There are several competing requirements in the manufacture of high-value nutritional powders. Increasing run time to a safe maximum, reducing the energy and chemical costs of plant cleaning, making product to specification with the minimum amount of waste.
First, we examined the key process units to determine where opportunities existed to enhance the operation. Then we developed robust models from process and quality data, to determine how much entitlement could be won and what strategies would be required. Finally, we implemented a suite of Advanced Automation tools:
- Automate start-up of evaporators, to reach targets more quickly and avoid process upset
- Reduce variability in evaporator outlet solids and increase in mean solids
- Optimise scheduling, to better balance output from the evaporators with demand from the dryer
- Minimise the disturbance caused by feed tank changes
- Deploy inferential 'soft' sensors for real-time powder moisture estimation and control
- Calculate dryer humidity and its impact on powder properties
- Predictive dryer control, to maximise throughput and avoid blockages
- Increase powder rate, provide tighter control of powder moisture, increase yield
RETURN ON INVESTMENT
The energy savings and improvements in yield where enough to return the initial investment within 6 months. However, once the plant was able to fully exploit a production capacity increase of more than 8%, the true rate of return was measured in weeks.
Since implementation, we have been asked to develop an operator training simulator, which brings new recruits up to speed more rapidly, while offering a valuable refresher to existing operators.
“The Perceptive system is helping run our plants more efficiently and the support we get is excellent.”
Kevin Brady, Engineering Manager, Abbott