A large hog operation needed to meet the challenge of automation so they could fulfill stringent requirements of accuracy and record keeping. The added twist? The customer wanted to start small with one scale, but use a control system that could later be expanded for additional scales. For the solution, they turned to APEC's BatchBox to help them succeed currently as well as far into the future.
This case study lays out their challenge, the solution, and the results they got in the end.
The Challenge for Accuracy
A heavy hitter in the animal feed industry, hog operation decided it was time to manufacture their own feed. Because doing so meant they needed to meet rigorous precision and record-keeping standards, they needed an easy automatic way to introduce micro-ingredients into their process.
In the future, this manufacturer has plans to automate the rest of the feed manufacturing plant, but since doing so first with only micro ingredients represents the best return on their investment and also satisfies their requirements for accuracy and record keeping, they decided to start with this area of focus for now.
The BatchBox Solution
APEC’s, our dynamic BatchBox is an industry-specific, computer-based batch control system that features an open architecture structure. This allows for ease of integration with most brands of scale instruments in processing. It is capable of the following practices:
- Mixer control
- Metered liquids
- Speed control for ingredient feeders
- Inventory management
- On-screen graphics
- Ethernet communications directly to management computers
- Hand-add verification
There is no need for custom programming since BatchBox was designed to be intuitive and easily navigated. It was developed to adapt to the future in a way that other systems can’t.
Since the hog operation’s new automatic system would need to control just one scale in the beginning and then be later expanded to control other scales in the future, they selected the APEC BatchBox as the best control system solution for their application.
The BatchBox is designed to allow the hog operation to easily expand the system at a later date. This controller integrates with the hog operation’s existing load cells and scale instrument (in most cases). Upon setup, the controller performs an interview process by asking a series of simple questions. When answered, the screens automatically configure to the hog operation’s system. When the system changes or updates in the future, the interview process is performed again and the system reconfigures itself to match the new changes.
The APEC BatchBox was connected to the hog operation’s micro ingredient scale by a local electrician. Then, with assistance from APEC over the phone, the hog operation’s personnel staff started up the system themselves, without the need for a costly on-sight visit by a technician.
In the future, when the system needs to be changed to add a scale, ingredient feeder, or mixer, the system will already be ready for the added changes.
The Successful Results
The new, automated system gives hog operation the capability to automatically produce and track their formulas, including the unlimited storage of recipes and ingredients. The system is also able to produce production reports for each batch that is time-and-date stamped. This satisfies the hog operation’s need for meeting strict record-keeping requirements.
When it comes to batching, weighing, and measuring, accuracy is key. Here is a case study on how an eastern Michigan manufacturer of automotive sealing components and reinforcements worked with APEC to find a more accurate, automated ingredient control system to solve their problems with inaccuracy of both powder and bulk solids.
A Manufacturer’s Problem
Though precision is essential to any operation, this manufacturer had been doing their batching, weighing, and measuring of both powder and bulk solids all manually. Since there is and has always been a high amount of human error associated with doing these processes by hand, this manufacturer became keenly interested in automation. Their goals were to reduce waste, discontinue poor housekeeping, and lower the high labor costs due to these two issues.
The Michigan manufacturer had previously done business with APEC and was pleased with the results so they approached APEC again with an idea for a custom-designed automated ingredient and control system. APEC’s engineers designed exactly what was needed, complete with controls and an operator interface. The automated system and controls included a batching station, a mixing station, and three transfer stations. This solution also provides reports on ingredients, formulas, inventories, and production.
The Final Results
The new system allowed the manufacturer to reduce the undue waste from human error and solve the issues of poor housekeeping. In addition, since the new system no longer requires human intervention, the manufacturing company was able to reassign their personnel to other areas and ultimately reduce labor costs.
The eastern Michigan manufacturer of automotive sealing components and reinforcements was pleased with APEC’s in-house engineering, custom fabrication, and field services, all working together to make the switch from manual processing to automated processing a quick, seamless transition. Our client was very satisfied with these results.
Ingredient Automation and Integrated Batch Control System
At APEC, we understand that your ingredient needs are constantly evolving and that’s exactly why we’ve designed our automation and control system with off-the-shelf industrial PCL components and an open architecture in order to easily allow for future modifications.
Our ingredient automation system allows the control system to measure the proper amount of ingredients into each scale and to ensure the material is transferred to the mixing operation properly.
Inventory is a crucial element of your operation so our barcode scanning and lot tracking always lets you know the ingredients you have on hand as well as keeping track of the products you’ve already produced.
We don’t believe in unnecessary complications, and our BatchBox Control System proves it. In order to save you much time, money, and frustration in your processing, we have designed a system that is easy to use, doesn’t require programming, offers on-screen diagnostics, and uses an efficient operating system. If your system changes down the road, this system can be quickly reprogrammed with new information gathered from a series of simple questions.
Another major benefit of this system is how easily it integrates with different equipment, such as your:
- Mixer control
- Liquid meter
- Speed control
- Ingredient feeder
- Inventory management
- And more
This unique, industry-specific process was designed to be intuitive and easily navigated. Plus, our expert implementation team is dedicated to get you up and running fast.
For more information on APEC’s ingredient automation system or BatchBox control system, contact us today!
Here are two case studies in which operations needed to expand and manufacturing capabilities needed to be increased along with how the APEC Premix System gave these companies the capability to meet their goals.
Multinational Premix Company
A premix company wanted to expand their operations in North America and needed to greatly increase their manufacturing capabilities at three locations. Management decided that the new system should be fully automated with front-to-back inventory control. Since their product would be distributed to several different feed manufacturers, they needed to track each ingredient that went into their products, as well as each finished good that was produced.
The design-build engineering firm the premix company hired to do their systems approached APEC to see what we could offer them in equipment and controls. They knew our reputation of quality premix systems and were looking for a one source answer for their project.
We worked with both the premix company and the contractor’s engineering staff to develop specifications and an implementation schedule. APEC designed a system that included barcode scanning for ingredients so they could be tracked within the plant, all the way through the process, and to their final finished packaging. The system utilized off-the-shelf components and a software package that can be easily modified as the client’s needs change.
The APEC Premix System gave the customer the capability to automatically produce and track their formulas. The system also keeps track of the quality control functions that are used for both incoming ingredients and finished packages. Since the system is completely automated, the needs for accuracy, record keeping, and ingredient tracking are easily accomplished with reports that are generated by the control system.
A manufacturer of vitamin and mineral premixes formed a partnership with a major pharmaceutical company in Mexico. The success of the joint venture quickly increased the demand for their products along with the number of products offered. The new partnership soon expressed a desire to have improved recording keeping and ingredient tracking. These capabilities were not possible under their current system due to the manual aspect of the machinery.
They also needed the new equipment installed without interrupting production.
The partnership approached APEC with their plan to improve their premix process. APEC’s engineering staff worked with the ownership team to develop a horizontally oriented system composed of a completely automated premix system. This system included 30 ingredient bins, material handling conveyors, three scales, one mixer, and two packaging lines to allow for proper tracking and record keeping.
The major scales, minor scales, micro scales, and support structures were manufactured at APEC with the large carrier bins being manufactured locally (based on APEC’s designs). This was part of a plan to save the partnership’s money on freight and also to assist in facilitating a quick and seamless installation.
To avoid any interruptions in production, the system was installed in a custom-designed warehouse that was being ordered and constructed while APEC designed and assembled the equipment and control systems.
The APEC system gave the client the capability to formulate, mix, package, and track both large and small bags of premix and concentrate. Due to complete automation, the needs for accuracy, record keeping, and ingredient tracking were easily met with the reports generated by the APEC control system.
The capacity of the APEC system easily met the client’s needs on a single shift basis. As the company grows, they are able to easily increase production by adding shifts.
The Advantages of the APEC Horizontal Ribbon Mixer
APEC’s in-house engineers and fabricators have successfully designed an innovative, high-quality horizontal ribbon mixer that can be utilized in the processing of animal feed, pet food, and other products.
Taking great pride in our equipment’s capabilities, we have confidence that our horizontal ribbon mixer will give your processing plant the advantage it needs.
Case Study: From Manual Labor to Automation
From manual to automatic, here is how the needs of a Michigan automotive sealing component and reinforcement company were met when APEC designed and manufactured automation equipment for them.
The client, an eastern Michigan manufacturer of automotive sealing components and reinforcements, had been processing their products completely by hand. Because of this, their batching, weighing, and measuring system was not very accurate or optimal. In addition, this manufacturing process led to excess waste, poor housekeeping, high labor costs, and was prone to human error.
A Pet Food Company Upgrades to APEC's Mistcoater
Here’s why a pet food company decided to upgrade from a tumble drum coater to APEC's Mistcoater Liquid Applicator, and the successful outcome of making the change.
To apply both fat and flavors to their pet food, our pet food client had been using a traditional tumble drum coater for many years. However, this equipment simply wasn’t up for the task and also posed a few safety risks.
Because of the way tumble drum coaters work, suspended solids clogged the spray nozzles. This caused poor uniformity of coatings. Also, due to the excessive backpressure, premature failure of pumps and valves were a common occurrence. To remedy this problem, the nozzles needed to be cleaned and serviced often.
As far as safety went, the open-ended drums created a slipping hazard from the escaped atomized liquid. Constant cleanup of the surrounding area was needed. When it came to cleaning the inside of the drum, its excessive length and lack of easy access meant a person needed to actually go inside the drum to be able to properly clean it. This practice can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.
Dealing with these serious issues resulted in high labor costs, too much down time on the line, and the potential for a work-related accident.
Animal Feed Case Study: Horse, Poultry, and Aqua
When it comes to solving problems for the animal feed industry, APEC has been developing solutions for over 25 years. Our systems deliver constant cost-cutting productivity, intuitive monitoring, reductions in labor and error, and higher overall quality. We are honored that many of our clients come back to us again and again for help with their various processing problems, and that we are able to offer superior solutions.
Here are three cases in point.
A horse feed manufacturer lost a large horse breeding customer due to problems with the manufactured horse feed. The horse feed contained flaked products, grains, and pellets with a molasses coating.
The problem with the horse feed was breakage and uniformity problems. The customer required a uniform texture that had been unachievable due to the turbulent mixing of the manufacturer’s prior equipment.