Case Study

Manufacturing Control System Upgrade – Batch Process Automation – Liquid Ingredients

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The Client

Food manufacturer

Capabilities Demonstrated

  • Batch-process automation
  • Recipe management
  • Historian design and configuration
  • Electrical design
  • Panel Fabrication
  • PLC programming
  • SCADA programming
  • VFD installation / integration / configuration
  • HMI software development
  • Reporting software development
  • Database configuration
  • Plant automation simulator
  • User training
  • Continuous Improvement support


Our customer was looking for ways to save on physical labor and material handling costs while improving their supply chain. One of the ingredients used in their manufacturing process is shortening. The process was very manual and prone to operator error. It used solid shortening cubes that required unboxing, unbagging, slicing, weighing, and delivering a partial cube to the mixing operation.

Our customer decided to automate this process as a continuous improvement initiative to save on physical labor and material handling costs.  A plan was developed to move to liquid shortening from a preferred supplier and create an automated water and shortening delivery system. 


A&E developed a fully automated batch control system using a liquid instead of a solid main ingredient. This reduced labor and material handling costs. A significant additional benefit was an improvement in the consistency and quality of the product. Operator error was eliminated, and product quality and consistency improved.

A&E provided control system expertise (design, definition, programming, guidance), while the customer provided process knowledge.


  • Labor cost reduction
  • Material handling cost reduction
  • More consistent product produced
  • Elimination of operator error
  • Improved quality of the final product
  • Improved product yields
  • Enabled improved manufacturing execution decision making through improved data collection / improved reporting


The batch control system upgrade took ~8 months to complete and consisted of the following work:

  1. Control system E&I design
  2. P&ID development
  3. Panel fabrication –
    1. Designed and built main control panel for receiving, storing, and dispensing liquid shortening.
    1. Designed and built 6x I/O panels for weighing and controlling valves associated with mixing operations.
  4. Network design (I/O and control network)
  5. SCADA design and configuration
  6. Historian design and configuration
  7. PLC programming –
    1. Programming of primary controller for storage and dispensing of water and shortening.
    1. Rewrote six mixer programs replacing the old PLC platform with the plant standard (without the aid of an English-language documented program).  Created a program that allows the equipment to operate independently in local mode or coordinated with the global batch system in automatic mode.
  8. External communication interface design and configuration to OEM-supplied equipment.
  9. Retrofit of existing non-standard PLCs with company standard PLCs.
  10. Onsite startup and remote support
  11. The system is designed with expansion capabilities to include dry ingredient management in a future project.
Software Platforms Utilized
PLC – Rockwell RSLogix5000 / Studio5000
HMI/SCADA – Rockwell FactoryTalk View
Historian – Rockwell Historian / VantagePoint
Hardware Utilized
PLC – Allen-Bradley CompactLogix / ControlLogix
HMI/SCADA – Hope Industrial w/ MSI computers & OnLogic computers
VFD – Allen-Bradley PowerFlex