Food & Beverage, CPG
Predix HMI / SCADA
Reckitt Benckiser is a manufacturer for over-the-counter health and wellbeing products. Its manufacturing facility mixes, blends, and packs an over-the- counter branded indigestion remedy into glass bottles, stick packs, and tablets in 6,000 liter batches.
Analysis, prognosis, and prescription
Astec Solutions, a GE Digital partner, was called in to help Reckitt Benckiser improve the performance of their manufacturing control system. The facility mixes, blends, and packs an over-the-counter branded indigestion remedy into glass bottles, stick packs, and tablets in 6,000 liter batches. Unexpected system crashes cost 30-90 minutes for every batch and system restarts had to be performed in a strictly regimented way, or entire batches of product could be lost. The system, which was installed by a system integrator six years previously, used GE Digital products in its architecture.
“After raw materials were mixed and blended they were transferred to storage tanks, before being sent to the packing lines,” said Chris Barlow, Technical Director, Astec Solutions. Up to seven filling lines can be connected to the storage tanks. “The system had not had a major update since installation. It was slow, unstable, suffered from periods of unscheduled downtime and was not producing reliable data. It was becoming a risk to the profitability of the site.” The regular breakdowns were dealt with by giving the initial integrator the authority to call in and restart the system - a ‘sticking plaster’ solution that had been in place for three years.
Production had grown beyond the original solution, so demands were also a lot higher. The time was right to review and upgrade the whole solution. But it had to be achieved without shutting the factory down.
Chris Barlow - Technical Director, Astec Solutions
The first step was to speak to the operators and gain a clear understanding of how the problems manifested. The Astec team also ensured the clear identification of the client’s objectives and ideals. Unsurprisingly, avoiding breakdowns and minimizing downtime topped the list, as they most obviously affected operations, production and revenues.
“We looked at the system’s architecture and analyzed the log files in order to identify errors in the system,” he said. Astec had to work around the needs of a facility that was still in full production, so that process took around 10 days. Its first proposal was a slight change to the system’s physical architecture. The servers were located in a control room and were subject to knocks and kicks, as well as being exposed to dust originating from the production process itself. The recommendation was to relocate them to an on-site data center, safe from accidental damage and atmospheric pollution. The next task was the software architecture.
“The previous integrator had implemented some own bespoke software components, in order to integrate the solution,” said Barlow. “In effect, the architecture had been ‘bent to fit’ and it was not ultimately the best solution.”
Astec’s team recommended that Reckitt Benckiser should:
- Upgrade to the latest version of GE Digital’s Batch Execution software, part of its Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) suite
- Remove the bespoke applications and configure the GE Digital solution to undertake those tasks itself
- Separate out the relational database and make them standalone, distinct from the Batch Execution software
- Implement Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) in order to provide the customer with a reporting platform that was scalable, and could be enhanced and updated with additional reports as required
Implementation had to be achieved without interrupting production. Most of the work was undertaken between the hours of 2:00 am and 6:00 am, when the first daily shift arrived to start work. The process of preparation involved configuring all the hardware, then installing the software and checking connectivity.
We undertook bench testing and a lot of software preparation. When it came to the point of implementation we were pretty confident that it would work first time – and it did. It worked properly right from outset.
Chris Barlow - Technical Director, Astec Solutions
GE Digtial’s integration, upgrade, and improvement enabled the customer to boost output and reliability. Specifically, it was able to end random offline incidents and unexplained crashes, as well as improved data collection. With the new system, the manufacturer was able to deliver accurate performance reporting, production analysis, and batch reporting.
The upgrade also extended the reporting platform with Microsoft SQL to other areas of the plant, providing a site-wide database for reporting. These new capabilities enabled the manufacturer to:
- Reduce risk, improve production stability and boost product quality, consistency, and traceability
- Immediately cut maintenance expenditure
- Minimize the cost of rebooting the system after crashes, which is estimated to cost more than £50,000 per year