Upgrade without downtime

As a subsidiary of CSM, a global player in the food-ingredients industry, Purac is a leading producer of lactic acid-based biochemicals used in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and other products. The company strives to improve the efficiency of its production and customer service in its facilities in the U.

By Renee Robbins, Control Engineering June 1, 2007

As a subsidiary of CSM, a global player in the food-ingredients industry, Purac is a leading producer of lactic acid-based biochemicals used in foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and other products. The company strives to improve the efficiency of its production and customer service in its facilities in the U.S., Brazil, the Netherlands, and Spain. Its strategy to achieve these improvements is to adopt the most innovative, cost-effective process technologies.

Control and visualization are critical for managing the process because each phase of production requires precise measurement, timing, and monitoring. The process begins with sugar, the raw material in lactic acid, which needs to be kept in constant supply to maintain the plant’s non-stop, year-round operations. From two massive storage vats, the sugar is measured, combined with bacteria and fermented naturally in large tanks. The fermented sugar then goes through a series of machine-driven processes—water filtering, waste elimination, evaporation and distillation—to produce pure lactic acid. Purac packages some of the pure product for order fulfillment, and the rest goes through several more processes to produce lactic acid derivatives, such as salts and esters.

For two decades before adopting the new system, Purac had used a PLC system with a self-programmed SCADA application for monitoring production. As the years passed, Purac was unable to take advantage of new software solutions on the market due to incompatibility with their proprietary system. By the year 2000, they stopped developing the SCADA application and started seeking a more flexible, efficient, integrated solution for the future.

Purac hired Manuel Guil of system integrator Enco to help improve automation at its Barcelona-area plant. He helped Purac identify its objectives and the most appropriate solutions. The main goal was to install an integrated monitoring, control and information system without having to shut down production for even a moment. After considering several options, they chose Wonderware production and performance management software running on a Microsoft Windows operating system as the starting point for the long-term automation improvement plan.

According to Jose Maria Sas, the head of plant engineering at Purac, “We were looking in the market for universal software … one with representation not only in Spain but also in different countries, as we have factories in other countries, and we wanted the software to be capable of being exported. We tested other software and possibilities, and Wonderware’s ongoing evolution seemed the most appropriate to us.”

The Barcelona plant today uses Wonderware products to monitor, control, and track 80% of its processes. The system includes the Wonderware Industrial Application Server, three Wonderware touch panel computers bundled with InTouch HMI software, the IndustrialSQL server historian (InSQL historian), DT Analyst downtime and efficiency management software, and InControl real-time control software.

With the new system, “Purac has increased efficiency,” says Guil. “Even at the beginning, we can estimate a 10% reduction in downtime, but surely that will continue to grow.”

Visual representation

The HMI implementation began with InTouch and InControl software. InTouch software provides an object-based, visual representation of the entire plant’s operations. InControl software gives complete control of processes in real time.

Narcis Sirvent, the process automation manager at Purac, explained: “System reliability was important for us. We also needed an easy transition from the existing system. With Wonderware’s software, we found that it was not necessary to change our plant’s wiring. Therefore, the transition has been very quick.”

Better plant decisions

The next step was to install the industrial application server, a software historian that captures and stores enormous amounts of production data, then test and deploy the ActiveFactory, InSQL, DT Analyst and QI Analyst software.

The company achieved another key objective: the making of better plant decisions. The proprietary system had only captured raw data, while DT Analyst allows creating custom reports, trending graphs and charts with real-time data. These reports have become an important part of Purac’s total production management initiative.

Sirvent remarked, “With the new system, we have much more data. We gathered plant data before, but didn’t have the tools necessary to process that data. The next step will be to process the data, translate it to more concrete numbers, and integrate the plant with the offices, so there can be a more direct relationship between marketing, the finance department, and production.”

20 PCs, 20 processes

InTouch and InControl software now run on 20 industrial PCs to manage 20 production processes. Three touch panel computers monitor the plant, displaying any process with a few taps on the screen. Additional computers run DT Analyst and other information software. These computers are fully integrated with each other and with the industrial application server. Even the old proprietary SCADA system is integrated for continued use. All of Purac’s technicians can use the system to control and monitor plant performance.

Purac succeeded in achieving its goal of implementing the new automation system without shutting down production. It had expected to complete 100% plant automation by late 2006, with zero production downtime, says Guil.

This article was edited from an application brief provided by Wonderware.To find a system integrators and learn of their certification status, visit www.controleng.com/integrators .

Author Information

Renee Robbins is editorial director of Control Engineering. She can be reached at renee.robbins@reedbusiness.com .

Certified system integrators bring expertise

Using certified system integrators is one way to ensure that automation projects come in on time and on budget. Certification can come from individual vendor companies, or from an independent organization like the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA at

Enco is an “ArchestrA Certified” member of the Wonderware system integrator program (