How phased system upgrades can save on downtime and money
24 Nov 2021
While most firms working in the food processing industry want to upgrade their systems, doing so raises daunting downtime and cost implications. But when solutions are found, the benefits are obvious...
Netherlands-based Corbion provides naturally derived preservation solutions, including lactic acid and its derivatives, that support food processors worldwide seeking to create healthier, safer groceries.
With demand growing in North America, the firm planned to expand lactic acid production capacity at its Blair, Nebraska site by 40% to meet the growing demand.
To achieve this, Corbion sought to upgrade its aging computer network and automation system via a solution that could be implemented in controlled, planned phases. It also wanted to streamline production, gain greater control over batch specifications and simplify the user interface.
Corbion turned to leading provider of distributed control systems and solutions NovaTech, which had partnered with Corbion on the facility’s original installation and provided ongoing technical support. It recommended a technology upgrade and three-phase implementation.
“One key [requirement] when implementing an automation technology upgrade is that companies can take their base configuration and applications and migrate it through the upgrade process,” said NovaTech vice-president, global sales Paul Wallace.
Phase One of the project was a technology infrastructure upgrade of the existing network including servers, workstations, network appliances, operating system, and backups. NovaTech also upgraded the existing Distributed Control System. After a short, planned shutdown, the system was quickly back online.
Phase Two was accomplished without any interruption of the process. Corbion opted to employ enhanced features of the D/3 DCS from NovaTech, starting with the human-machine interface designed to improve situational awareness, reduce workload and enabling operators to focus on mitigating abnormal situations.
FlexBatch batch and recipe management system designed in accordance with the ISA-88 standard for batch control permitted speedy formulation and modification of recipes, that could be immediately scheduled for production.
Integrating recipe management with the manufacturing process by making the automation procedure part of the recipe, reduces cycle time, eliminates errors and simplifies testing and validation says NovaTech, while new and existing products could go to market faster, at lower cost.
Phase Two also saw the installation of PlantNotify, platform-independent software, providing critical plant notifications and critical maintenance requirements to team members instantly via text and email.
Now Phase Three involves replacing the plant’s aging I/O drops. Corbion will migrate to a modern I/O system, the 8000 series platform – a native, remote I/O family highly integrated with the D/3 system.
The 8000 Series can be inserted in new installations or to replace existing I/O without modification to the existing field wiring. This allows D/3 installations to upgrade older I/O hardware to the latest electronics with a minimum of downtime and very low process risk. NovaTech will pre-assemble and test the equipment, before delivering it ahead of scheduled shutdown.
According to Wallace, the advanced I/O allows greater automation with better diagnostics, troubleshooting, and asset management capability. Maintenance staff can remotely drill down to the I/O controller using the HMI, instead of having to do so in the field.
To streamline operations, NovaTech will implement a digital solution through its augmented manual procedures (NovaTech AMP) software, which enables food processors to employ a digital format that functions on smartphones, PCs, and tablets.