Iconic Australian biscuit maker upgrades Adelaide production plant
Arnott’s is one of the largest food companies in the Asia–Pacific region, employing more than 50,000 Australians over the past century. Today, Arnott’s employs around 2200 Australians across all states and territories. The company also employs several thousand people across the Asia–Pacific region, in countries such as New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.
Millions of Australians have grown up with Arnott’s over the past 152 years. For them, Arnott’s is more than a food company — it’s a piece of Australia’s history and a national icon. Arnott’s portfolio of brands includes household names like Tim Tam, Shapes, Iced VoVo, SAO, Vita-Weat, Salada and Tiny Teddy.
Arnott’s produces a wide variety of sweet and savoury biscuits that have been enjoyed by generations. The company’s manufacturing plant in Adelaide produces approximately 10,000 tonnes of biscuits annually. To meet increasing local and global consumer demand, Arnott’s recently embarked on Project FLEX — a control and HMI system upgrade to deliver increased flexibility and agility for biscuit production.
When embarking on Project FLEX, Arnott’s called upon longstanding automation and control provider SAGE Automation. According to Stuart Mitchell, Senior Systems Engineer at SAGE, “We have been working with Arnott’s in Adelaide for the past 20 years so we are very familiar with the plant. It is a Rockwell Automation site through and through, so we naturally called on them to help with the upgrade.”
With expansion into international markets and a subsequent demand to increase production, it was important for Arnott’s to have the ability to run any biscuit on any line while maintaining product consistency.
The first stage of the project involved updating the legacy oven conveyor’s PLC hardware to improve the way that operators could load new production orders, including a feature that allows different recipes to be stored, selected and produced on the same line. It also involved the installation of two new cooling systems for conveyors including reprogramming of the control system and HMI.
The control system upgrade required the migration of legacy SLC controllers to Allen-Bradley ControlLogix to help reduce maintenance costs and allow for increased flexibility on production lines; therefore, a staged migration to the new controllers was required. The ControlLogix control system offers modular architectures and a range of I/O and network options. To help reduce engineering time, SAGE used existing SLC I/O in the first stage and subsequently added some Ethernet Point I/O and Flex I/O on DeviceNet. The RSLogix Project Migrator tool was used to install the ControlLogix controllers.
“While the majority of the plant uses Ethernet, there is still some equipment communicating through DeviceNet and DH+, so by using ControlLogix, any potential integration issues were overcome because the controller is compatible with all three networks,” explained Jonathan Footman, Solutions Architect at Rockwell Automation. “This flexibility allowed the upgrade to be performed in a staged manner as opposed to having to perform the whole upgrade in one go.”
Arnott’s also installed seven new PowerFlex 525 drives as part of the upgrade. SAGE was responsible for the drive integration using existing code to both new and existing Ethernet and DeviceNet networks. Moving to the newer platform increased the operational efficiency and centralised the plant’s control system.
In addition, Arnott’s leveraged the intelligence of the PowerFlex variable speed drives to help operators access real-time information in the plant. “Prior to the drive upgrade, the operators would have to run feedback using analog set points, which was very time-consuming, but now with the PowerFlex drives on Ethernet, all the diagnostics can be accessed in real time,” explained Mitchell.
The HMI design and functionality was also updated according to Arnott’s specifications to improve the way operators could load new production orders. SAGE designed, programmed and installed the HMI solution allowing for a large number of recipes to be created and stored for each oven. The new HMI system utilises PanelView terminals and reduces the number of pages from approximately 70 to 20, simplifying events with each conveyor having its own pop-up with manual controls and speed settings.
Arnott’s is now able to achieve greater flexibility on each line with a reduced margin for human error. According to Andre Spoor, Engineering Manager, Arnott’s Biscuits, “SAGE upgraded our PLC and HMI with no loss in production and no downtime. It’s a great result for us considering it was such a big upgrade.
“The change has ensured that the site improves its ability to be flexible. It has simplified the selection and set-up process and therefore reduced operator error and provided control systems for the site’s conveyors and cooling systems that are well supported within industry.”
Thanks to the upgrade, Arnott’s is well positioned to meet the growing demand for increased flexibility and agility in its manufacturing operations. By increasing connectivity across the plant floor, the company is realising the benefits of smart manufacturing and is now able to build on this foundation.
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