Country Maid is a producer of breakfast and dessert pastry products located in West Bend, Iowa. It sells its products through group fundraisers nationwide.
One of the company's closely monitored KPIs is the amount of labor required to produce each pastry unit. Given that this process at Country Maid has primarily been a manual operation, the group recognized that this was one KPI that could see dramatic improvements with the implementation of modern automation technology and data acquisition equipment.
Like any other manual production facility, manufacturing accuracy and speed were two attributes that were difficult for Country Maid to achieve, especially at the same time. Even with a highly skilled work force, producing at optimum levels can be extremely difficult for manual production facilities.
With the addition of a production line and automating existing production areas, Country Maid more than doubled the production capacity of its facility. Also, by automating the ingredient loading, batching, and transfer systems, Country Maid is now able to keep direct labor costs at a minimum while significantly improving throughput and lowering the amount of labor needed for each pastry produced.
Effects of the newly installed automation technology (which included hardware from Allen Bradley and PlantPAx software from Rockwell Automation) that were immediately noticed included a decrease in mix times by 23 percent and an increase in line speeds by 14 percent. With the ability to reduce mix times so dramatically and process batches more quickly, Country Maid was also able to decrease the overall size of the new mixer they were installing, saving enough money on equipment costs alone to cover the entire cost of the automation upgrade.
Operational information gathering provided by the new data acquisition system and historian further allowed the company to fine tune its production processes, squeezing out every bit of production available. Plus, with accurate trending and reporting tools, the organization has been able to monitor system, personnel, and equipment performance much more closely. For example, Country Maid was able to adjust to the effects of winter weather on the the ingredients used and batches produced, which are affected by storage temperature and moisture levels. Tracking this information allowed the new production system to adjust for these variances and maintain high levels of consistency in their products, something that Country Maid had little control over prior to installing the new technology.
Reid Vander Veen works in business development at Interstates Control Systems Inc. (Sioux Center, Iowa), a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association . To learn more about Interstates, visit www.interstates.com. To learn more about the Control System Integrators Association, visit www.controlsys.org.