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Keeping the Heinz lines moving

24 September 2018

A major upgrade project at the Kraft Heinz plant in Wigan has seen more than 100 variable speed drives installed to control conveyors in the pasta filling line production area. Find out more about this project.

The Kraft Heinz production facility in Wigan incorporates 17 filling lines, a dedicated can-making factory, a distribution centre, laboratories and a pilot plant. 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.

When some of the lines were installed almost 20 years 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 the plant to consider whether the drives should be replaced with a more modern solution. This idea was made more attractive by the knowledge that new drives could offer 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 possible to replace all the drives as a single operation. 

A 12-month project
So, it was decided that the installation of the new drives, which was carried out by PNP Motion Controls, should be executed in multiple phases over a period of 12 months to avoid loss of production.

Pete Brocklehurst, a director of PnP Motion Controls, worked closely with Kraft Heinz to devise a schedule that would allow over 100 new Danfoss VLT AutomationDrive FC 302 variable speed drives to be installed during plant shutdown periods for routine cleaning. A few drives would be replaced during each scheduled shutdown, with the 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 ones should be installed in the existing panels. As the new drives were smaller, there was no space issues but the fixing arrangements were different so conversion backplates were needed. 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. The settings from the old drives were downloaded to a PC and, after processing with Danfoss conversion software, they were ready to be uploaded into the new drives. This eliminated any possibility of error.

Finally, arrangements had to be made for the new drives to communicate properly with the plant’s existing 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 PLC program changes.

While the new drives were being installed, PnP Motion Controls also upgraded and reconfigured the Profibus network associated with the conveyor. 


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