Automation manager for South Europe, Geraldo Pazini
A Spanish mayonnaise and sauce producer was looking to create a fully automated mixing set-up, which would reduce its dependence on the integrity of individual operators and enable more reliable production. By gaining control over operations, they also hoped to get on top of food safety & quality issues, while reducing product losses.
In June 2022, Tetra Pak installed a new mixing area, which was both horizontally and vertically integrated. Via horizontal integration, the mixing area was connected to both up- and downstream equipment through the plant control system. Via vertical Integration, operations on the shop floor (PLC and MES) were connected to the ERP management system.
What this means is that information can now travel both ways. The ERP sends instructions for a production order down to the MES, which breaks it down into suitably sized batches in accordance with the capacity of the line. The production sequence is then set automatically by the control system, allowing the line to run continuously, with much reduced waiting time. Information about what has been produced is then sent back up again to the ERP in a continuous loop.
Additionally, Tetra Pak synchronised the customers’ ERP and MES databases. These are usually separate but linking them means the customer can be sure that all materials (whether final product or raw ingredients) are synchronised and discrepancies between the systems minimised. Should the producer want to experiment with new product formulations or adjust a recipe with a view to reducing costs or improving quality, having a single database makes this easy since changes only have to be made in one place.
Even though most functions of the line are automated, some things still have to be done manually, such as the adding of ingredients. Operators are guided through the recipe step by step to ensure they add the ingredients correctly, and they are required to confirm when each step has been completed. This minimises human error and increases productivity. Moreover, all the ingredients are identified with a bar code to enable traceability.
With the new system in place, the production manager has access to information about the status of the line and how efficiently it’s working at any time. He can see whether or not production is going according to plan, and if the planned quantity of ingredients tallies with the actual quantity. At a glance, he can also check the inventory of what has been produced.
Having an automated, digitalised mixing area also positively impacts food safety and quality. With 600 million annual incidents of contamination from unsafe food, this is something no food producer can afford to ignore. With their new automated system, the Spanish producer can be confident that all products are protected and food safety secured. Interlocks prevent products from being mixed in the wrong order and eliminate the risk of contamination with cleaning solutions, while operators’ actions are guided, and checked.
The customer is pleased with Tetra Pak’s new mixing set-up and looking forward to reaping the benefits of it in the years to come. Says Automation manager for South Europe, Geraldo Pazini, “Now other customers in the region are getting interested in this type of automated, digitalised solution. It’s interesting to note that they’re spread across different categories such as dairy production, ice cream and prepared foods. Besides all the safety and efficiency benefits, they see how it empowers operators to solve problems faster and more confidently.”