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.
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
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
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
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.