Automation moves rice processor full-steam ahead

By
Sunday, 19 October, 2003


Processing and marketing more than 1.5 million tonnes of paddy rice annually, Ricegrowers' Cooperative Limited is currently one of Australia's most successful vertically-integrated agribusinesses.

The official opening of a new packaging plant marked an exciting expansion phase for the Co-operative, which markets high quality rice foods and by-products to consumers Australia-wide and globally.

The fully automated plant, located at Leeton Mill in NSW, replaced the Co-operative's existing operation and was part of Ricegrowers' drive to achieve the highest standards of customer service, quality and safety.

Integral to the successful operation of the new plant are six new production lines.

JL Lennard Engineering supplied the equipment necessary for the smooth product flow from the production lines to the Kettner palletisers and local systems integrator CMC Electrical was contracted to automate the 34 new motors powering the accumulation conveyors to the six high-speed rice-packing machines and the two palletisers.

Each of the six production lines conveys multiple products of differing bag sizes and varying production times. With the variables of bag size and priority products directly affecting conveyor speed, precise control of the newly automated conveyors is critical.

With this in mind CMC completed the line control automation to ensure a range of products could be efficiently stored and conveyed to the two new palletisers at high speed.

This in turn ensured that the bagging and production lines were operating at full capacity one hundred per cent of the time. Conveyor speeds are continuously trimmed via the Profibus control and variable speed drives.

The control system is based on the Siemens S7-300 to complement existing control equipment on the Ricegrowers site. The 34 SEW conveyor motor Movimots are controlled by the Profibus network. Likewise, field sensors installed to detect product flow are fed back to the PLC via the Profibus nodes, minimising cabling on site.

The operator interface is a Siemens OP screen, which ensures that operators holding the correct password are able to easily access recipe selection and modifications. The flexibility of the Profibus network also ensures that complete fault displays and motor running conditions are accessible.

Working closely with JL Lennard Pty Ltd, CMC provided a turnkey installation for the Ricegrowers packaging plant. CMC's brief included functional specification and control, system design, CAD drawings, panel construction, PLC and HMI programming, bench testing and full site installation and commissioning.

Ricegrowers' new packaging plant has resulted in a fully automated control solution requiring no operator input from the early stages of packaging through to the palletising when the final rice product is ready for delivery.

As JL Lennard's NSW Manager for Packaging, Tony Dinallo, said, "With six high-speed production lines converging into just two palletisers, an effective interface is critical. We commissioned CMC to do the job because we knew they would achieve a professional outcome in completing the critical interface - and they did."

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