Advanced Process Control for Food Processing Equipment

March 31, 2021
Tetra Pak partners with Rockwell Automation to add model predictive control to machines used in the manufacturing of powders.

Partnerships between OEMs and industrial control system vendors often only involve the integration of PLCs or components in the machines. But with consumer behavior changing market demands—especially in the food and beverage segment—machine builders are looking to manufacturing technology partners to deliver more sophisticated automation offerings.

That’s the case for Tetra Pak, a maker of packaging and processing equipment for liquid food products and a variety of ice cream, cheese, fruit, vegetables, and pet food. Recently the OEM announced a strategic business collaboration with Rockwell Automation that, as a first step, is focused on Tetra Pak’s Cheese and Powder Solutions business.

According to the companies, the combined business expertise will deliver data and technology to reduce variability and improve quality consistency, helping ensure finished products are produced sustainably and cost effectively within demand-driven manufacturing environments.

The collaboration – starting with evaporation and spray drying processes – has resulted in Tetra Pak’s new Powder Plant Booster offering which is coupled with Rockwell Automation’s Pavilion8, an advanced process software platform that integrates with any control system to provide real-time insight, diagnostics, and advanced control, as well as its model predictive control technology called PlantPAx.

“The food and drink industry now requires that producers have a level of agility never seen before,” said Fred Griemsmann, vice president of Cheese & Powder Systems at Tetra Pak. “This means we must be ready to offer our customers advanced processing control technology that is both flexible and precise. Customers can leverage our food application expertise, have access to production data in real time and adapt their process variables to match requirements without any loss in quality, productivity, or throughput. This unique collaboration with Rockwell Automation provides the foundation upon which this capability is based.”

Evaporation and spray drying applications used in products such as infant formula require the strict control of processes while being produced in high volume to meet market demands. “We are using PlantPAx to make predictions and automatically control processes without jeopardizing product predictability,” Griemsmann said.

Every plant will have different requirements, but in general, Rockwell Automation claims that Pavilion8 driven applications have been shown to deliver possible product quality variability reductions of up to 60%, reductions in off-spec products by up to 75%, improved throughputs up to 9%, and reductions in energy per unit of product up to 9%. This allows producers to fully optimize their operations while meeting changing demands, the company said.

“This partnership is a powerful added value for the customer, as in this instance it is made seamless for them as they receive a ready to use solution customized to their plant, processes, and production,” said Harald Mag, vice president of enterprise accounts for Rockwell Automation. “We could be just providing automation components bolted on to a machine, but with this type of application, which is coming from Tetra Pak and boosted with some additional artificial intelligence, software and automation, as well as Rockwell’s digital know-how, makes it an important new way of supplying [products] to the customer.”

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