With the whole factory being totally dependent on the control system, it was crucial that the new system had proven reliability. BakeMark commissioned Advanced Technical Software (ATS) to run the project, who in turn chose to install a new automation and monitoring system using Mitsubishi PLCs and CitectSCADA software which offers in-built dual redundancy.
The system covers all materials handling, storage, weighing, batching and blending, and tracing of over 2000 different ingredients, and can track over a million individual items throughout the factory.
"Although most SCADA packages include some form of product batching and control, the very exact requirements of this plant precluded their use. As an approved systems integrator for a number of leading SCADA systems, our choice was entirely objective," said Geoffrey Graves, ATS managing director and project manager.
"CitectSCADA offered us the tightly integrated easy networking we required, with powerful facilities for generating complex and scaleable graphics. Most importantly, its distributed architecture proved perfect for our strategy of dividing the plant control operation into two distinct areas."
As part of its strategy, ATS developed two bespoke application packages; 'Plant Manager' and 'Line Manager', which sit on the CitectSCADA platform.
Plant Manager handles all material imports, the ingredients preparation area and mixer additions. It also provides administration facilities, to handle recipe set-up, materials tracking and reporting. Each production line is also supported by its own PC running Line Manager.
These Line Manager PCs allow production scheduling on a line basis and also display all plant status information, mimics, production and plant alarms together with sophisticated maintenance and set-up facilities. Each production line is dedicated to a particular mixer; however, any Line Manager PC can control all production lines dependant on a user's authorisation.
The inherent flexibility of the Line Manager system provides the production manager at BakeMark with the ability to predetermine the work to be carried out over a forthcoming period or shift. The system offers the capability of storing up to thirty runs for each mixer, with each run given a projected start time, so that notice can be given of which pallet and/or rigid containers need to be prepared to meet production requirements.
All data files for Plant Manager and Line Manager are stored on the CitectSCADA server in a database format, providing extensive file security and backup facilities for all areas of production and plant information from a single secure location.
Authorised users are able to request a number of reports, all of which are generated using industry standard Crystal Reports. These allow full traceability of all materials and their location. For materials already used in production the reports allow backwards tracing from an individual product batch code.
This is an important aspect of the control system. By the end of the year, food manufacturers in the EU will be required by law to prove that they can trace all their processes along the supply chain.
This is having a dramatic impact on the industry - escalating costs could drive some out of business, force some smaller companies to merge with larger ones and complicate the issue of EU accession for those countries whose systems are not yet up to scratch.
But despite this, Baillache, a partner at consultancy firm KPMG responsible for the UK food sector, believes that the move towards greater traceability in the food chain is something that, by in large, should and will be welcomed by the industry.
"This legislation is one aspect of a drive towards accountability, and, the people who will most welcome this will be the large food manufacturers who have always felt accountable," he said. "But now each individual link of the food chain will be accountable, and this accountability is the key issue."