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Shearer Foods Massillon plant: the first LEED Platinum Snack Food Plant in the World

September 12, 2011
“An expanding customer base meant we needed to make more product, and to do that we needed a new plant.” With that succinct summation, CEO Bob Shearer of Shearer’s Foods explains the background behind the Millennium Manufacturing Facility, a 110,000-sq-ft snack food manufacturing plant that his Brewster, OH-based firm just opened in Massillon, OH. Shearer’s growth has been fueled not only by the popularity of its own-brand products sold throughout Ohio and surrounding states, but also by contract manufacturing and by a private-label business that includes some of the nation’s largest retailers. Massillon, it should be noted, is not just any snack plant. As a bold banner in the packaging hall proudly proclaims, it’s “The First LEED Platinum Snack Food Manufacturing Plant in the World!” That is to say, the U.S. Green Building Council, under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, granted its highest level of certification to the Massillon plant.

Intelli-flav 2 flavoring system

“Our efforts at capturing real-time data began in the Brewster plant, but there we were more focused on processing,” says Brower. “Now we’re linking it all together to see how processing and packaging can be more tightly integrated and, consequently, better optimized. HMI terminals throughout the plant let us see exactly how a line is running, exactly what the poundage draw is on each bagger. We see complete data from the beginning of processing to the end of packaging. Not only can I look at an individual bagger’s efficiencies, but we also have these things linked to our Management Information System, which allows me to draw several different reports in terms of bagger efficiencies, weighing accuracies, and those types of things.

“This plant is more networked than what we’ve had in the past,” Brower continues. “It used to be that machine operators would turn in their paperwork and it would go into a file. Later, that information would be keystroked into some system that others could share. But it left too many opportunities for mistakes. Doing it electronically and automatically is much better. “The other nice thing about all of this is that the operators can see so much at the HMI screen on, for instance, a tna bagger. They used to have to go upstairs to the mezzanine level where the scales are to see how it was performing or if something was wrong. Now they can see it by looking at the HMI on the bagger. It means you don’t have to physically walk the line to know how parts of it are performing. It makes troubleshooting so much easier.” Brower notes that one result of this added visibility is that each operator can handle four or five weigher/bagger cells. Another software solution deployed at Massillon comes from Infinity QS. “It’s a quality system on the plant floor that overlaps a good deal with the Wonderware program,” says Brower. “It records giveaway and helps us do Statistical Process Control.”

Dynamic Scheduler

Part of the Infinity QS program is a module called Dynamic Scheduler. It provides operators with a shop-floor checklist for quality checks that they make on one of the many HMI panels. Large windows and a user-friendly graphical interface automatically remind operators when quality data is needed. An easy-to-read schedule shows the operators a time-ordered list of the day’s required checks. Each check is accompanied by a countdown clock; the operator always knows how much time remains until the next check is due. Dynamic Scheduler takes the guesswork out of monitoring quality checks and automatically notifies key personnel by email if data collection is not performed. The business benefit gained? “The added visibility means we have more predictability, and that means we don’t have to build safety stock in inventory,” says Brower. “It lets us prepare product closer to the time it’s scheduled to be shipped.”

It also helped the Massillon plant qualify for its Platinum LEED status. “The Wonderware program has an energy monitoring module that lets us track energy consumption in real time, which is always better than tracking it after the fact,” says Scott Heldreth, senior vice president of operations at Shearer’s. Safety is enhanced, too, through these kinds of software solutions, adds Heldreth. “If a gas valve is left open or a conveyor is running when it shouldn’t be, these things are now immediately obvious and viewable on an HMI screen.” And the next step? “We’re looking at linking downtime data with our CMMS [Computerized Maintenance Management System] to be able to alert the Maintenance Department to things that need to be addressed,” says Heldreth. The CMMS system in place, he adds, is from Maintenance Connection.

Looking back, Heldreth describes the use of IT at Massillon as something that built upon lessons learned at the Brewster plant. “At Brewster we waded into HMI and learned some valuable lessons about the recording of real-time data for subsequent analysis,” says Heldreth. “But we weren’t really controlling any of the machines. Massillon is different. We do a lot of controlling there, anything from baggers to silos to corn tanks. The pivoting chip distribution pans are a perfect example. Real-time feedback from the baggers travels over the network to the PLCs that control those distribution pans so that product can be delivered to the baggers at the pace they require.”
Companies in this Article
Shearer's Foods Inc. is a manufacturer of regular and kettle style potato chips in the United States as well as a range of savory snacks. Shearer's food has manufacturing plants in Ohio and Texas.
TNA Australia is a manufacturer of packaging systems, turn key systems and distribution services
Yamato is Japanese manufacturer of weighing equipment, including a full range of multihead weighing scales.