The GEA Group Aktiengesellschaft is one of the world's largest system providers for food and energy processes. Operating internationally, the Group focuses on process technology and components for demanding production processes in various end markets, generating about 70 percent of its revenue from the food and energy industries.
GEA Process Engineering, part of the GEA Group, develops designs and sells process solutions for the dairy, brewery, food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries and is recognised as a world leader within liquid and powder process engineering. The business is represented by 50 companies in more than 40 countries around the world.
GEA Process Engineering Spain focuses mainly on liquid processing and it was this focus that led it to get involved in the development of a juice plant upgrade at a customer in Colombia; using products and domain experience from Rockwell Automation.
The customer in Bogota was facing the same issues that many other companies face, namely obsolescence and lack of flexibility in its existing process control solution. Grown and added to over a number of years, the solution had no SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system, inadequate PLC/PAC programming change record and it relied heavily upon legacy components that were either difficult to replace or used old or redundant technology.
The customer also faced issues relating to communication between major nodes and the reprogramming of recipes and machine configurations, often relying upon significant manual input, which could reduce process optimisation.
GEA Process Engineering also had to design a new infrastructure that could be introduced without stopping production; meaning it had to operate in parallel with the legacy solution before being switched over in its entirety. The introduction of this new process control solution is also coupled to a general plant capacity upgrade comprising the replacement of mechanical components, pipe work and the addition of major process stages, including the introduction of a new UHT pasteurisation unit and a new pre-processing area.
The customer's existing solution, which comprised nine older PLCs and associated I/O, was capable, but it did not offer the flexibility and scalability of a contemporary process automation infrastructure, such as that offered by Rockwell Automation. It was for this reason that GEA opted for a PlantPAx Process Automation System solution based on Allen-Bradley ControlLogix programmable automation controllers (PACs) from Rockwell Automation.
According to Raúl Bermejo, Project Team Leader, GEA Process Engineering Spain: "The new solution concentrates all of the process information in just two PACs and distributes the I/O data over EtherNet/IP, improving the distribution process and making it much easier and faster to add expansions and extra capacity where necessary."
The complete Rockwell Automation offering comprises a pre-selected SCADA solution integrated with two Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 1756-L73 PACs, each with 1756-EN2T EtherNet/IP communication bridge modules and 1756-DNET DeviceNet modules, to ease the transition from the old solution to the new one. Stratix 8000 switches are used to handle the communications between the three fibre optics ring networks. Completing the list is an Allen-Bradley Panel View Plus display, Flex I/O, for the digital and analogue signals, and various low-voltage components including push buttons, contactors and MCCBs.
Immediate results include a faster and more flexible process automation solution that is also eminently scalable. This scalability will allow the customer to readily consider any future upgrades without the same amount of work that would have been required by the older solution and offers the flexibility to enhance the control system to a full PlantPAx solution for plant-wide control.
As well as providing a much more advanced control solution, the new infrastructure also enhances safety due to the reduced need for manual intervention. Security is also much better thanks to software that controls access to machine and process parameters.
Bermejo elaborates: "I use Rockwell Automation PACs because, in my opinion, they are very reliable, very fast and are easier to integrate."
"We contact engineers from Rockwell Automation all the time," he concludes, "and find that the technical support we receive is excellent. We also attend Rockwell Automation's events as they keep us up to date with new products, upgrades and capabilities."