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Shopfloor PC terminals from DLog are helping Robert Wiseman Dairies automate the processing and distribution of fresh milk.

Robert Wiseman Dairies produces more than one in every four litres of fresh milk made in the UK.

Bottling this volume of milk requires automated plant and equipment, which in turn requires a sophisticated monitoring system.

Robert Wiseman Dairies recently opened the Bridgwater site in Taunton, Somerset to provide local production coverage for the south of England.

Andy Anderson, a business project manager at Wiseman, said: ‘While the new site was being constructed, we started an in-house overall equipment efficiency (OEE) project to benchmark the performance of our plant.

‘This originated at our Droitwich site, but the decision was quickly taken to implement an OEE system at Bridgwater as it has the very latest plant available, featuring increased levels of automation,’ he added.

In May 2009, the company chose OEEsystems’ PerformOEE software, which it decided to place into DLog terminals.

At Robert Wiseman Dairies’ Droitwich site, the DLog units are used in a chilled environment at 3 to 4C and the staff using them had no prior experience of computers.

The mobile MPC units are located on the trolley packers used to load the milk into the customer trolleys and are regularly hosed down with water and some chemical cleaning agents, but the robust touch-screen interface and IP67 enclosure rating mean they continue to operate reliably.

‘Although the environment at Bridgewater is nothing like as harsh, the cast and machined aluminium body provides an IP67 enclosure which would probably operate under water,’ Anderson continued.

It was crucial for Robert Wiseman Dairies that its OEE system interfaced with the PLC systems used to automate the equipment.

This advanced level of automation makes the site efficient but makes it difficult to see errors occurring.

‘You know there is a problem, but you don’t know exactly what it is,’ Anderson explained.

Designed to monitor the performance of any production equipment, the OEEsystems software running on the DLog shopfloor terminals is highly configurable.

OEEsystems and DLog worked together to ensure compatibility and keyboard configuration so that any keyed-in data would be correct.

Although most events are collected automatically, the system will request more data if, for example, a safety door is opened.

As there may be several reasons why the door needs to be opened, the operator will select from a list of potential causes.

By communicating with the sales-order processing software, the PerformOEE software knows what is happening on each line and can display the progress of production compared with the ordered quantity on each line.

DLog terminals have also been installed at the packing area, where they support the delivery of essential business information direct to the operator at the point of use, providing them with a real-time view of what is happening in production.

Anderson continued: ‘The operators have taken to the system really well and all shifts have been introduced to the system over the past month.

‘Like most projects, we had a few worrying moments, but DLog’s business-development manager, Sudip Masoji, along with the company’s staff in Germany, certainly pulled out all the stops for us.

‘We had a tight eight-week timeframe and knew that the infrastructure would be the pivotal point, because our plant runs around-the-clock six days per week and any problems during production will result in an additional shift being run on the seventh day to catch back the loss.

‘We could not order the terminal mounting brackets from DLog until we knew how we were actually going to mount them in the production area.

‘Sudip Masoji kept tags on the bracket order and ensured they arrived in time for the installation,’ added Anderson.

Masoji said: ‘We also had a last-minute request from Robert Wiseman Dairies’ IT department.

‘Originally it specified 4GB of RAM flash memory but subsequently requested an increase to 8GB.

‘The new compact flash cards were sent directly with the operating system and software pre loaded so the card could be inserted and when the unit was powered up it worked,’ he added.

Robert Wiseman Dairies also wanted to take the extended warranty offered by DLog even further.

Anderson said: ‘Previously we have supported defective IT equipment via defined procedures, exchanging the faulty hardware for a standby unit.

‘This defective unit is sent to our office in East Kilbride and, following repair, it is returned and re-installed into its correct location.

‘We have arranged for DLog to repair defective terminals (a rare event) to speed up the repair cycle.

‘DLog has remote access to the latest version of the PC image for any specific terminal so that it can be ‘ghosted’ onto the repaired machine.

‘At a convenient point in the production cycle the engineers can go on the shopfloor and very quickly exchange any unit, which all have fixed IP addresses and names, and the standby units will be pre configured by DLog so the new terminal will immediately handshake with the local Alan Bradley PLC systems to gather the alarm codes and so on,’ Anderson finished.

The company currently has 21 DLog terminals at its Bridgwater Dairy, 19 are active on the shopfloor and two units are on standby.

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