A glance at the refrigerated section in the supermarket reveals various types of cheese, milk, and yogurt that are nicely arranged but packed very closely together on the shelves. For their manufacturers to have long-term success on the market, the price, quality, and variety of the products offered must be attractive. The use of automated vats allows milk and cheese processing companies to standardize their production processes and achieve a consistently high product quality.
Whether it’s cheese, yogurt, or quark, without dairy products our home refrigerators would probably be only half as full. Dairies and cheese factories work tirelessly to make these products available to us consumers in sufficient quantities and at optimal quality, and they are always on the lookout for new technologies. Professional consulting, planning, upgrades, and expansions are only a small part of the optimization process. But how can cheese factories and dairies be better supported, other than with services? The answer lies in fundamentally optimizing the “heart” of dairy product manufacturing – the vat. Automating this essential component of milk and cheese production makes it possible to produce even more flexibly and efficiently and achieve a greater competitive edge.
Focus on customers’ needs
The key advantages of the vat are that it can be individually tailored to customers’ needs and that it serves as a vat and pasteurizer in one. It even supports sustainability, since the use of a plate heat exchanger makes it possible to operate the vat with renewable energy, for example in the form of a hot water treatment using solar technology or wood chip heating.
A suitably automated vat not only permits integrated recipe management, but also enables remote access and machine operation via a website or cloud platform. By selecting the right automation components, it’s possible to meet the requirements for a flexible, high-quality solution that is also cost-effective.
Automation for top quality
For automation tasks, I recommend the compact Simatic S7-1200 Controller with integrated communication and technology functions, such as cloud connectivity. This controller can be optimally and individually adapted to requirements and also has the advantage of fast and easy access by remote maintenance. This is an extremely important criterion for companies in the food and beverage industry, and it enables them to respond to problems quickly.
Integrated in the control panel, Simatic S7-1200 takes charge of important tasks in the manufacturing process. The controller processes relevant data from the production process, such as temperature, agitation speed, direction and duration of rotation, and the dispensing of ingredients. All the data can be stored and subsequently displayed in the batch protocol or sent to a cloud. This ensures that recipes and batch data are documented and guarantees excellent product quality that is reproducible.
In addition, the Simatic S7-1200 Controller reliably controls the vat’s important hardware components, such as the circulation pump that’s required, for example, for circulating milk. The controller also serves to process values from the pressure sensor and initiates appropriate steps to prevent a pressure drop in the vat. Last but not least, Simatic S7-1200 is also involved in the most critical part of the dairy product manufacturing process – namely, control of the agitator motor, especially the direction and duration of movement of the swiveling motor arm in the vat, which is key to the optimal quality of the end product.
Simple visualization and reliable remote access
High-performance Simatic Panel PCs at the vats also ensure cost-effective implementation of the desired HMI tasks. They serve as a preconfigured, complete turnkey solution comprising an industrial PC and a rugged, single-touch display and are easy to integrate thanks to passive cooling.
The PC-based control and monitoring solution that includes the WinCC Advanced Runtime software contains the central HMI components for visualization and reporting. Using the “WinCC Sm@rt Server” option, it’s possible to remotely access the plant so that the processes can also be controlled and monitored via a cellphone or a PC in the corporate network during production.
100 recipes with up to 100 process steps
WinCC Runtime Advanced offers much more than just visualization and remote access. The HMI software also includes recipe management in the standard configuration. Recipe management permits the storage and management of specific recipes for different products, each of which can be comprised of up to 100 individual process parameters that are appropriately defined. Parameters are stored for each process step – including, for example, process name, temperature, duration of agitation, resting period, agitation speed, and the type and amounts of ingredients. The parameterization of up to 100 recipes makes it possible to standardize and automate the manufacturing process in order to produce consistent products on a very high level. Consequently, automated vats are a key competitive advantage when it comes to offering (dairy) products of the highest quality and at an attractive price that stand out from the mass of dairy products in the refrigerated section!