Automating yoghurt production in Chobani's new plant
Thursday, 05 October, 2017
When building its new $30 million plant, yoghurt maker Chobani wanted to partner with automation and electrical experts who could respond to a production process based on a ‘through process’ as opposed to a ‘batching process’.
Chobani is a fast-growing, dynamic yoghurt company that was founded in the United States, with the belief that people have great taste but need great options. With a mission to make high-quality, great-tasting yoghurt available to more people, Chobani decided to spread its wings to Australia.
Since purchasing a local Victorian dairy company in 2011, Chobani has also invested in a new greenfield facility to manufacture its yoghurt locally alongside the existing manufacturing plant.
With a strong focus on automation, Chobani called on Metromotion Controls, a systems integrator specialising in control and automation systems, to facilitate the design, management and implementation of the new $30 million facility.
In addition to the new manufacturing plant, Metromotion was also commissioned to implement Chobani standards to automate the existing site. The task at hand was to use the latest technologies from Rockwell Automation to automate both new and existing processes at the plants.
Yoghurt production made easy
With increasing demand for Chobani yoghurt around the world, meeting global supply agreements was a key priority for the company, as failure to do so would result in significant penalties being enforced. As such, Metromotion Controls was required to meet strict project timelines so the plant could be up and running quickly and effectively.
Chobani has a strong focus on automation and at the time of building the factory required ‘on the ground’ automation and electrical resources from Metromotion Controls. This work involved facilitating the site power upgrade; building services and process power distribution; factory-wide automation integration, including process, packaging and site services; and commissioning and ongoing support both on-site and remotely.
Metromotion Controls has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Rockwell Automation and NHP Electrical Engineering Products (NHP) and had no hesitation in calling on them to provide the control and automation technologies required at the plant.
According to Andrew Sprigg, control systems engineer at Metromotion Controls, “Rockwell Automation is the automation vendor of choice for Chobani, so by having one brand for standardisation, maintenance, service and support is streamlined for the plant.
“The cooperation between Rockwell Automation, NHP, Metromotion and Chobani has worked really well and this good working relationship has helped everything to flow smoothly,” he said.
Driving production efficiencies
The yoghurt production process is fully automated using the latest control and automation technologies from Rockwell Automation. Ethernet/IP is used as the communications protocol, with all devices connected via the one network.
The architecture at the plant has been designed so that five independent ControlLogix controllers are used for a specific process role such as raw milk processing, pasteurising, cleaning in place (CIP), fermentation and filling. Each part of the process is further broken down into modular skids. A control panel with FLEX I/O communicates the process information back to the ControlLogix controller over Ethernet. This provides the capability for remote access diagnostics of equipment easily over the Ethernet network. The motor control meanwhile utilises PowerFlex drives from Rockwell Automation that are located in a centralised motor control centre and communicate over the Ethernet network.
“These control and automation technologies provide access to remote diagnostics and simplified programming. Another feature of the Rockwell Automation solution is that it is very easy to upgrade the existing system using the same architecture and stock that is readily available in Australia,” explained Sprigg.
The new manufacturing plant meets all of Chobani’s manufacturing requirements and is achieving operational efficiencies. As the company’s product range grows, Metromotion Controls has been instrumental in providing automation and process control solutions to meet these changing requirements.
“Chobani is undergoing new product development work which needs new controls and new processes, which has been a key focus for us as well as maintaining the plant,” said Sprigg.
Online tools reduce engineering time
As Chobani continues to automate both new and existing processes at the plant, reducing engineering time is imperative. The Rockwell Automation products and services help to make commissioning straightforward and in most cases seamless.
Minimising downtime is also of critical importance to Chobani, as yoghurt manufacturing is a continuous process. If that process was to be affected by unplanned downtime, the whole production process would halt and the plant would need to be cleaned and then restarted.
The Rockwell Automation solution provides a web interface with diagnostics, which allows operators remote access to the system. This makes it easy to find diagnostic information and identify things that may need attention.
“The biggest help to Chobani to reduce downtime during the infancy of the plant was the ability for us to quickly gain remote access to any device and find detailed information fast, which in turn allowed us to reduce downtime,” said Sprigg.
Spares, service and support at hand
To help keep yoghurt production flowing, Chobani has a comprehensive services agreement in place with Rockwell Automation and NHP that is designed to minimise downtime and maximise reliability through effective asset management.
In addition to this assurance agreement, Chobani also has a parts management agreement which provides spare parts on-site so that the plant can be up and running again in the event of unscheduled downtime.
Chobani crafts real yoghurt
In the words of Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani, “When it’s authentic, when it’s real, you don’t have to say too much about it.” The worldwide demand for Chobani yoghurt speaks for itself and, thanks to the new state-of-the art manufacturing plant, the company can now meet its mission to make high-quality, great-tasting yoghurt available to the masses in Australia and around the world.
“We have developed a relationship with both Rockwell Automation and NHP based on the in-depth understanding of the needs of the plant, our plant primarily being a facility that uses a ‘through process’ as opposed to a ‘batching process’ and this presents some challenges in relation to response time when issues arise that could potentially shut down a production line,” said Roger Forster, reliability manager, Chobani.
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