PepsiAmericas Quenches Thirst for Plant-Floor Information

Today's factories and their control systems can generate incredible amounts of raw data that offer insight into production processes from start to finish. PepsiAmericas recently embarked on a quest to gather critical bottling line production data from its beverage-making processes and present it in a format that would enable better decision making.


Today's factories and their control systems can generate incredible amounts of raw data that offer insight into production processes from start to finish. PepsiAmericas recently embarked on a quest to gather critical bottling line production data from its beverage-making processes and present it in a format that would enable better decision making. The result—PepsiAmericas has increased information access with a clearer picture of the plant floor, which it has used to improve manufacturing and business processes.

PepsiAmericas Inc. is the second largest canning and bottling group within the PepsiCo organization. With operations in nine countries, it manufactures and distributes Pepsi-Cola products to more than 122 million people worldwide and accounts for 21% of total U.S. Pepsi volume. Like all beverage manufacturers, the company strives for the consistent quality, freshness and taste that customers expect from all products under the Pepsi-Cola brand. At the same time, retailers, government regulators and changing consumer preferences place increased demands on the company's ability to remain flexible, responsive and cost-efficient.

PepsiAmericas' facility in Des Moines, IA makes and packages more than 45 brands of Pepsi-Cola products and distributes them throughout the Midwest. In a single day, the plant produces nearly 60,000 cases of soft drinks, totaling more than 20 million cases annually.

While the facility has a strong record of operating efficiency, it was experiencing unexplained interruptions on the canning line that were causing a chain reaction of bottlenecks in downstream processes. This resulted in large blocks of downtime, which began to drive up labor costs and prevented PepsiAmericas from achieving 120 production hours per week and meeting its throughput goals. In an environment where an hour of downtime results in $300 an hour in labor costs and $10,000 per hour in lost product, several hours of idle production results in major losses.

To keep up with increasing industry pressures, reduce costs, and optimize performance, PepsiAmericas realized it needed a clearer picture of what was happening on the plant floor from start to finish.

Products fizzy, systems flat

As is the case with most beverage processes, production begins in the raw materials receiving area. A depalletizer breaks down ten-foot-tall pallets stacked with 8,000 cans layer by layer, and shuffles them onto an air conveyor. The cans move in a single-file line overhead, snaking their way toward the other end of the facility. Sanitized cans reach the filler room and make their way through a 72-valve filler station, which operates at speeds up to 1,200 cans per minute. Here, each can is filled and charged with a shot of nitrogen as a series of rollers seal it with an aluminum lid, much like a can opener working in reverse. From there, they move to the packaging area and an automatic palletizing station for stacking, wrapping and preparation for distribution. The entire process, from unloading cans to wrapping pallets, takes less than 20 minutes.

PepsiAmericas was using manual paper- and pencil-based systems to collect performance data from the can line. Operators monitored production and recorded throughput and downtime events during each shift. This information was then manually plugged into the company's enterprise financial system, which logged how many flavors, cases and package sizes were made each day. Management also reviewed the data to identify shutdown incidents and attempts to troubleshoot problems.

In addition to being unreliable and cumbersome, the process gave management little insight into what was really happening. While operators were meticulous in recording downtime incidents, they were only capturing the obvious issues: 10- or 15-minute-long events that were easily recognized as problems. What they were not seeing were the short blocks of downtime, a few seconds here, a minute or two there, that over the course of a day added up to significant loss. In addition, merely noting downtime episodes could not help management understand why they occurred, which left PepsiAmericas playing a never-ending guessing game in how to improve can line operations.

“With the old system, we were relying on people to collect and record the data, and then log it into our business system without flaw each day,” said Dave Bramow, production manager. “This was a tedious, error-prone process that in the end, couldn't give us the information we needed to correct the problems causing the downtime.”

Creating a better picture

PepsiAmericas knew that in order to eliminate bottlenecks and stoppages, it needed an accurate picture of the canning process. This meant up-to-the-minute access to real-time information to help management capture short downtime intervals that were unaccounted. To do so, management needed a sophisticated data-acquisition system that could gather information from the entire line in a usable format for better decision making.

In the summer of 2004, PepsiAmericas assigned Bramow to lead a team of engineers to identify and implement a solution. The solution needed to deliver accurate, real-time information to help management identify the root cause of problems and drive continuous improvement initiatives. In addition, it must integrate its disparate systems together to improve supply chain visibility and streamline production from start to finish.

The team evaluated proposals from five technology suppliers. It was important to find a company that could provide not only the right technology, but also deliver reliable service after the installation. Simplicity was another essential factor. The team wanted a solution that was easy to operate and made data gathering and reporting simple and painless. In the end, PepsiAmericas chose Rockwell Automation as its automation partner.

“We've had a long relationship with Rockwell Automation and the majority of our applications are built on their control systems,” said Bramow.

Selected as the backbone for the beverage producer's enterprise data acquisition was the Rockwell Automation Line Performance Solution, a suite of pre-integrated software and services based on the FactoryTalk production and performance software suite. The system provides a view into a production line's operational processes by aggregating and contextualizing key performance data to help correlate the many variables that impact overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The system provides operators and managers with on-demand access to downtime monitoring and alerts, production performance analytics, and equipment operating metrics. Numerous reports display production metrics associated with time, shift, operator, work order and product.

“The Line Performance Solution offered everything we were looking for in terms of functionality, robust data gathering capabilities and ease of use,” said Bramow. “It was essential for improving our overall visibility, tracking and control of the line's performance, so that we could maximize its capacity and ensure product quality. It also had the best format for communicating the information to those who use it, both at the operator and supervisory levels.”

Why so many interruptions?

PepsiAmericas wanted to identify all interruptions of 10 different work cells, including the duration of each episode, and what caused the events. The new system also needed to be able to generate throughput, waste, and efficiency figures while offering flexible reporting options so management could break performance outputs down by shift, operator, hour, minute or second.

Finally, PepsiAmericas wanted to leverage its existing automation infrastructure for maximum impact and return on investment. “All of our systems were loosely tied together but our network was incomplete,” said Bramow. “We wanted to upgrade to a central data highway to improve integration and information exchange throughout the facility.”

Nearing PepsiAmericas' peak season, all of this, including installation, needed to be achieved in a short timeframe and with minimal impact on production.

Tying it all together

The PepsiAmericas team also faced the challenge of making sure it could transport all the data coming off of the Rockwell Automation controllers to the server. To do so, PepsiAmericas installed an EtherNet/IP network, which enables the Line Performance Solution to gather information housed in the controllers of each work cell and quickly send it back to the system's central server.

The team then configured FactoryTalk Metrics, a Microsoft Windows-based application for evaluating the performance of critical production assets, on its production server. In addition, FactoryTalk Historian was installed to help collect, analyze and report production data through Web-based reporting. FactoryTalk Integrator SE transaction manager software acts as a transport mechanism, providing efficient data transfer between all the controllers and server. By working seamlessly with one another and the Rockwell Automation control systems, these software tools help extract manufacturing data, allowing PepsiAmericas to review current and historical performance information.

Understanding it all

After the Line Performance Solution was installed, the team went through a Rockwell Automation systems acceptance test to train PepsiAmericas staff on the new technology.

“Training is a key element of any new project, but when it deals with critical plant-floor information, it is especially important that workers understand the systems,” said Bramow. “Rockwell Automation made sure that our system was accurate and working properly. And they also helped us understand what the information meant, which is what really makes it effective.”

PepsiAmericas hoped that gathering and acting upon this information, it could improve the line's performance by 2-3%. To do so, it first needed to benchmark current production, which meant determining the line's OEE in addition to other performance variables.

“Another way Rockwell Automation really provided value was by helping us determine the meaning of OEE,” said Bramow. “Our understanding was that OEE simply meant how long a machine was up and running. But we were forgetting the product piece, and we learned that we needed to factor actual throughput and product quality into that equation to have a comprehensive OEE measurement.”

Discover cause, fix problem

Once PepsiAmericas determined a baseline for production and the new system was up and running, it began collecting, storing and analyzing production information. With a few mouse clicks, management is able to view general OEE calculations by work cell, downtime for each machine, quality data, changeover times, as well as specific events that cause line stoppages, such as a jammed can or spilled product. The paper-based system has been eliminated.

“Access to this information has helped us understand production inefficiencies and work to remedy them,” said Bramow. “It's really eliminated the guesswork and finger-pointing that used to be a part of improvement initiatives.”

Thanks to the new systems, PepsiAmericas has been able to identify training problems and fix them by defining best practices. For example, the team discovered that the second shift was having some trouble with the depalletizing station and was frequently spilling entire pallets of empty cans. In reviewing information from the depalletizer, management determined that operators were running the system in manual mode, rather than allowing the machine to run automatically. In a typical shift, it's standard for the station to be turned to manual mode five to eight times. However, the second shift was switching to manual anywhere from 150 to 200 times, a factor PepsiAmericas never would have discovered using a paper and pencil system.

“We used this information as a training tool to help the second shift understand the correct procedure,” said Bramow. “Since then, they have not spilled a single pallet or lost any product. Previously, they were dropping about one pallet a month, and with 8,000 cans on a pallet, those mishaps could get very expensive and cause a lot of headaches.”

PepsiAmericas also was experiencing mysterious blocks of downtime at the filler station and operators could not keep it running properly. By reviewing data from the Line Performance Solution, management realized that the layout of the filler's control panel had many of the process switches close to one another. The “sanitation mode” switch was right next to the one that shut the filler off.

“Before the Line Performance Solution, we ran into instances where we couldn't get the filler to run and we didn't know why,” said Bramow. “After reviewing the data, we realized that operators were mistakenly turning the filler into sanitation mode, which resulted in several hours of downtime for each incident.”

Information delivers value

Since the installation of the Line Performance Solution, the team at PepsiAmericas has worked to turn plant-floor information into business intelligence to build a competitive advantage. By using information to identify line interruptions and improving operations through corrective actions, best practices and training, Bramow and his team have achieved a six percent increase in efficiency, which equates to more than $120,000 in savings each year.

“We selected Rockwell Automation not to just be a short-term, one-project supplier, but to be a long-term partner,” said Bramow. “This solution has helped strengthen our competitiveness in the industry and it has enabled us to take a more proactive approach to optimizing our operations.”

But it's the people, said Bramow, who should really receive the recognition for the plant's exceptional performance. “What has made the solution a success is the people here who use it every day,” said Bramow. “They're the ones who make these improvement initiatives work and help solve the problems. Production is a real team effort, from start to finish, and our employees take pride in doing their best.

“When all is said and done, our priority is to make quality beverages for our customers and Rockwell Automation works to provide systems like the Line Performance Solution that help companies improve operations. By partnering and focusing on these objectives, we both succeeded.”

Author Information

Paul Moylan works with the food and beverage industry for Rockwell Automation. Reach him at

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