Pet Food Facility Automation Roadmap for Modernization
The client manufacturing facility contained an accumulation of many years of small projects that patched together individual systems while attempting to keep up with rapidly changing technology. The result was a myriad of unsupported PLC hardware, multiple operating systems, and makeshift custom software applications for many plant backend services. This led to many issues in managing security concerns for outdated systems including discontinued support and lack of updates for custom applications that were vital to the plant’s reporting and functionality. Additionally, obsolescence issues created challenges in locating parts for aging hardware. Training personnel and establishing operational standards became increasingly difficult with the piecemeal systems, prompting the manufacturer to invest in an automation roadmap and modernization plan.
The custom software was the backbone of the facility and was largely undocumented and comprised of several individual pieces of code. The team leads and operators were dissatisfied with the capabilities and reliability of the existing system. No standards had been established for HMI, PLC, and databases.
A discovery meeting was organized with team leads and operators representing all areas of the manufacturing facility. Personnel interviews were conducted in collaboration with process experts to identify job responsibilities, software interaction, hardware interaction, and the pros and cons of the current system.
The client provided a preferred PLC hardware brand. A design study was conducted to determine the size and CPU requirements for each PLC location. A PLC optimization study was performed to identify whether units should be combined or separated to improve reliability and performance.
Senior automation engineers demonstrated HMI, PLC, and database coding standards and collaborated with the client to determine which standards best fit their operations.
An automation roadmap was delivered to the client. The document presented a phased approach to modernize the facility, allowing for a fluid transition to the new system over a five-year period. Upgrades outlined on the roadmap included system architecture, software usage and licensing requirements, PLC optimization study, HMI standards, database standards, reporting, security, alarming, MES, training and recommendations based on personnel interviews.
The automation roadmap provided the client with a clearly documented and phased modernization plan. This empowered the client to prioritize upgrades while moving forward at a controlled pace on the path forward. Personnel grew excited and showed strong support for the automation roadmap, resulting in confidence and positivity regarding the upcoming modernization.