Ventura Foods: Flexible Batch Control

Improvements in process control and plant consolidation at Ventura Foods of California were identified as ways to further improve efficiencies and add value to their customers while increasing profitability. According to Ralph Freda, Ventura project engineer, “Our three facilities lacked the capacity to handle our projected business growth. See photos.

12/01/2009


 

Ventura has not experienced an inventory-related production delay since implementing ESE

Ventura has not experienced an inventory-related production delay since implementing ESE's batch processing solution.


Improvements in process control and plant consolidation at Ventura Foods of California were identified as ways to further improve efficiencies and add value to their customers while increasing profitability. According to Ralph Freda, Ventura project engineer, “Our three facilities lacked the capacity to handle our projected business growth. We recognized the inefficiencies that were going to be realized if we tried to grow in these three constrained plants.” So, the food company sought a partner to handle the complexity involved in consolidating existing lines, adding new lines, and implementing process control automation across the system. Ventura Foods chose CSIA-certified technology integrator ESE Inc. of Marshfield, WI.

In foodservice, the profitability of any company depends on efficient operations and marketing. With 12 U.S. production facilities, Ventura Foods processes a broad range of branded and private label foodservice products, including various brands of edible oils, shortenings, dressings, margarine, sauces, and more.

Producing these products requires multiple lines producing different products at various times in various plant locations. Processes include manual scheduling, raw material handling, inventory control, and cleaning, so the logistics of the production cycle can greatly impact final product produced.

The logistics of controlling production lines historically meant complex processes involving regulating, by hand, which lines received raw materials at any given time and how much material was used by each line. Batching, if it was done at all, was often inefficient and inconsistent.

Lower costs, faster growth

Ventura realized that consolidating three operations into one would create opportunities to reduce costs and accelerate growth. The move also was expected to streamline introduction of process control automation, help prioritize and minimize conflict in inventories and raw-material flow, produce products in controlled batches, increase consistency of the end product, and better manage Ventura product recipes and formulas. In addition, Ventura’s utilities, labor, and raw materials shipping costs also could be reduced and operational management would be simplified by a consolidation.

To address the needs and goals, ESE implemented Batch Optimizer, a recipe-based batching control system that maximized equipment availability, maximized efficiency and quality (and repeatability), minimized operator error (since batches are “scripted” according to preconfigured recipes), and incorporated an intuitive user interface for operators and production management to minimize the learning curve associated with operating a new system.

 

Margarine mix tanks: Ingredients are put together and mixed in these tanks as part of improved recipe management.

Margarine mix tanks: Ingredients are put together and mixed in these tanks as part of improved recipe management.

A challenge for ESE was to integrate existing, new, ESE and non-ESE lines within the same process control system and keep them operating at expected levels. Project management was key to the successful implementation of bringing the existing 33 lines under one roof, as well as for planning an expansion to 45 lines at full capacity.

One of the greatest challenges was coordinating the movement of existing production lines to minimize downtime. The timing and logistics of moving the lines were two critical issues analyzed well before the implementation process began so Ventura’s customer service would be unaffected.

ESE’s solution helped eliminate variances and inconsistencies with the following:

  • Recipe and formula creation. With the use of Op Codes, programming and editing of recipe modifications are easy;

  • Product consistency and control. Recipe steps are followed in the proper batch order with Op Codes ensuring consistency with each step;

  • Recipe organization & storage. Simple, secure and confidential archiving of an infinite combination of recipes and centralized recipe access means recipe versions can be controlled, monitored, and shared at appropriate levels; and

  • Raw material inventory and flow. Effective product metering in bulk tanks ensures inventories do not run low, mitigating down time.

Benefits of batch control

Benefits of the new system include product quality improvements, enhanced customer satisfaction, and a more predictable inventory control system. With process control technology, inventory in Ventura’s bulk tanks is constantly metered and accurately measured, eliminating down time due to inventory shortages. Seventy percent of Ventura’s inventory is vegetable oil, a staple ingredient in the production of all products. In the past, inventory depletion caused Ventura problems such as down time, added labor, poor product quality, and yield losses. Ventura has not experienced an inventory-related production delay since implementing ESE’s batch processing solution, says Freda.

Today, production variances are kept to a minimum, inventories are under control, and profitability is increasing. The integrated facility has:

  • 33 production lines with room for expansion up to 45 lines;

  • Recipes for all 14 systems controlled from a central PC-based Batch Optimizer system which provides a recipe on-demand with batch start;

  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) trending and reporting functionality;

  • Complete process control;

  • User-friendly, intuitive interface allowing multiple users’ access at one time;

  • Complete flexibility; and

  • Raw material planning, sharing and overall increased efficiency.

In summary, Freda says, “Ventura Foods is more strongly positioned to service its customer base on the West Coast and throughout the country as a result of this new facility and the advanced technology used.”

 

From the 2009 edition of the Automation Integrator Guide, a supplement to Control Engineering magazine. www.controleng.com This annual print guide to nearly 1,800 automation system integrators is searchable online at www.controleng.com/integrators .

 

Read other articles in the 2010 Automation Integrator Guide .