The cream of automation

Posted on 16 Mar 2014 by The Manufacturer

Dairy product manufacturer South Caernarfon Creameries turned to automation experts Schneider Electrics when it faced the difficult task of modernising its dated equipment.

South Caernarfon Creameries is a dairy manufacturer based in the foothills of Snowdonia, North West Wales. With a history stretching more than 70 years, the co-operative now proudly boasts more than 125 member farmers and distributes products to a diverse customer base both locally and abroad. The group manufactures 7,500 tonnes of cheese annually and sourcing in excess of 80 million litres of milk from local member-based farmers each year.

The challenge

South Caernarfon Creameries had a large array of legacy equipment, having previously updated its facilities at various stages. The combination of outdated systems and increasingly obsolete and expensive parts was resulting in crippling maintenance costs for the group. Additionally the former equipment presented some fundamental limitations in production, with vat cheese controllers restricted to a set number of recipes. This meant that any variations had to be manually managed, giving rise to possible inconsistencies and errors in recipe batch production.

South Caernarfon Creameries was also managing increasing variances in demand caused by a number of factors such as seasonal peaks, retailer promotions, increasing nutritional education, packaging variations and changing export regulations. In combating spiralling maintenance costs, eliminating the risk of expensive equipment failures and being proactive to variances in production demand, the group had no choice but to modernise its systems to ensure on-going effectiveness and safeguard any future expansion.

The Solution

After a detailed review process, South Caernarfon Creameries selected Schneider Electric and local system integrator M.A.S.T. Systems, with extensive experience in the food and dairy industry, as its automation solution providers.

The solution comprised of a PlantStruxure™ architecture consisting of a central Modicon M340 PAC controller for each of the six cheese vats, a Modicon STB distributed I/O island, each with local Magelis HMISTO colour touchscreen operator interface unit. The site-wide industrial ethernet network is interconnected via a number of Connexium managed switches.

Since the new system was commissioned, South Caernarfon Creameries has expanded its recipe range to 24, compared to the four recipes it was previously limited to. This newfound flexibility has driven and enabled the extension of its product range, with the addition of two completely new product lines recently introduced to supermarket shelves.

The Benefits

The new recipe management system has provided South Caernarfon Creameries complete flexibility to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to the variable demands of supermarkets and retailers. Recipe adjustments and variances in production output can easily be actioned, ensuring all orders regardless of their volume can be met.

Product consistency is also maximised through the modular nature of the system and repeatable recipe batch functionality. This flexibility has also facilitated the recent product expansion for the group.

Recipe edits on the former equipment were becoming increasingly time consuming and with LED readouts and switches, could often take up to 40 minutes to execute. With the new system, an operator can now alter a recipe in less than three minutes.

With such a marked return on investment, South Caernarfon Creameries is now able to focus its efforts on further innovation into production efficiencies and on-going expansion into new product lines.