A nationally known food and beverage company had production lines functioning with equipment from multiple manufacturers. The equipment was not developed using a consistent standard and none of the machines were integrated.
The company sought to develop and implement a set of standards for control and information dashboards in multiple plants and provide high-level visibility into the status of their equipment and production lines.
Avanceon had previously developed and implemented these standards for a single plant for this specific customer. Upon seeing the value of the system, the client wished to extend the project to three other sites. The challenge of this project was that the request for rollout started at the end of October and the work needed to be completed before Christmas.
The company’s production lines were made up of various types of OEM equipment – canners, bottlers, cappers, etc. – disparate equipment that did not have common controls. To get an overall status, each device needed to be checked individually. There was no plant level or even line-level view into their operations and production status.
As mentioned, Avanceon had completed an earlier project to help the company create interface and dashboard display standards. The scope of the original project was to use the customer’s standard software platform for SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), in this case Ignition by Inductive Automation, to develop control and information dashboard standard graphics, then to implement them at the company’s upstate New York plant. Avanceon created PLC dashboard routines and interfaces for 13 separate production lines, touching about 120 PLCs in the process. The Avanceon team examined each PLC, identifying the information that was needed – status, alarm conditions, product counts – and creating visual representations of the information for the dashboards using a consistent display format. It was a first step; the information was not detailed, but still, the initial project required 7 months for a single (albeit large) plant. The new project had to be done in 10 weeks, without interrupting production at three busy, short-staffed plants.
Working in our favor is that the implementation in the new plants would be very similar to the first plant. Working against us was the fact that, just like in the first plant, the plants did not use standard equipment — there were multiple lines per plant, and there were 8 to 15 distinct controllers per line. But while the equipment itself was not standardized, the interface we were implementing was, so Avanceon added the interface, which included “place holders” for critical data – whether a given machine was running, had faulted, was idle, etc. – and the team analyzed the individual machine applications, finding the correct signals, and integrating them with the new interface by replaying the “place holders”.
Avanceon also analyzed the production flow in each of the plants so the Dashboard windows would mirror the actual process, displaying the right machines in the right order. The team was then able to identify some equipment that had been replaced or that did not even exist.
The Avanceon Solution
Avanceon accessed to the requisite OEM applications, defined and created the interface routines, and determined how to map key data points to those routines into the PLCs. The next step was to take the interface routines, developed offline, and install them in the production PLCs. Many of the routines could be dropped into the more modern PLCs via on-line edits without bringing them down. Whenever possible, this was done remotely via VPN connection. However, others needed to be installed on premises. An Avanceon resource went to each of the three sites and installed the routines locally during scheduled downtime, installing over the weekend or overnight and staying to make sure everything started up properly.
While the PLC team did the interface routines, a smaller team used the standards defined in the first project to link to the interface routines to create dashboard screens in Ignition that would read and display the data. The applications containing these screens were then remotely deployed at each of the plant sites on large format displays to provide operations team members at-a-glance information about their lines and equipment.
The Avanceon team, led by a Principal Engineer and Project Coordinator was staffed by a host of engineers skilled in examining a PLC program, identifying the required information, and creating the interface routines. The team also included engineers whose task was to focus on the developing the dashboard displays.
While there was a discrete team for each plant, where appropriate, the teams shared code and observations for equipment types the plants had in common.
Using standardization, a skilled project team, flexibility in scheduling and a Principal Engineer/Project Coordinator team to facilitate and organize the activities, a project that originally scoped as three consecutive projects with a schedule of up to 13 weeks each was able to be completed in parallel in 9 weeks. It was actually completed the week before the Christmas deadline (10 days early).
The Avanceon team received accolades from the customer, who wrote “I give Avanceon a 9 out of 10. Great work by the team, very organized and detailed notes, status reports, and responsiveness to the customer [plant resources] when we needed things accelerated…”