Exclusive: Unilever applies batch software to freshen deodorant production

Body odor isn't pleasant, but most people rarely have to smell it thanks to Unilever's personal care products plant (Raeford, NC), which has 600 employees and runs a 24/7 operation. Faced with a required relocation, consolidation and upgrade of its deodorant application, the 72-year-old company recently implemented Rockwell Automation's (Milwaukee, WI) batch management software and used its Glo...

04/01/2003


Body odor isn't pleasant, but most people rarely have to smell it thanks to Unilever's personal care products plant (Raeford, NC), which has 600 employees and runs a 24/7 operation. Faced with a required relocation, consolidation and upgrade of its deodorant application, the 72-year-old company recently implemented Rockwell Automation's (Milwaukee, WI) batch management software and used its Global Manufacturing Solutions (GMS) group to help meet time-to-market and production demands, and save $300,000 in engineering costs.

Unilever's deodorant operation previously used a costly and inefficient manual approach. The company evaluated several batch and control system options, but 'previous work with Rockwell's RSBizWare Batch batch management software at our facility in Clinton, CT, impressed our team,' says Randy Carter, Unilever's senior controls engineer. 'We were also impressed with Rockwell's integrated architecture and demonstrated effort to employ batch mobility and standardization concepts through ISA S88.'

Integration assistance

To start full production within its tight, 10-week timeframe, Unilever also sought help from Rockwell's GMS group to devise an implementation plan. 'Once Global Manufacturing Solutions demonstrated the ability to leverage engineering from prior installations, implementing the batch solution went smoothly,' says Steve Kullberg, Unilever's plant manager.

After conducting a design review to ensure standardization and optimization of Unilever's control systems and the production process, GMS' engineers determined that the deodorant operation could use the same programmable controller code and human-machine interface (HMI) screens that were used in the Unilever's Clinton plant. Software objects were identified by separating the Clinton plant's process control and equipment control, and examining the different phases. Applying reusable engineering concepts eliminated the need to rewrite code or develop new HMI screens, which can take up to 20 weeks.

'Not only did Global Manufacturing Solutions' modular approach and reusable capabilities help us to hit our aggressive 10-week timeframe, they also generated $300,000 in engineering savings,' adds Mr. Kullberg.

Process rolls on

Featuring 38 recipes, capable of producing 250 SKUs, the new deodorant operation uses multiple sets of tanks, with two tanks feeding each production line. These tanks process a silicon-based ingredient and other chemicals to make deodorants.

Rockwell Software RSBizWare Batch batch management software resides on one server with four clients. The batch management software manages the recipes; initiates mixing, heating and cooling phases; prompts batch procedures, such as taking samples before transferring a batch to packaging; and finally archives and uploads batch data via a Microsoft SQL server to a web page. This improves results tracking, quality assurance and troubleshooting, which are assisting Unilever's overall growth goals.

The operation also employs Rockwell's ViewAnyWare strategy, which uses its RSView human-machine interface (HMI) software to provide windows into the process at any stage. ViewAnyWare's common visualization strategy bridges the information gap between machine-level and supervisory-level interface devices. Unilever also uses Rockwell's NetLinx to configure devices, and control and collect information.

On the operation's control end, Unilever uses 12 Allen-Bradley PLC-5 controllers and an Allen-Bradley SoftLogix 5 PC-based controller for running phases without attached I/O.

Following implementation of Rockwell's batch management solution, Mr. Kullberg reports that, 'All the growth in our plant value is occurring in areas supported by Rockwell's systems. Total plant production has increased 86% and the deodorant operation alone has achieved a 283% increase in throughput in less than three years.'

For more information, visit www.rockwellautomation.com .

Jim Montague, news editor jmontague@reedbusiness.com





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