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Process control and automation at flour plants

08 March 20176 min reading

“With the automation systems, the productivity of the facility can be monitored and controlled, top rate and quality of products can be obtained with raw materials, and energy saving can be achieved.”

Rıza AYCAN Meko A.Ş. General Manager / CEO mekorizaaycan87There is a very challenging process at flour plants which in fact depends on several parameters. Obtaining top rate and quality of product from wheat depends on the raw material as well as the process efficiency. With the automation systems, the productivity of the facility can be monitored and controlled, top rate and quality of products can be obtained with raw materials, and energy saving can be achieved.

Automation system helps to collect information from thousands of locations inside the facility. However, in systems without an automation, the operator would be unable to control and intervene in every point. In the automation system, the steps of decision-making and intervention are automatically handled according to the information collected from the process. Thus many problems can be avoided, such as products jammed in equipment, overloading of machines and breakdowns. In the flour industry, where competition is fierce, it is very important to earn while manufacturing. This is only possible with the installation of a proper automation system that suits the processes at the facility.

EXPECTATIONS OF MANUFACTURERS FOR PROCESS CONTROL AND AUTOMATION Today, almost all manufacturers who operate above a certain capacity emphasize the importance of process control and many of them work with automation. However, several medium or small scale facilities still continue to operate manually. This leads to an increase in financial losses during manufacturing phase, and deterioration of the product quality. Besides, many manufacturers are able to monitor the manufacturing process in detail through the automation systems, and to take necessary actions to minimize losses.

The expectation of manufacturers from automation is to have quality, long-lasting system as well as the company servicing the system to have an experienced and solution-oriented technical team. Nevertheless, offering fast technical services is very important for facilities with uninterrupted manufacture.

ADVANTAGES OF PROCESS CONTROL AND AUTOMATION In flour plants, it is impossible to manually monitor certain points of the process and to operate it at a certain speed. Besides, manufacturers should prefer the automation systems to be developed by experienced companies according to their processes to minimize financial losses, ensure efficient operation and to obtain quality products. The purpose of automation systems is to resolve problems before they arise or expand and to ensure sustainability of manufacture. Automation systems help to monitor energy individually at the departments of the facility in order to ensure more efficient and safer operation. Furthermore, remote access and service system helps to fix any failures that may arise in PLC and SCADA programs. Besides, the owners or officials at the facility can monitor the system remotely via smart phones or tablet computers and get reports when necessary. The other advantages of the automation system include ease of identifying failures, retaining of operator instructions in the memory and ability to get various type of reports as needed.

IS EVERY FACILITY SUITABLE FOR AUTOMATION? While every facility may be fit for automation regardless of its capacity, installing an automation system may not make any sense in several old facilities since the mechanical system process flow are not suitable. First the mechanical infrastructure and flow should be fixed, and the automation system should be adapted accordingly. It brings many advantages to design infrastructure and adaptation processes during the installation of the facility with due consideration of potential upscaling processes in the future. Thus the facility will handle future investments rapidly and at low costs.

BENEFITS OF MANAGING MANUFACTURING PROCESSES FROM A SINGLE POINT The processes at flour facilities are controlled via PLC and SCADA systems. Power controls are handled via Motor Control Units. Input/Output units and PLC and SCADA monitor and control the whole equipment. The PLC, SCADA, Input/Output units and Motor Control Units are determined according to the size of the electrical system, depending on the capacity of the facility. After the whole infrastructure is established and adapted to each other, the facility can be controlled and monitored from a single control center. Besides, monitoring and control centers can be created at various desired locations (Packaging, Raw material purchasing, etc.) other than the main monitoring and control center. With the advanced cabling technologies, the amount of cables and cabling workmanship required for the system can be minimized, and thus failures can be easily detected. When requested, the maintenance and repair work can be monitored according to the actual operating times of the machines in the facility.

WHAT TO NOTE DURING TRANSITION TO AUTOMATION The managers of flour plants who want to launch automation should prefer the automation companies which closely monitor global developments and which have a vast and experienced technical team. Automation systems are living systems which can only be sustained through timely maintenance, service and renewal processes. Therefore, the aim in the initial investment phase should be to accurately design the system according to the needs and to ensure sustainability of the system efficiently for many years.

The technologies used in automation systems have a remarkable impact on manufacture. The management of the facility, achievement of capacities and ensuring sensitivity may vary according to the preferred automation system. All these details have a direct impact on product quality. For example, the high capacity and maximum sensitivity expected from a bagging scale can only be ensured by choosing the correct system.

Another issue to note is the good timing of the agreement to be executed with the automation company. The material procurement times of the automation company, workshop assembling times, and the cabling and commission times on site should be taken into account. Although it may vary according to the size and content of the work, an agreement should be executed with the automation company and the process should be started at least 5-6 months before the factory operation date for a medium-scale facility.

COSTS OF TRANSITION TO AUTOMATION IN FACTORIES It is very important to accurately identify the needs of the facility and design the system accordingly to manage investment and operating costs. Well-proven materials above a certain quality level should be preferred, and use of low quality materials should be avoided. The materials which are preferred for being cost-efficient have a low investment cost but very high operating costs, and they lead to frequent failures resulting in interruptions in manufacturing processes and loss of products and revenues.

DISADVANTAGES IN TRANSITION TO AUTOMATION Manufacturers may tend to postpone transition to automation systems due to investment costs. However, this prevents them from avoiding loss of products and revenues. Therefore, catching up with the latest technology will help them to endure the challenging competition environment as well as move them forward with the principle of “efficient operation-quality products”.

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