In this case study, we are sharing how a manufacturer of premium potato chips resolved an unacceptable amount of food waste in the manufacturing process.
A premium potato chip manufacturing company had grown substantially since the company opened nearly 3 decades ago. As the company grew its product line and volume, its founding passion for creating delicious, top-quality chips remained the highest priority. Top-quality demands high standards. With aging equipment in its plant, the company was struggling with a rising waste percentage resulting in lost revenue.
The potato chip manufacturing facility produces 25,000 pounds of chips every eight hours and operates 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. There were two points on the line that were causing the majority of the waste. First, in the bagging area, the loss of mounds of chips dropping to the plant floor was unacceptable; chip overflow needed to be addressed. Quality control was another culprit of the waste problem. The chips cannot be undercooked or overcooked to meet the brand’s high-quality standards. Entire batches were being dumped if the appropriate high temperature fry time was not achieved or if the chips were overcooked.
With older equipment and an aging Rockwell Automation control system, the plant manager was looking for an expert control system integrator to help resolve the waste issues and who could also provide continued support with a quick emergency response time. The company reached out to Rockwell Automation for assistance and was referred to Electronic Drives and Controls, Inc. (EDC). As a Rockwell Automation Recognized System Integrator, EDC has proven expertise in upgrading this automation technology and EDC’s quick emergency response time is what the plant manager needed.
To address the waste of chips falling to the floor in the bagging section, EDC spent time observing the manufacturing process from the fryers to the bagging section. The chips move from the fryers to a FastBack horizontal motion conveyor, which shakes the chips onto an incline conveyor which then takes the chips to the bagging section. Baggers were being overloaded with chips and creating spillage. To resolve the problem, EDC added sorting logic to the control system to evenly distribute chips to the baggers to avoid overloading any one bagger. They also adjusted the time delays of the different sections so that a moderate amount of chips occupied each section as opposed to an overflowing amount. This reduced the number of chips on the floor.
After evaluating the current equipment and manufacturing process, EDC recommended upgrading and consolidating the older fryer equipment’s control system to resolve the quality control problem. Previously, each of the plant’s seven fryers had a legacy Allen Bradley SLC-500. Each fryer’s PLC had its own unique programming and operator interface. The lack of standardization was contributing to errors resulting in overcooked or undercooked batches. EDC’s plan included standardizing fryer programming and consolidating the control of all seven fryers to one centralized PLC using Allen-Bradley’s state-of-the-art CompactLogicx PLC. The centralized PLC communicates to the existing supervisory PLC and to EDC’s recommended upgraded touch screen HMIs for user-friendly operator monitoring and control.
For less disruption of production, EDC upgraded 1 to 2 fryers at a time to slowly migrate all fryers’ control to the new centralized PLC. In addition, EDC added quality control logic to prevent dumping entire batches. The new PLC alarm prevents undercooking by notifying the operators if the batch has not cooked at the designated temperature for at least 5 minutes and automatically shuts down the fryer until the issue is acknowledged by a supervisor.
Overcooking is now prevented by getting the chips out of the fryer faster. EDC reconfigured the Takeout Cycle controls, which have been modified so the chips are cooked in one single pass through the fryer, instead of the 2-3 passes previously used.
While modifying the process, EDC took the opportunity to improve the programming on the fryer’s slicer conveyor, saving 1-2 minutes per batch with more efficient conveyor logistics. This has improved batch production by over 40% per hour.
The customer has been able to increase overall production by 50%, and is seeing a continued decrease in waste percentages from improvement in quality control with the fryer upgrades. Chips on the floor of the bagging area have been greatly reduced. They have also seen throughput of all the fryers increase.
To provide ongoing support, EDC’s engineers can use a virtual private network (VPN) to log into the control system to quickly diagnose and resolve problems or adjust programming logic for change requests. In addition, EDC provides 24/7 emergency support, connected or dispatched within two hours or less.
If you are interested in learning how a control system upgrade can help your facility please contact us, we are here to help!