From yoghurt concept to running a fully operational plant in just eight months

Clipsal - by Schneider Electric
Friday, 16 December, 2011

Process Partners teamed up with Schneider Electric to set up manufacturing plant for yoghurt company five:am in just eight months.

Entrepreneur David Prior has a unique take on the adage ‘make the most out of your day’. Having started his day at five o’clock in the morning for over a decade, Prior treasures this moment each morning where he feels he can pause and create his day. It was this philosophy that fuelled Prior to capture this ‘five:am-ness’ and bottle it.

Prior’s vision was to produce a high-end organic yoghurt under the business name five:am. He also wanted to ensure every aspect of five:am’s production and operation processes was environmentally sustainable. In June 2010, five:am’s organic yoghurt dream came one step closer after the company secured an opportunity to provide a leading Australian supermarket with product from March 2011.

Tight time frame

The significant challenge for five:am was the tight time frame to set up the manufacturing plant, commence production and get product on the supermarket shelves.

“When the contract was signed to produce and distribute our yoghurt within an eight-month time frame, all we had was a 35,000 square foot site located just south of Melbourne, Victoria,” explained Prior. “Our site had no manufacturing system in place, inadequate airflow and water supply, and none of the technology needed to produce organic yoghurt.”

Despite the time frame, five:am wanted to set up a sophisticated and automated manufacturing facility that would not only allow them to produce its organic yoghurt safely and efficiently, but at the same time offer the flexibility needed for future business endeavours. They also needed to ensure the plant would allow them to make the highest possible quality product.

“To do this, we needed a plant far more sophisticated than other start-ups. Flexibility in our plant is incredibly important because it means we can launch new products and expand our offering,” explained Prior.

Partnering for success

In May 2010, five:am engaged Process Partners, a specialist dairy engineering and process improvement group, to help manage and execute the project. Process Partners’ extensive experience in the dairy process, and particularly yoghurt, provided Prior with the level of skill needed to pull off the challenging project.

five:am’s  sophisticated and automated manufacturing facility.

Process Partners conducted a detailed audit of five:am’s requirements, taking into account its need to produce more variations of the product than what was initially required to meet its March 2011 distribution deadline. From this, Process Partners developed a manufacturing strategy for the plant and worked with five:am to amend and evolve the strategy based on its budget and business objectives. A crucial element of the plant design and strategy proposed by Process Partners was its project partnership approach with Schneider Electric to provide a full suite of automation and control technology.

“Schneider Electric’s capabilities and intelligent product range within this area made them the natural vendor to partner with to address the challenges of the project,” explained Michael Francis, Director, Partner Partners.

“Schneider Electric had assembled a suite of efficient devices that automate and optimise production processes to help food and beverage manufacturers reduce inefficiencies and streamline the entire manufacturing process.”

Configuring five:am’s manufacturing plant

Schneider Electric was selected by Process Partners as its turnkey offering could deliver a whole solution to meet all of five:am’s needs. The most significant element of Schneider Electric’s offering was that its automation technologies could be configured off-site and installed quickly on-site, which meant the design and supply of technology could happen in tandem. This was particularly important given the short project time frame.

“We needed a supplier that could provide everything as we didn’t have the time to engage and manage multiple different vendors. Schneider Electric met all our needs from what we wanted from a supplier. They could provide what we needed and this included parts - sometimes at a day’s notice,” commented Francis.

“Schneider Electric’s products are open and vendor agnostic, meaning they can easily be integrated and adapted with other technologies. They also have functional touch screens complete with visual applications and local integrator support, so are very easy to use and operate,” said Francis.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure architecture was leveraged to provide an integrated solution comprising automation and power technologies. The suite of solutions sourced from Schneider Electric included an integrated SCADA package and motor control solutions to ensure motors and drives run in the most efficient way possible. The SCADA package was implemented to provide operators with complete visibility of plant operations.

“Inefficiencies, such as motors running unnecessarily when systems malfunction, can easily be identified through the SCADA system deployed in five:am’s plant. This insight is most valuable when fed into the SCADA management system that presents information in an easy-to-digest dashboard. It allows plant managers to have complete visibility of the plant systems and identifies and isolates problems before they have an impact on the product,” explained Francis.

Product concept to reality

Through working with Process Partners and using Schneider Electric’s solutions, five:am was able to go from product concept to running a fully operational plant in just eight months. In March 2011, five:am’s first products were distributed and sold throughout one of Australia’s leading supermarkets.

After securing a contract to supply a leading Australian supermarket with its yet-to-be-produced organic yoghurt, five:am had a tight time frame to make its product concept a reality. Its success was dependent on the specialist vendors it partnered with to make this happen - Process Partners and Schneider Electric. Schneider Electric provided a full suite of sophisticated automation and control technology so the product could be manufactured as quickly and efficiently as possible. In March 2011, five:am’s first products were distributed.

“The time taken from ordering components to delivery was just a matter of weeks. Schneider Electric was the only organisation that could meet this time frame,” said Francis. “The deployment of the SCADA package was very quick as the solution could be configured off-site and then downloaded at the plant.”

The complete plant visualisation achieved through Schneider Electric’s SCADA package means the facility can be run from one interface and by just one or two operators. The sophistication of the automation technologies installed in five:am’s plant is not typical for plants of this size. It contains advanced technologies such as automated cleaning so it can be routinely cleaned when needed with minimal operator involvement.

Complete plant visualisation using Schneider Electric’s SCADA package

Complete plant visualisation using Schneider Electric’s SCADA package.

“Now five:am has one interface for the whole plant - this gives visualisation of everything such as batch, recipes, mixing, pasteurising and fermenting,” explained Francis.

“The automation technologies from Schneider Electric helped us achieve sustainable manufacturing processes by reducing wastage and ensuring a smooth running of the plant, enabling significant time savings from not having to manually operate and clean machines,” added Prior.

“Thanks to Schneider Electric and Process Partners, we have a sophisticated, efficient and extremely scalable manufacturing site that will allow us to expand to keep up with customer demand. The automation technologies allow us to easily roll out new product lines and ramp up production as we look to explore the opportunities in markets overseas,” concluded Prior.

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