Food and drink processors can slash downtime and boost production and efficiency thanks to software just launched in the UK that enables them to co-ordinate maintenance work via their BlackBerry smartphones.
Designer of the system, Schad, claims it can achieve 38 - 60% reduction in unscheduled downtime of systems and machinery and 10 - 25% improvement in service levels and staff productivity. It could also improve resource use and workflow management by 50%, said Christian Schad, company founder and chief executive.
Schad is basing his claims on existing case studies involving firms outside the UK such as Lufthansa Sky Chefs, which provides in-flight services including catering and logistics, and frozen food manufacturer Frosta.
Frosta, which is the market leader for frozen fish and convenience foods in Germany, implemented the Extend7000 software tool at its automated raw ingredients warehouse in Bremerhaven, Germany. The firm operates a conveyor and four automated storage and retrieval systems at the warehouse, which are controlled by a series of Siemens Simatic automated process controllers.
Extend7000 has been integrated with these to form part of a secure mobile supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
The system can communicate automatically and remotely with those responsible for line management, for example, via Wi-Fi, sending alerts to their mobile devices as soon as faults are detected. Once engineers or operations staff have been dispatched to fix the problem, fault alarms can also be deactivated and lines restarted remotely at the touch of a button.
“Extend7000 enables a mobile dialogue between our plant processes and our users,” said Thorsten Stern, head of storage techniques and facilities management at Frosta. “We can now react considerably faster to faults and fix them.”
James Hannay, senior vice president for global sales and marketing at Schad, said it takes minimal time and cost to integrate the Extend7000 ‘plug and place’ tool into existing SCADA systems. “We often run into bespoke systems. It takes about one month’s work at most [to integrate].”
Whatever bespoke system was used, the food industry used a standard interface for operating systems with which Extend7000 could communicate, said Hannay. It could be integrated into any automated function, from packaging and production to palletising, picking and temperature monitoring, he added.
Schad already works with major global food manufacturers, but is breaking into the UK market for the first time and targeting manufacturing, retail and logistics firms with the system. They included Premier Foods, Müller, Glanbia and Kerry Foods, said Hannay.