase is regarded as a building block for the process or as a specific activity.
Questions to consider include:
- How does the phase interact with operators and automation control system?
- What information is recorded and made available to an operator and journals?
- How does a phase respond to failure of a component in the equipment?
Click HERE to read the full article on Plant Engineering.
2. CIP and SIP Procedures Improve OEE and Profitability
Process plant operators seeking to automate their manufacturing processes should consider automating clean in place (CIP) and sterilize in place (SIP) sequences, which often are more complex than making the products. Some of the complexities may come from the lack of automated devices, as well as creating control code to perform the procedures defined during automation design, then, changing them until they meet the final qualifications. CIP and SIP automation are commonly prescribed with little flexibility that often only allows the end-user to change minor functionality via parameter sets. Sometimes the sequences are “black box” where nothing can be viewed or changed, which limits the end-user from making significant optimization changes without requiring control system reprogramming.
Click HERE to read the full article on Plant Engineering.
ECS Solutions Named a Best Places to Work in Indiana Company for 2020
Specific company rankings will be unveiled April 30 at an awards dinner at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis, sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College.
The Best Companies Group managed the overall registration and survey process in Indiana, analyzed the data and determined the final rankings. The group oversees similar programs in 25 other states.
To be considered for participation, companies had to fulfill the following eligibility requirements:
- Be a for-profit, not-for-profit business or government entity
- Be a publicly or privately held business
- Have a facility in Indiana
- Have at least 15 full-time employees working in Indiana
- Be in business a minimum of one year
Winners were selected from four categories: small companies of between 15 and 74 U.S. employees; medium companies of between 75 and 249 U.S. employees; large companies of between 250 and 999 U.S. employees; and major companies with 1,000 or more U.S. employees. Out-of-state parent companies were eligible to participate if they met the 15 full-time employee threshold in Indiana.
To determine the Best Places to Work in Indiana, companies from across the state entered a two-part survey process. The first aspect consisted of evaluating each nominated company’s workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems and demographics. This part of the process was worth approximately 25% of the total evaluation. The second part consisted of an employee survey to measure the employee experience and accounted for some 75% of the total evaluation. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final rankings.
For more information on the Best Places to Work in Indiana program, visit www.BestPlacestoWorkIN.com.
Large Consumer Goods Case Study
ECS was able to install FT Batch on this system and give the company a method of modifying its CIP process easily from one software. This FT Batch solution is now used to clean six (6) different production areas in one of the company’s manufacturing areas.Download the full Case Study HERE!
Digitalizing Your Manufacturing Ecosystem
Making digitalization work for you requires understanding your manufacturing ecosystem. Standards, such as ISA-95, only guide you on a journey to more deeply comprehend the workings of your unique process for manufacturing your products.
A batch manufacturing ecosystem often includes campaign management. Campaign management is not mentioned in ISA-95 which only speaks generally of “order processing.” Campaign management is an example of applying the general concepts of ISA-95 to the specific needs of a batch manufacturing process.
Campaigns are groups of full and partial batches corresponding to the number of sellable units prescribed by the “order processing” function. Campaign management starts with determining, within maximum and minimum size constraints, the minimum number of batches to manufacture to satisfy the order. Digitalizing campaign management is often a quasi-custom effort, dependent on how orders are received from the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package.
The next step is to schedule the required batches. Production scheduling, as it is called in ISA-95, is constrained by availability of required inputs, such as raw materials, minor ingredient kits, labor, energy, and, of course, equipment. Digitalizing batch scheduling can be complex, dependent on how many constraints are applied. However, efficient scheduling can add significantly to a process cell’s capacity. ECS helped a sauce manufacturer optimize scheduling to reduce cleaning time, adding almost 20% to the process cell capacity without additional equipment or labor cost.
When it is time to run a batch, the appropriate control recipe is created and delivered to the sequencing engine. The sequencing engine steps through the ordered recipe steps, commanding the control system to perform appropriate actions. As it works, the control system creates data, documenting what happens.
Quantities of both event-based and time-series data are valuable benefits of digitalizing your ecosystem. Data is used for many purposes such as quality control, meeting regulatory requirements, supporting raw and finished goods inventory management and driving process improvements.
The constraints of a blog article allow only a cursory overview of a typical batch manufacturing ecosystem. Standards are generalizations. Every ecosystem is uniquely complex. Comprehending your ecosystem is the first step to realizing the benefits of digitalization. Let’s go!
*This blog was written for and is published on AutomationWorld.com– check it out on their site!
Bardstown Bourbon Company Case Study
Bardstown Bourbon Company (BBC) is a Bourbon Distillery located in Bardstown Kentucky. Utilizing two mash cookers, 32 fermenters, two distillation stills, and nine cistern holding tanks, BBC produces a wide variety of high-quality whiskeys and bourbons.
ECS Solutions upgraded BBC’s existing HMI system from a C-More application to an Ignition application. The previous application had limited flexibility in terms of data collection, process history, and licensing structure. The major challenge was delivering a customized solution that utilized new technologies while also creating an architecture that could adapt to the end user’s changing needs.
Download the full Bardstown Case Study HERE!
Food Engineering Finds Value in ECS Content on Lethality
In a recent Food Engineering article about complying with FSMA for pet food manufacturing, the following content from ECS was included:
Sidebar: Lethality processing revisited and improved
- Reduction of cooking time
- Repeatability of cooking exposure
- Energy conservation
- The elimination of potential human error since no manual data collection is required
The automated system can proceed without operator intervention once the required lethality exposure has been met.
—John Parraga, ECS Solutions