Custom Control’s experience in food processing includes human and pet food control systems. We have designed entire systems from the ground up and we’ve modified existing plants to include new processes or improve existing ones.
The key to our success in this industry is our ability to adapt to the customer’s needs while still offering our experience and expertise. Many food processing companies have unique methods that they want to keep in place. We respect that knowledge and work our systems around those methods instead of attempting to make them conform to our system.
The following is a list of key systems we have designed, manufactured, programmed, and commissioned for various food processing companies:
We have designed operator interface systems that encompass the entire plant. These interfaces are capable of showing any portion of the processing system so operators, and management, can view the entire process from a single station. Based on security, the user is shown and can control, the equipment and information pertinent to his/her position.
Providing a single application for the entire plant allows for a common interface and easier maintenance. It also means if a section of the network goes down or there’s a fatal machine error, the other stations can be used to continue production. The distributed design means you can take down any one part and keep the rest running.
Most companies do not want their corporate and control system networks to be entwined. However, the need for information sharing between the two is growing exponentially and those traditional lines of demarcation are blurring.
Custom Control has designed stand alone domains that house all the control system communications and we’ve designed integrated control systems that blend with corporate networks. In either method, we take design requirements for throughput, redundancy, and expense into consideration and present the best solution for the particular project and customer.
We at Custom Control have designed and implemented automated control for several material grinding systems. These systems included source and destination selection, automatic path selection based on time and/or level, load monitoring control, and safety interlocking.
By freeing operators from constantly changing product selection in the grinding process, they were able to increase productivity and reduce lost product based on human error. The systems optimize large motor usage and offer a financial return in power consumption and waste as well. Safety programming minimizes damage from many dangerous circumstances, such as fire, current overloading, and personnel oversights of safety precautions.
Temperature control, timing, and monitoring can all be automated in a typical cooking or drying application. Either working with oven specific manufacturers or directly managing the field devices, Custom Control can deliver this added functionality.
We have experience in controlling extruders, dryers, and furnaces as part of an overall control system. The automated control ensures repeatability in the end result and frees the operator from “babysitting” the cooking/drying process.
Mixing ingredients is an essential part of most food processing systems. Errors in these steps often result in lost product and time costing your company money. By automating the batching and/or blending process you can minimize both losses and ensure a consistent product.
Custom Control has experience in batching and blending various food processing techniques and can bring that experience to you. Utilizing PID loops, VFD control, micro ingredient addition, liquid and solid proportion control, and weigh mixing will give your system the control to provide the highest quality product with the minimal amount of dedicated resources. The savings in lost product, wasted raw ingredients, and lost manpower will offer a speedy return on investment.
Repeatability in food processing is not only a desire, but a requirement by today’s customers. Quality control teams ensure the product going out the door meets those requirements. However, the key to repeatability is the ability to save and recall operation parameters during processing. By pulling up information on previous runs of the same product, the operators have a firm foundation on future runs. Having a starting point based on previous successful runs reduces the start-up time, adjustments, and product deviations that cost you money.
Custom Control can work with you and your operators to create an automated recipe storage and retrieval system to provide this information. Using labeling already in your plant will give operators a common reference so training and implementation are as simple as possible. Working together, we will devise a list of parameters to store and retrieve.
Our systems can be configured to provide whatever level of interaction is necessary from all levels of operations. Some systems allow the operators to take snapshots of the running system while it is at optimal operation and store that information. Other systems only allow management or quality control to change these values so operators must adhere to the configured parameters. Usually, the systems are a combination of both of these methods along with other unique requirements. No matter how you want to implement your recipe system, Custom Control can help.
Metering the amount of material entering into any process is critical for several reasons including proper blending, proper cooking, and adhering to equipment limitations. Solid materials are often measured by weight while liquids are measured by flow rates. There are many solutions for monitoring and controlling flow rate, but solid materials are much more limited. Loss-in-weigh systems monitor constant weight changes in a known environment and derive a flow rate in weight per time.
Custom Control can use this information in the automation of your food processing to control variables and provide information for real time and historical tracking. Typical examples are adjusting a feeder to a desired setpoint and adjusting additives based on real time rates.
Today’s technology allows us to easily and affordably track and identify products and materials from receiving to shipping. From simple barcoding to the modern RFID tags, Custom Control can design and implement a system for you to track and record that information.
Barcoding is a simple and cost effective way of assigning a number or pattern to a product. This barcode can be printed using affordable printers and read using affordable and readily available scanners. The complexity lies in storing that information in a common location (typically a SQL database) and then retrieving it as necessary. The flexibility lies in the database structure and can be modified without affecting the barcode itself. The largest restrictions are that only that pattern can be stored in a barcode and the barcode must be fully visible for it to be scanned properly.
RFID (radio frequency identification) offers a more complex method of storing and retrieving information. The devices are typically small and can store various details based on the clients needs. Currently, the equipment needed to generate and read RFID tags are more expensive than most barcode equipment. Tracking information is still stored in a common location (SQL database), but much more information can be stored to and retrieved from the RFID tag itself. Scanners for RFID tags are capable of reading and writing the tags based on proximity, not visibility. The flexibility lies in the amount and type of information that can be stored on the tag itself and the fact that the tag can be read regardless of visibility. The largest restrictions are modifying the data structure in a tag without affecting existing tags (since that information is stored on the tag and not in the database they have to be rescanned to receive the information) and cost, although cost is quickly coming down.