Like many other industries, food and beverage companies are often “rock and a hard place” enterprises. They need technology upgrades, but have such tight margins, every proposed change must be justified with precise ROI. One such company is Raceland Sugar, a major U.S. processor of sugar cane. Sugar cane processing occurs periodically over 12 months, usually once per year. The raw material is perishable, and the harvested cane sits in open air piles, so any downtime causes loss of throughput and increased disposal costs, which both have a negative impact on revenue. The margins on refined sugar are thin, so any technology upgrades prior to equipment failure are scrutinized carefully before implementation to ensure they are cost-effective and will provide a strong ROI.
In preparation for their seasonal campaign, Raceland executives realized that their current automation solution was obsolete, however, replacing I/O cards and configuring a new controller would cause extensive and expensive downtime. To make matters worse, the system they had in place was a single-failure system, so if the controller failed, the whole system shut down. The HMI technology was obsolete, such that any updates would have to be deployed individually at each station, requiring excessive time that was not value added. Weighing the pros and cons of an upgrade was critical and complex.
Raceland had a relationship with Emerson and had been using the PAC8000 I/O trouble-free for a number of years. Raceland determined that the Emerson PACSystems™ RX3i CPL410 edge controller could integrate with the PAC8000 I/O with very few changes, meaning there was minimal risk during the upgrade process and the changes could be made quickly. Since the PACSystems RX3i CPL410 edge controller was easy to configure for a redundant installation, and allowed transfer to a backup unit within 300 millisecs in the event of a problem, the redundancy assured no downtime due to controller issues – a significant improvement over their previous system.
The upgrade occurred in three individual installations. The first area required immediate modernization and its success then prompted Raceland to select the PACSystems RX3i CPL410 controller to expand their mill floor system, which was needed. On the centrifugal floor, Raceland employed both the edge controller and the RSTi-EP slice I/O on PROFINET drops. This expanded Raceland’s capabilities in that now they do not have to run field wire back to a single area, which greatly reduces the cost of wire and allows for further expansion of automation. Emerson HMI technology allows engineers to deploy screen/ configuration changes across the factory floor from one location, enabling easy scalability if changes are needed during the campaign.
With the carefully planned upgrade, Raceland sugar was able to achieve zero downtime during the critical harvest period, increasing throughput and ultimately enhancing revenue. Significant money was also saved through reduction of wiring, reduced engineering costs, and less human error. Steven Foret, instrumentation supervisor at Raceland sugar, said, “I have fallen in love with these processors. The power and features that are offered with this unit make anything you think up possible.”