FIBRAN are pioneering digital transformation in the meat industry alongside itsme ELEKTRESThe meat industry accounts for approximately 2.1% of GDP and is the fourth largest motor driving the Spanish economy. Its strategic position and changing consumer habits mean the industry must carry out digital transformation in order to optimize its production model and respond to current demands for healthier value-added products.
In 2017, FIBRAN, with 60 years of experience and manufacturers of innovative collagen casings for sausages and other meat products, began digitalizing their headquarters and production facility in Sant Joan de les Abadesses (Girona) in order to automate some of their manufacturing processes.
Some businesses might think of digital transformation as a future project but FIBRAN were convinced that it was necessary to secure future business. Their objective was to transform the company into a digital factory, automating most manufacturing processes to be more competitive, reduce costs and improve the traceability of products thereby guaranteeing quality. This was key for a company that has been a significant player in the industry since its inception in 1953 and which currently exports to more than 60 countries around the world.
In order to bring about digitalisation, FIBRAN consulted with the team at itsme ELEKTRES (the Spanish subsidiary) and local itsme technicians INDUSTRIAL AUTOMATION.
Ground-breaking project in the meat industry
itsme, a leading consultancy in electrical engineering, optimising manufacturing processes and industry automation training, began by analysing FIBRAN’s needs and the most suitable products to carry out the project. They drafted a design proposal for the communication network of the entire automation system and provided training on the project for all FIBRAN technicians.
Based on their proposals, FIBRAN undertook the automation of their manufacturing processes, replacing their initial installations - individual machines which required human intervention and supervision - with a network of inter-connecting machines. The efficiency of the production process has improved significantly and costs have also been reduced without affecting quality, which continues to be checked and controlled by qualified technical staff.
This industrial automation (now controlled by a programmable automaton or PLC of the SIEMENS S7-1500 range) has also led to an improvement in the monitoring process ensuring quality and fully traceable end products. The technology provides detailed information on when each machine is switched on and off, the temperature of products when they are placed in and out, as well as all the timings and quantities of products used, with priority always the uniformity and quality of products, such as the delicate natural proteins FIBRAN use. If product quality is affected in any way, technicians can therefore analyse each part of the process and quickly identify the source of the problem and how to resolve it.
In order to achieve the necessary level of automation, FIBRAN had to install a master PLC (S7-1500 from SIEMENS) which coordinates all the processes and connects with other machine PLCs (S7-1200 from SIEMENS) to meet all the line machinery safety requirements through the use of two technologies: Profisafe to manage security and Profinet for performance. These two communication technologies were new to FIBRAN (who previously used Profibus) so itsme were relied upon to help with their implementation.
Profinet is a standard of communication between PLC and field elements (control sensors, drive motors) and Profisafe is a standard of communication within Profinet which handles machinery and personnel security (emergency buttons, light barriers or activated components such as SIEMENS G120 speed shifters).
This new network would therefore require a series of technological components that FIBRAN hadn’t had before (SIEMENS SCALANCE switches and routers) and that would provide security by differentiating (as well as communicating) between the factory office network system (IT) and the machine data industrial network (OT). There was also a key maintenance aspect as it was now possible for the technical office in Barcelona to connect remotely to a company machine outside of Spain. SIEMENS’ innovative range of weighing products (Siwarex) which equips machines with high precision scales was also installed.
FIBRAN have seen substantial benefits from implementing the project. Thanks to the PLC and process automation, the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), the universal indicator for measuring industrial equipment productivity, has improved. This important indicator is usually difficult to calculate when everything is managed manually.
Facing a secure future competitively and with quality
Another huge benefit of the project has been the ease and rapidity with which it has been implemented, given that it took just a few weeks to set up thanks to SIEMENS’ powerful engineering and programming tool, Totally Integrated Automation Portal.
FIBRAN employees can now work in the cloud and keep track of processes remotely and therefore more efficiently with the use of a tablet. Cybersecurity is obviously key to the whole project to ensure the inviolability and impenetrability of the systems and the proper operation of the factory. This is especially important given the remote management and communication needs of an international organisation with facilities in several countries including Spain and the Middle East.
Training support has also been key to the digitalisation process and itsme has been responsible for advising FIBRAN technicians so they can work independently and continue to develop this technology in other areas of the company once this first phase is complete. Training has therefore been entirely focused on the project, logistics solutions and the products installed.
The automation of manufacturing processes at FIBRAN headquarters to turn it into an innovative digital factory, has also propelled the company towards automating and applying these technologies in other areas of their business. Once aware of the benefits of this technology, new phases for developing its scope were planned. This approach means FIBRAN can face a secure future competitively and with quality.