Food Additives Maker Boosts Production by 400 Percent

Research Products Co. (www.researchprod.com), Salina, Kan., manufactures food additives in a limitless variety of custom blends for the grain milling and baking industries.

As part of Research Products Co.'s new automated manufacturing process, raw product feeders are depicted on the Operator Interfa
As part of Research Products Co.'s new automated manufacturing process, raw product feeders are depicted on the Operator Interfa
After a fire destroyed the company’s manufacturing process, Research Products had two options: either rebuild using proven equipment similar to what had previously been used, or investigate ways to automate the manufacturing process to increase productivity.

The latter option had never been tried at Research Products, partly due to the challenging nature of the company’s products. In the manufacturing process, the company must work with powders containing extremely fine particles, making them difficult to handle in an automated fashion.

To help move forward with automation, Research Products Co. President Monte White selected KSolutions Inc. (www.ksolutionscorp.com), another Salina-based company that provides manufacturing consulting, project management and control system design services. KSolutions took Research Products through an extensive discovery process in determining the ideal automated solution for its manufacturing needs, then managed the installation.
 
At Research Products Co., raw product is introduced into the system in a variety of forms, from bags to boxes to supersack totes. KSolutions and Research Products looked at the raw ingredient availability, usage per product, and the company’s history of products sold to determine the size and type of system required for each raw ingredient to properly introduce it into the conveyance equipment. KSolutions also made sure the batching system was compliant with the International Society of Automation’s ISA88 standard, which was a must. Raw ingredient tracking became a big part of the project, as product recalls are a potential in any food industry.

Data tracking

KSolutions chose RSBatch by Rockwell Software, part of Rockwell Automation Inc.  (www.rockwellautomation.com), Milwaukee, as the backbone of the data tracking system. Each product is produced in a batch format that is tracked through the system from raw ingredients through packaging. Bar code scanners throughout the system allow for data entry, and bar code printers print the product’s name and lot number on the final packages.
 
Marquees are now located on the wall in the company’s blend room and can display status and faults for all plant-floor equipment. The system is integrated from raw ingredients through packaging, as reports from the system can be tied directly into Research Products’ business software. This allows the company to track raw ingredients from purchase through production.

Developing a solution that accommodated varying package sizes provided an additional challenge. Research Products has historically offered customers the choice of 20- or 50-pound bags of product. Customers appreciated the flexible bag options—unique to this market—providing Research Products a competitive advantage. However, the 20-pound bags had to be filled manually, which was time consuming and labor intensive. With the new, much faster automated process, manufacturing speed was optimized to the point that manually filling the bags was no longer feasible.

After months of research and work with equipment makers, KSolutions generated a solution: an automated 20-pound bag filling system for Research Products’ enrichment additives, dough conditioners and enzyme products. Due to the difficulty of handling of the company’s fine powders, nearly every piece of equipment purchased for the automated system had to be tested by running actual product through it. In the end, the result was a solution that allows Research Products to maintain its competitive edge, save the time and manual labor, and keep customers happy.

For Research Products Co., bringing in a set of eyes with experience in a wide range of industries and applications resulted in a modern, more efficient manufacturing plant with enhanced production and greater capabilities. The manufacturing process is now fully automated and has increased production by 400 percent.
 
“We quadrupled our single-shift production, but the system is capable of much more with multiple shifts, and we designed it for expansion,” White notes. “KSolutions helped us move beyond our initial expectation to a future vision.”

Research Products Co.
www.researchprod.com

KSolutions Inc.
www.ksolutionscorp.com

Rockwell Automation Inc.
www.rockwellautomation.com

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