Woodlands Dairy cuts water cost and raw material usage thanks to real-time intelligence

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Goals

  • A new reporting system that could be easily configured by in-house personnel, keep up with changing needs, work with existing assets and provide e-mail and web-based reporting capabilities

Challenges

  • Grouping reports in PDF format (currently being addressed)
  • Some technical issues with setting up the SMTP server and double counts

Results

  • Aggregated, time-based plant and production data are available in real time
  • Improved production planning
  • Identification of deviations from norms
  • Highlighting the excessive use of utilities
  • Improved production efficiency

“I cannot overstress the ease with which Flow can be implemented, configured and used as well as the aggregated, time-based information value it delivers from a multitude of sources.”

Kreesan Coopasamy, Automation Engineer, Woodlands Dairy

Humansdorp, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Previously, reports at Woodlands were not easily accessible and process equipment utilisation was not fully analysed.  This was all due to a reporting system that was very reactive which meant that problems were only addressed after long delays.

Background

Woodland’s previous production reporting system was proprietary and used custom software developed using turn-of-the-century technology. This resulted in a shopping list of undesirable consequences including:

  • Lack of accessibility to interested parties (in this case, the entire factory).
  • The exclusion of manually-entered data.
  • Incomplete analysis of process equipment utilisation.
  • Lengthy delays between an event and the appropriate response.
  • The skill level necessary to generate reports and the time-consuming aspect of changing and managing the system.
  • The inflexibility of the system with respect to report generation.

In other words, all the motivation Woodlands Dairy needed to look for an alternative solution that would provide the required level of information and control they wanted to run a profitable organisation. Their goals were quite clear with regard to a new reporting system which must:

  • Be an off-the-shelf and easily-configurable solution with the ability to be supported in-house rather than by third-party customisation.
  • Be able to keep up with the company’s changing operational and business models.
  • Work with the company’s existing assets while helping to optimise their contribution.
  • Provide e-mail and web-based reporting capability that would make it easier for the right people to identify problems and to do something about them in a timely manner.
  • Assist in improving planning while reducing downtime and utilities usages.
  • Provide for the inclusion of manual data.
  • Display information in the simplest and most informative format.

Implementation

“After getting the report requirements of all stakeholders, a Proof of Concept was conducted by Wonderware and the best candidate for the job turned out to be Flow Software,” says Kreesan Coopasamy, Automation Engineer at Woodlands Dairy. “It integrated seamlessly with our existing Wonderware-based infrastructure with its ArchestrA-like plant model. Its capability of aggregating measurements over any time period, provision for manual data entry, versatile report templates and ability to address all our other requirements made it the obvious choice.”

Flow was designed for easy access to multiple data sources, collation and aggregation of that data and the reporting of cross-referenced information to provide informed decision support at all levels of the organisation. “It certainly delivered what it said on the tin because it took us under two months to go live with the required reports and two weeks to verify that the information could be released to all users,” says Coopasamy. On completion of the project, the Flow server was handed over to the IT manager in order to ensure secure operation within the Woodlands Dairy IT network infrastructure.”

The reports started giving the Woodlands production team the decision-support information they needed the minute they were released. The all-important opening stock report, for example, e-mailed at 06:00 every morning, provided an accurate view of the previous day’s stockholding as well as the current supply situation which allowed production runs to be planned accordingly. “In this business, production runs change on a daily basis and according to the yield of the cows that morning,” explains Coopasamy. “That’s why we need accurate, real-time information so that not only the milk but the powder, butter and cheese lines can also be optimised.”

Another report of importance was that of water usage, especially with regard to the drought and water shortage in the Eastern Cape at the time. Through automated meter readings as well as some manual entries, water usage limits could be specified in the various areas of the plant and the reports highlighted anomalies such as excessive consumption or leaks. “With Flow, any authorised user throughout the plant can have access to the system and update readings accordingly.”

CIP station reports show the usage of CIP processing equipment and pipe lines as well as water, caustic and acid consumption. This, together with the frequency that each of the three CIP lines is used and for how long, gives Woodlands the information and control they need to ensure that the lines are operated as efficiently as possible.

The utilisation / usage reports apply to the entire process site and include water, steam, acid, caustic and electricity. This allows Woodlands to accurately determine the ratio of product delivered to resources used and thereby detect production anomalies on any time scale.

All reports and dashboards are sent by e-mail and dashboards can be displayed on large screens throughout the plant to keep everyone informed and to provide feedback on their contribution.

“The ability to aggregate reports is very useful,” says Coopasamy. “The operations manager will be interested in a weekly or monthly report while shift supervisors need daily reports to allow them to become more proactive in making sure that we reach our targets.”

Benefits

  • Plant and production data are available to share with management in real time or aggregated over any specified time period
  • Improved production planning using process machine utilisation graphs.
  • Identification of deviations from norms established by using real and accurate data – “Abnormalities are easy to detect once you know what ‘normal’ is,” says Coopasamy
  • Highlighting the excessive use of utilities
  • Improved production efficiency

About Woodlands Dairy

Woodlands Dairy is located in Humansdorp, right in the heart of the Eastern Cape’s Dairy region and along the South African Garden Route.

The company, which has a staff complement of more than 1000, prides itself in its innovative thinking, speedy development of new products and excellent customer service.

The dairy was originally conceived in 1995 as a packaging plant for the milk produced on Woodlands Farm. Today Woodlands Dairy is one of the largest manufacturers of Ultra Heat Treatment (UHT) milk in South Africa, marketed under the First Choice ® brand name. An additional line, the Extended Shelf Life (ESL) chilled dairy products, have a longer life than standard pasteurised products.

Other products include milk powder, cheese and butter and the company is also a major supplier of milk powder to the chocolate industry.

Some of Woodlands’ notable achievements include:

  • Multiple SA Dairy Champion Awards.
  • Installation of a biogass boiler that burns wood chips.
  • Installation of a waste-water treatment plant which produces the biogas that fuels the biogass boiler.