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Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 76 / 24
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Greenfield thinking at Nestlé using Ethernet

The Nestlé factory in Biessenhofen, Germany is recognised as a competence centre for the company's production of hypoallergenic baby food. The goal with new plant upgrades at the facility has been to increase manufacturing capacity, respond with more agility to consumer demands and use automation networking technology to better facilitate planning and visualisation of the entire production process.

Plant upgrades at the new facility focused on producing a fully integrated environment that encompassed the filling and packaging sections, as well as the process areas.

Food industry production methods must be heavily oriented towards responding to the latest market demands. These requirements include the ability to react fast to new situations, maintain transparency in increasingly complex production processes and monitor costs.

The result is that careful selection of raw materials, the highest levels of precision and constant quality control at various stages in the production process are all part of the daily work at the Nestlé Biessenhofen factory. Employees comply with stringent hygiene regulations, especially in the section that manufactures powder-based formulas for premature babies and infants. The quality control process and internal controls go far beyond the standard legal requirements.

Manufacturing challenges

In Biessenhofen, Nestlé wanted to introduce a fully integrated solution in a completely new facility, and automate it from start to finish. The project involved the filling and packaging sections as well as the process area. Manufacturing hypoallergenic baby food is such a complex process that it would be hard to manage without computer-aided process controls operating within very narrow tolerance levels. Every stage of the process has to be managed, monitored and documented.

Nestlé set several strategic and technological goals for the automation project at Biessenhofen. One of these was the optimisation of tolerance levels and the ability to easily reproduce processes. Another was to improve quality assurance, verification and batch traceability. The company also wanted to increase the flexibility of machine and process functions. On the operational level, Nestlé wanted to minimise losses and night shifts while reducing labour costs and throughput times. The Biessenhofen plant was also tasked with optimising the production surface area, inventory and general monitoring costs.

Metering systems that capture and measure process and product characteristics are a central part of any automation concept that supports safety in food manufacturing. The introduction of energy-saving and preventive maintenance initiatives generates new measurement tasks which need to be integrated into the system as cost-effectively as possible. Examples of these tasks include measuring the amount and source of power consumption as well as operating hours and machine conditions. With all these requirements to consider, Nestlé selected Rockwell Automation's Integrated Architecture as it could be implemented throughout the plant and has proven strengths in the process manufacturing area.

To support seamless production processes, Rockwell Automation was asked to supply and install control cabinets including about 50 Allen-Bradley ControlLogix Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs) with the appropriate switches, and about 150 PowerFlex AC drives (0.75 KW - 315 KW). All the automation technology is based on ControlLogix and includes FieldCare (the plant asset management tool from Endress+Hauser), PowerFlex drives with a safe torque-off feature, Flex/Point I/O, Ethernet/IP, Stratix and integrated switching technology.

EtherNet/IP technology

Nestlé believed the standardised Ethernet approach was crucial for the installation, as it facilitates the planning and visualisation of the whole production process. Process monitoring is made easier in the I/O network by centralised switches which help to optimise availability and detect any issues before they cause machine failure. The performance and flexibility of the field devices - and their integration - was another important goal.

"Nestlé has already implemented several projects with Rockwell Automation and Endress+Hauser," said Florian Schreyer, an automation engineer for Nestlé in Biessenhofen. "Both companies have tailored their products and systems to the specific requirements of the food manufacturing industry. Their worldwide availability helps to support systems and applications throughout their lifecycle."

The team at Nestlé in Biessenhofen is sure that it will continue to implement EtherNet/IP when extensions are needed to the production plant for hypoallergenic baby food. Schreyer added: "One reason is clearly the widespread availability of automation components with an EtherNet/IP interface."

An advantage of EtherNet/IP is that it supports end-to-end processes throughout the production plant and facilitates the integration of network and field devices. "Almost as soon as the team at Nestlé started talking about EtherNet/IP, Endress+Hauser became part of the equation," says Manfred Rothen, Sales Manager for Germany at Rockwell Automation. Endress+Hauser had already installed EtherNet/ IP technology at the start of the Biessenhofen project when it implemented a Promass Coriolis flow measurement system, which integrated seamlessly with the planned concept. The Level 3 add-on profile (AOP) helped to make sure that the flow meters would integrate more easily into the control system. Together, the two companies provide a holistic system that is nearly as simple to configure as "plug and play".

"As a result, the user can analyse real-time data from the production plant in higher-level systems. This helps customers improve their plant efficiency and transparency - and that translates into real savings," says Dion Bouwer, Product Manager Fieldbus Systems for Endress+Hauser.

EtherNet/IP networking supports end-to-end processing and integration of field devices.

The Biessenhofen project, which started in summer 2009 and has production running since summer 2011, has been a success. Nestlé placed a lot of importance on transparency despite the complex production processes, choosing open systems and structures. Using industry-standard systems has made maintenance work much easier and the asset management facility helps to increase plant availability and accelerate any changes needed to it.

Using a standardised Ethernet approach facilitated the planning and visualisation of new production processes.

"In addition, we're expecting EtherNet/IP to be future-proof," said- Schreyer. "The result was worth the effort. The network has delivered the benefit of giving us centralised access to most of the information."

Stefanie Philipp is a technical journalist based in Munich, Germany.


Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 76 / 24
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