The batch mixing and automated packaging systems feature an intricate mixing stages and sophisticated automation. The process required integration of raw materials and transport systems, along with an automated bottle filling and packaging line. The entire modular process system was engineered to fit into an existing manufacturing plant with a tight footprint.
CLIENT: Fortune 500 Company
INDUSTRY: Consumer products
KEY ENGINEERING FEATURES
- Highly constructible design for process and automated packaging systems of new a product that met tight schedule and budget constraints
- Automated packaging systems with complex multi-stage batch mixing system of liquid cleaning product
- Extensive controls simulation and testing prior to product runs
- New and fully integrated processing and automation packaging lines
- Raw materials storage and transfer systems for both liquid and powder ingredients including automated tote/drum raw material retrieval system
- Live process data capture for process feedback and automated correction
- Product formulation requires consistency and accuracy through a set of intricate mixing stages
- Tight area footprint which meant mechanical and electrical craftsman could not work on the system concurrently
- Complex controls system to automate multi-stage batching process
- Short timeline and budget constraints that required a design that is both highly automated for product consistency yet practical and cost effective.
- Sensitive mixing process that requires constant automated monitoring
AN EPIC SOLUTION
FRONT-END ENGINEERING/DESIGN ENGINEERING
During Front-End Engineering and design, EPIC first established the scope of the work, which included:
The areas and systems in the scope of the project included:
After reviewing the process and packaging plans with the client, EPIC recommended several features:
- A fully automated batch mixing system to ensure accuracy and quality of product
- Several key data collection methods during batch processing to monitor the mixing procedures and make real time adjustments if needed
- Controls testing before the live product run to ensure all operator interfaces and complex batch controls are working to specification
- Simultaneous construction of packaging and process sides to shorten project timeline
EPIC’s Proven Solution
An integrated large scale process system and packaging line were installed, along with raw material tanks and piping systems. On the process side, raw materials (both liquid and powder) were transported from storage to the process system, mixing together the product in batches, using a precise automated set of controls. The process mixing is closely monitored through flow meters and multiple weigh cells. The product is transported through piping to a high-speed rotary filler that fills bottles with the liquid cleaner. An unscrambler, labeler and case packer are integrated in the packaging line.
The size of the tanks and systems require a traditional construction approach, but EPIC integrated several features that saved time and money:
- Project management:
- Separate project managers for packaging and process areas. EPIC believes in a lean staffing model to eliminate bureaucracy and keep projects moving forward, but we also believe in smart staffing. We assigned separate project managers for the packaging line, process line and on-site construction because each of these areas has its own challenges and potential roadblocks. We try to assign people to multiple roles inside the same vertical, but not across major divisions of a project to prevent critical areas from getting held up.
- Simultaneously design/build – The process systems and packaging line were assembled and installed in parallel in the new facility. This shortened the overall time line. The two projects were treated as separate systems until both went through full start-up.
- Full start-up of the process side and packaging line separately before connection – This feature prevented roadblocks in one project from holding back progress in the other. It also ensured that both the process system and the packing line were working correctly before product began passing from one to the other
- Utilizing a second shift to separate the mechanical and electrical contractors who could not work in the same space at the same time. By separating the two into distinct shifts in one day, both mechanical and electrical work could progress on schedule.
- Installing all PVC piping prior to receiving valves and instruments. Valves and instruments were installed as they arrived by cutting into the pre-installed PVC where necessary. This shortened the project timeline by allowing all pipe work to be completed without having to wait for valves and instruments to arrive.
- Extensive controls testing of the PLC and HMI through simulation programs before a live run with chemicals. The batch mixing system was complicated, and required our engineers to program and test simulation software with the PLC and HMI. This ensured the automated controls were working correctly before introducing live product. Testing focused on fail and problem scenarios to make sure the controls were responding correctly to physical changes in the system, and in turn, changing the mixing process correctly.
- Abundant data capture points throughout mixing process. Flow meters and load cells with low-flow and high-flow alarms provide constant process monitoring. This allows operators to correct any potential mixing mistakes during the mixing process, before product is ruined. Flow rates over time are also measured, ensuring that any leaks or equipment failures will be detected.
- Project management:
The first batch of product to run through the system was a sellable batch and no additional scrap-costs were incurred during start-up due to the extensive controls testing pre-startup. After the initial system was in place, the client initiated further expansion, partnering with EPIC for process changes, new ingredient and recipe additions and other miscellaneous engineering and automation.
- First batch of product was sellable and no additional scrap-costs were incurred during start-up and testing
- Automated batching system created a repeatable and accurate product
- Data feedback allowed for batch changes and reduced wasted product
- Start-up was completed on time in short time-frame, through parallel project management techniques
- Process was easily expandable for future additions
WHY AN AUTOMATED PACKAGING SYSTEMS FROM EPIC?
A process design firm helps you design, fabricate and integrate an appropriate process solution that improves your manufacturing process. EPIC believes we can help you “Do It Better” by:
- Utilizing Front-End Engineering to ensure that the proper steps are taken during project scope development
- Designing most process systems as modular skids, which often saves time and money, creating a more efficient solution
- Applying our plant engineering experience to assist clients in identifying needs, pinpointing objectives and providing the most appropriate manufacturing equipment
- Maintaining an open door client policy to promote innovation. We invite clients to visit EPIC to experiment with new processes, technologies and techniques that push the limits of traditional engineering.
- Imparting a transfer of knowledge (not just a basic training) for the systems and equipment we provide
- Appointing a single point of direct contact during the entirety of the project