OPC Helps Canning Company Deliver the Goods

A food manufacturer selects Inductive Automation’s HMI/SCADA software, FactorySQL and FactoryPMI, which use OPC to capture and log production data and access that data via the company intranet.

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Hirzel Canning Co. and Farms, a family-owned business headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, has spent the last 70 years producing food goods under the labels of Dei Fratelli, Star Cross and Silver Fleece. Like any food manufacturer, Hirzel faces several key challenges when it comes to data management. John McAvoy, Hirzel’s process control manager, looked to the human-machine interface (HMI) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) applications, FactorySQL and FactoryPMI, from Inductive Automation (IA), based in Sacramento, Calif., to capture precise and timely production system information.

FactorySQL and FactoryPMI accomplish two key goals: capture and store data and make it easily accessible via the company intranet. Hirzel must have systems in place to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, rules and regulations. FDA requirements demand current process parameter information (e.g., temperatures, pressure, filler speeds, etc.) to be available down to the second. Recording and archiving such information could have created reams of paper and required hours of labor to sift through it.

“IA applications fit the bill exactly for what we wanted to do,” said McAvoy. “They allow us to meet FDA requirements to record the process parameters we want for archival purposes, so if the FDA comes back and asks, ‘What was the temperature of your cooker on August 3, 1999?’ we can pop it up in the database and, bang, we’ve got it.”

FactorySQL leverages OPC technology by bridging the gap between programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and standard databases. FactorySQL also uses the OPC standard technology for easy and powerful data logging. FactoryPMI, considered the next generation of SCADA software, provides real-time status and control capabilities, which enables Hirzel staff to remotely monitor pieces of equipment in the company’s five factories from any location.

“For example, right now I can use the FactoryPMI product to monitor an evaporator that is about a quarter of a mile away,” said McAvoy. “We have the system set up so I can control anything and keep an eye on it. The Factory PMI product also allows authorized personnel to pull up drawings and reports via our intranet.”

The HMI/SCADA software provides the added benefit of facilitating efficient and effective research and development (R&D) activities to enable Hirzel to stay competitive in the marketplace. “We’re looking at factors such as: How does the outside air temperature affect this? How does the water temperature of the flume affect that? In the past, we could ask these questions, but in order to find out the answers, we had to wade through mounds and mounds of paper,” explained McAvoy. “But now that we have the information in a searchable database—the sky is the limit. Now I can ask almost any question I want and within a matter of seconds I have the answer.”

Added value comes from being able to record process control data into a Structured Query Language (SQL) database that is easily accessible by anyone and does not overload the OPC server. FactorySQL acts as an OPC client to communicate with the OPC server to retrieve information, instead of users all trying to download information directly from the server. “There is only one agent that can access that OPC server, and that is FactorySQL,” said McAvoy. “It writes the data into the database. FactoryPMI reads the information from the database housed on the OPC server. We can have hundreds of people connected to the database and it won’t be bogged down.”

All of these key features come at a competitive price that pleased McAvoy. He noted that similar packages cost around $10,000, while IA FactorySQL and FactoryPMI cost about $6,000. “It does exactly what we wanted and we saved about $4,000,” he added. “What better deal can you get?”

For more information on solutions from Inductive Automation, please visit www.inductiveautomation.com.

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