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The installation of the new drives, which was carried out by Danfoss business partner PNP Motion Controls, was executed in multiple phases over a period of twelve months to avoid loss of production.
The Kraft Heinz production facility in Wigan is the largest food processing plant in Europe and has 17 filling lines, a dedicated can-making factory, its own distribution centre, world-class laboratories and a pilot plant. The site employs 1,600 personnel and has an annual production volume of 1.34 billion cans of food. At the heart of the plant is an extensive network of conveyors and fillers that must operate efficiently and dependably 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, if downtime and production losses are to be avoided.
When some of the lines were installed almost two decades ago, control for the motors driving these conveyors was provided by Danfoss VLT® 5000 series variable speed drives which have proved to be reliable throughout their many years of service. Recently however, the drives began to show a small but noticeable deterioration, as is characteristic of all electronic equipment of this age.
This prompted the engineers at Kraft Heinz to consider whether the drives should be replaced with modern types that, thanks to progress in electronics technology, offer better reliability than their older counterparts could achieve even when new.
The idea of replacing the old drives was made even more attractive by the knowledge that the new ones would also offer enhanced efficiency and would, therefore, provide useful energy savings.
With all of this in mind, the decision was taken to go ahead with the drive replacement project, but the work was not without its challenges. An essential requirement, for example, was that the productivity of the plant must not be compromised.
This meant that it would not be feasible to replace all of the drives as a single operation. Instead Pete Brocklehurst, a Director of PnP Motion Controls, worked closely with Kraft Heinz to devise a schedule that would allow the new drives to be installed during plant shutdown periods for routine cleaning. A few drives would be replaced during each scheduled shutdown, with the complete project spanning a year.
All of the old drives were mounted in control panels located in a control room, and it was decided that the new drives should be installed in the existing panels. Since the new drives were smaller, there was no space problem but the fixing arrangements were different. This challenge was easily overcome by using the conversion backplates supplied by Danfoss for just this purpose.
Another challenge was ensuring that the new drives were set up correctly, especially as the time available for installing and testing them was so limited. Once again, however, a convenient and effective solution was available. The settings from the old drives could easily be downloaded to a PC and, after processing with Danfoss conversion software, they were ready to be uploaded into the new drives. Not only was this arrangement quick and convenient, it also eliminated the possibility of error.
Finally, arrangements had to be made for the new drives to communicate properly with the plant’s existing programmable controllers (PLCs). Since the connection between the drives and PLCs was implemented using Profibus, the most convenient solution proved to be the use of a Profibus converter card, which eliminated the need for program changes in the PLCs.
The VLT® AutomationDrive FC 302 products chosen as replacements are high-performance drives that feature a modular design to maximise versatility. The drives used at the Kraft Heinz plant mostly ranged in size from 0.75 kW to 2.2 kW with a few larger types for special applications. Care was taken to minimise the number of drive sizes and variants used on the plant, to reduce spares requirements and simplify maintenance.
While the new drives were being installed, PnP Motion Controls took advantage of the opportunity to upgrade and reconfigure the Profibus network associated with the conveyor installation.
“The project was very successful,” said Pete Brocklehurst. “Thanks to the availability of Danfoss products like the adapter backplates, parameter conversion software and Profibus adaptors, replacing VLT® 5000 drives with their modern counterparts is straightforward. And the benefits are substantial.”
“While the old drives were best-in-class when they were installed, the new VLT® AutomationDrive FC 302 units are much easier to maintain, they run cooler – which means they’ll be even more reliable in service and have longer lives – and they’re more efficient, so they cut energy costs without compromising plant performance.”
“Kraft Heinz is very happy with the result of this upgrade to the plant, which will help to ensure that it continues to turn out over a mind-blowing 1.3 billion cans of beans, soup and pasta each year, for many years to come.”
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