Dewlay Cheesemakers commissioned Tritec Developments to develop and supply an automation system for their production facility.
Garstang-based Dewlay Cheesemakers has earned a reputation for delivering award winning Lancashire cheese, and their recently developed Red Leicester, Caerphilly, Cheshire and Derby cheeses won prizes at the 2018 International Cheese & Dairy Awards. The company is committed to growth through delivering new outstanding cheeses; the challenge being to introduce new varieties while continuing to deliver exceptional quality and consistency.
Award winning traditional cheesemaking relies on a detailed understanding of the mechanisms governing quality changes in the curd as it is processed in large batches. Milk composition and bacterial activity is influenced by several environmental conditions such as weather patterns and seasons, feedstock, plus a cow’s genetics and physiological make up. As a result, producing consistent high-quality dairy products given all the variables, is the biggest challenge for Dewlay’s expert cheesemakers.
As Richard Jones, Operations Director at Dewlay explained: “We have many cheese vats at different stages of the production cycle, following individual recipes. Our cheesemakers had been doing their best to keep track of timing and procedures manually for all the active vats by relying on their memory, continuously looking at the clock and making notes. However, this approach is not optimal and doesn’t support continuing growth.”
“We need to be able to address this variability by having access to key process parameters and curd quality attributes, as well as by responding quickly to optimise the reactions taking place within the vats.”
Tritec’s PLC Control System Solution
To address these issues and ensure consistent quality throughout the year, Dewlay decided to support its cheesemakers with an automated control system. They needed a responsive but easy to use automation platform, which allowed for the subtleties of the cheesemaking process to be retained while introducing the right adjustments to deliver a consistent end-result. One that would help them to monitor the vats by providing live, accurate, actionable insight, without limiting the ability of cheesemakers to intervene and modify the curd production process.
Dewlay initially had Tritec Developments recommended to them by another North-West industrial business who had worked with us previously. Dewlay made contact and discussed what was needed at an initial meeting. We helped refine their requirements, using our experience in control systems engineering to suggests appropriate options and solutions, prior to producing a competitive quote.
Tritec then provided the hardware and software for the final system, to produce an advanced tracking and monitoring solution which helped supervise and manage the individual processes.
The primary interface is a Mitsubishi Electric GOT2000 Human-Machine Interface (HMI). This touch-screen operator terminal was networked to a MELSEC iQ-F Series programmable logic controller (PLC), a market leading solution which gives a very high performance. The solution was integrated using the MELSOFT iQ Works project management software.
This was not a straightforward automation solution, but required listening and learning to produce an implementation mindful of the cheesemaking art. The application collects the process data from existing in-line sensors measuring temperature, indirectly monitoring coagulation and syneresis, so determining the progress within the cheese vats. In addition, the entire system interfaced with a safety system which was already present in the factory.
The HMI gives an instant visual status of the key process data and recipe stage, allowing these key process parameters to be monitored simultaneously across multiple batches. It also enables them to be modified promptly when necessary, giving the fine control needed by the expert cheesemakers.
Our flexible approach meant we were able to install the system between production shifts, minimising the impact on Dewlay’s production, and allowing the existing manual process to continue in parallel with the new automated system. This also allowed the cheesemakers time to learn the system and acquire confidence that it met their requirements.
Tritec Developments worked closely with us to add all the relevant information on the cheesemaking process into its project management software and was able to test the software and its corresponding hardware off-line and then quickly refine the programme on-line.”Richard Jones, Operations Director, Dewlay Cheesemakers
Dewlay’s cheesemakers can now monitor the different cheese vats simultaneously, receive alarms as well as adjust the processes parameters in real-time and according to their expertise.
The control system quickly fulfilled Dewlay’s expectations by ensuring flexible operation and simple process tracking. It has allowed Dewlay to expand by increasing the number of cheese vats that can be monitored as well as the number of possible recipes in use. This allows existing products to be produced more efficiently, alongside perfecting new ones that can then be added to the overall production schedule. The upgrades also resulted in an increase in productivity and overall efficiency.
Thanks to our strong partnerships with system integrators such as Tritec Developments our cutting-edge technologies provide futureproof solutions that will help keep food producers competitive for years to come.Richard Lawton, Account Manager at Mitsubishi Electric