Food & Beverage, CPG
Proficy HMI / SCADA
Factora is a manufacturing consulting company that helps its customers identify ways to improve performance efficiency and profitability. One of its customers is Premier Foods, which is among the U.K.’s largest food producers. Premier manufactures a series of well-established food brands, including custards, cake snacks, bouillon cubes, ramen noodles, and a diverse spectrum of other foods. Prior to working with Factora, Premier's various manufacturing sites were operating with a range of aging machinery.
Aging investments and lack of operational insights
Many of Premier's processes and systems had been in place for many years and didn't utilize sensors to monitor machines. There was variability in the processes, and the manufacturer faced constant instability. Premier knew its plants were not operating at peak performance, but like any manufacturer without a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), it needed help in figuring out why. It could not identify the root causes of issues or make improvements without better insights into key processes.
Using data-driven insights to optimize performance
When Factora came onto the scene, the initial goal for Premier was simply to deliver savings in raw materials. With the right tools powered by GE Digital's software—specifically iFIX—Factora helped connect Premier’s machines to get all the data, model the processes to visualize what’s happening, and perform analysis to understand the correlations and root causes of issues—exposing insights into what was impacting the processes and how to improve them.
With the solution Factora put forward, operators at Premier are now armed with a real-time decision-support tool. It’s all about empowering manufacturers with real-time information, enabling them to make critical decisions as quickly as possible, with as much information as possible. There’s a dashboard that displays real-time information, indicating to operators at Premier what needs to be addressed and in what priority—supporting true data-driven decisions.
For example, the solution has changed the way operators work by providing capabilities such as early indicators. Unlike in the past, operators can be proactive based on real-time information, such as oil temperature, which, for example, can affect the weight of a block of ramen noodles. By exposing the right information to operators when they need to see it, they can take appropriate action in a timely manner if deviation occurs and correct the issue as soon as possible. Premier is leveraging the power of the Industrial Internet to gain real-time intelligent insights, and the entire solution is hosted in the cloud by Factora.
Empowering operators with real-time decision support
The benefits of leveraging Factora’s software tools have gone far beyond the initial goal of raw material savings. Premier now has key insights into all the key processes, such as water activity, line speed, roller speed, heat temperatures, and root-cause effects, to understand what levers to pull to ensure consistent control, optimized yield, and quality.
For example, in Premier’s OXO cube plant, the goal was to reduce the weight of the cubes. However, it was a balancing act to reduce the weight without compromising quality, where in the past, higher weights tended to be easier to manufacture. With key insights into where to make changes in the processes for maximized consistency, Factora helped bring the weight of the cubes down while improving quality—resulting in savings for Premier as well as less customer complaints about the consistency of the cubes.
The Factora solution has also opened doors to the opportunity for higher sales. For example, in one of the cake snack lines, the goal was to reduce raw materials. By stabilizing the process and enabling more control, Premier was able to not only use less raw materials but also reduce the calorie count of each cake snack—an attractive outcome that could potentially increase sales to customers who prefer and seek out lower-calorie snacks.
Overall, Factora’s software tools and expertise helped Premier:
- Stabilize the production lines and the processes
- Expose the production lines to the operators for real-time insight
- Find the “profit loops” by identifying which control loops were causing problems
- Improve the processes to where they needed to be