Data Visibility Increases Pastry Maker's Production


April 1, 2014

Country Maid is a producer of breakfast and dessert pastry products in West Bend, Iowa. It sells its products through group fundraisers nationwide.

One of the company's closely monitored key performance indicators (KPIs) is the amount of labor required to produce each pastry unit. Given that this process at Country Maid has primarily been a manual operation, the group recognized that this was one KPI that could see significant improvements with the implementation of modern automation technology and data acquisition equipment.

Like any other annual production facility, manufacturing accuracy and speed were two attributes that were difficult for Country Maid to achieve, especially at the same time. Even with a highly skilled work force, producing at optimum levels can be extremely difficult for manual production facilities.

With the addition of a production line and the automation of existing production areas, Country Maid more than doubled the production capacity of its facility. Also, by automating the ingredient loading, batching and transfer systems, Country Maid is now able to keep direct labor costs at a minimum while significantly improving throughput and lowering the amount of labor needed for each pastry produced.

They immediately noticed effects of the newly installed automation technology (which included Allen-Bradley hardware and PlantPAx software from Rockwell Automation) included a decrease in mix times by 23 percent and an increase in line speeds by 14 percent.

With the ability to reduce mix times so significantly and process batches more quickly, Country Maid was also able to decrease the overall size of the new mixer it was installing, saving enough money on equipment costs alone to cover the entire cost of the automation upgrade.

Operational information gathering provided by the new data acquisition system and historian further allowed the company to fine-tune its production processes, squeezing out every bit of production available. Plus, with accurate trending and reporting tools, the organization has been able to monitor system, personnel and equipment performance much more closely.

For example, Country Maid was able to adjust to the effects of winter weather on the ingredients used and batches produced, which are affected by storage temperature and moisture levels. Tracking this information allowed the new production system to adjust for these variances and maintain high levels of consistency in its products - something that Country Maid had little control over prior to installing the new technology.