Bush Brothers and Co. is a family-owned company best known for its baked beans. But the Knoxville, TN-based firm also serves up some pretty sophisticated data acquisition and downtime tracking technology since implementing a Parsec software application called TrakSYS. I talked recently with Operations Area Manager Anthony Peterson about the use of TrakSYS at Bush Brothers, and I’m happy to report that he’ll be on the program at The Automation Conference next May in Chicago. Here’s an edited version of Peterson describing how TrakSYS brings productivity and efficiency improvements at Bush Brothers’ plants.
• We needed to do a better job of tracking the downtime of our production and casing lines. Everything was in paper format. If a machine went down, the operator would mark it on a list. If we ever wanted to do any kind of research or trending, we’d have to take all that information, dig through it all, and then dump it into Excel spreadsheets to try to analyze it. That’s the only way we could track downtime or case efficiencies or anything like it.
• We had a homegrown software solution in place at the time, and it showed us that there were benefits to be gained by relying on a software solution to help log downtime. But like any homegrown solution, it was too cumbersome. Our IT and IS people assured us that there were vendors out there who do nothing but produce such solutions. So we went to the main suppliers of tracking software that ties into a PLC. Parsec seemed to fit us best. We were looking for a tool that would help us make better decisions that in turn would improve line performance. In addition to having to fit with our company culture, another thing we wanted in our tracking system was flexibility. We wanted to be able to take the program out of the box and modify it to fit our company. With some of the other options we looked at, the suppliers took the position that this is the way it works and the only way it works. That was not the case with TrakSYS. Our operators had a lot of input into developing what the final product looked like. Actually, we are still moving forward today, getting a little deeper and making it even more efficient. You could almost describe it as a living program.
• Logic in the program looks for downtime, and it reads the tags off of our PLC network. So if an alarm comes up and indicates downtime at a machine, the operator has the capability to either acknowledge it as true or he can make adjustments to the alarm and write notes. It’s really helped us direct our maintenance efforts and training efforts in tightening things up.
• From a remote location, access to the data is password-protected. But in the plant, we encourage all that information to be open to everyone. The operator can see the same information as the plant manager. Another thing we really like about TrakSYS is that we can customize dashboards to meet our specific needs.
• With automated tracking of downtime, operators no longer have to worry about filling out forms and keeping sheets of data. They now focus on getting the information and passing it along to leadership through emails or reports. There’s a lot more flow from the floor up that lets everybody know what’s going on. Everybody sees the same information in real time.
Learn more about real-time tracking of downtime conditions at Bush Brothers by attending The Automation Conference May 20-21 in Chicago.