Drives and controls are fundamental to keeping the wheels of the food industry turning. Obsolete systems can have a negative impact on productivity levels and processing operations even at the most profitable of companies.
Optima Control Solutions Ltd (OCS) already has a global reputation for improving productivity and energy efficiency in a range of industries and is now seeing a significant growth in demand from the food industry for cost-effective, high-quality drive control systems that help maximise plant performance.
Upgrading machines is a complicated business and, not surprisingly, is seen to carry a high degree of risk. Taking a key production machine out of service, completely changing the control system for a new, bespoke set up with modern technology, often including mechanical modifications, then putting it back into production within a fixed downtime period is an extremely cost-sensitive process.
However, OCS managing director Michael Hill believes that by upgrading the outdated drives and controls of plant machinery food companies can expect a healthy payback against the cost of purchasing new equipment. New control systems can also slash power consumption, particularly important with looming energy price rises.
Optima, a Siemens Solution Partner, recently upgraded a Hamba 2 Spreads Line filling tubs of margarine for a leading food ingredients company (who cannot be named) using Siemens S7-315 Profibus, an Ethernet Processor and a new HMI touch screen for processing information, such as the positions of tub valves.
By replacing the outdated Siemens S5 PLC and upgrading to Siemens S7 the line is now operating more efficiently and the food company’s engineers no longer have to worry about the availability of parts for the machine. The refurbishment was so successful that Optima has been asked back to overhaul the manufacturer’s Hamba 3 line.
Mr Hill said: “The intelligent integration of modern drive and control technology has a significant impact on production efficiency in the food industry. The upgrade we successfully completed for this manufacturer has improved the machine’s effectiveness and also provides them with the ability to cater for any future system expansion.”
The food and drinks industry is the largest manufacturing sector in the UK economy. It turns over around £75 billion pa, but just like other industries it must embrace the cutting edge technologies now available to help boost productivity and reduce costs if it is to remain internationally competitive.