PLC: The Heart of Automation

| Chris Williams


Free Plant Personnel from Manual Processes

A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) has not only changed the way assembly lines are controlled and sequenced, but they’ve also made the manufacturing process much more efficient. The PLC sits at the heart of automation and is a key delivery component at Pennant Ingredients.

Pennant IngredientsRecently, one of our customers, Pennant Ingredients, gave us the opportunity to share with you our Allen-Bradley® Rockwell Automation® system, in action, in their plant. A large baked goods supplier for the foodservice and retail markets operating in the US, Pennant Ingredients:

  • Began in 1938 and is a family-owned company
  • Produces bakery mixes such as doughnuts, cake mixes, and muffins for food service, restaurants, and supermarket chains

Back in the 1930s, when Pennant Ingredients got started, most of the processes were done manually by different operators. And what this would occasionally lead to was inconsistencies in the product. With the advent of more advanced automation technology, we’ve gone from basic relay-based controls that had a lot of manual intervention, to fully automated systems that we see in plants like Pennant today. Automation is better for manufacturers because it leads to more consistent product outputs, more efficient production, and a safer workplace for the employees. My job with Horizon Solutions is to work with Pennant Ingredients to identify what applications they need and to figure out the best products and solutions to help them improve their workplace.

A PLC is a special type of computer we use in Automation Systems. This PLC is responsible for controlling most of the plant functions, such as starting and stopping motors, opening and closing valves, controlling mixing operations, and alerting the operators if manual intervention is needed.

Programmable Logic Controller PLCThe Hub of Operations

The computer screens allow the operator to see what is going on throughout the entire plant and help maintain a production schedule. They alert the operator if manual intervention is needed and they can be described as the hub of the entire plant operation.

The Manufacturing Process

First, the operator will receive a production schedule for the day. This has the recipes for what is to be made for the day and how much is to be made, as well as quantities of ingredients for each recipe. Ingredients are then added into the batch in two different ways. First, from the silos – bulk flour and sugar are added to the hoppers and measured for the appropriate weight for the recipes. Then, smaller quantity ingredients are premeasured and staged on pallets until the operators are prompted to add them. Bulk and premeasured ingredients are transferred to the blender, where they are mixed together to achieve uniform consistency. After the dry ingredients are blended, any oils are automatically dispensed into the blender and the blender continues to mix the oil with the dry ingredients. Once the blending is complete and the appropriate consistency is achieved, the batch is dropped into the packaging bin or holding container. The batch is dispensed out at specific weights such as 30- and 50-pound bags to be packaged. Samples are taken from every batch and tested for moisture content, color, and consistency in the Pennant Ingredients test kitchen. The Allen-Bradley Rockwell Automation system automatically tracks how the ingredients move through the plant and where they originated from.

We are problem solvers, we take the latest technology and expertise and put it together to provide full automation solutions for our customers. For each customer we serve, we approach each engagement from the customers' perspective. We always strive to deliver exceptional value with solutions that help you become more efficient, productive, profitable, and safer. THANK YOU, Pennant Ingredients, for your continued support!