By Don Goshert

Prater-Sterling PLC-based weigh and batch systemA breakfast food company had to update its minor-ingredient weighing-and-batching system for waffle production. Waffles were already a product, but fluctuations in raw-material availability meant recipes changed often and it was as if the product line were continuously under development.

Beginning with its first successful breakfast cereal, this American company has been producing ready-to-eat breakfast products for more than 100 years. Today it produces more than 20 well-branded breakfast foods and distributes them to hundreds of countries worldwide.  

An engineer at the breakfast food company had worked with Prater-Sterling in the past and recommended the supplier to help the company meet its current needs.

In addition to increasing production flexibility, the company also saw opportunities for increased line efficiency. The system would maintain high standards for a quality end-product, the new system would also lessen batch cycle-time and reduce ingredient waste. Doing so would increase productivity and thereby profitability. It would have an edge in a very competitive breakfast food market.

Meeting of minds

The Prater-Sterling engineering team met with the users to review their current process. Major consideration was given to formula data, batch cycle time, ingredient data, raw-material storage, conveying distance and space constraints, so as to custom-engineer a solution.  

Inclusive within the weighing system were engineering deliverables that included process and instrumentation diagrams, electrical drawings, front-panel layouts, mechanical assembly drawings and a sequence of operation.

The minor ingredient system included 10 stainless-steel minor-ingredient supply bins and feeder assemblies, three scale hoppers and support frames, a bulk bag weighing system for sugar, a bulk bag unloader for sugar, three minor-ingredient transfer hoppers, a vacuum transfer to the mixer system, a dust collection system, programmable logic controller (PLC)-based system as well as other related components. 

All items were included within the scope of supply. The process is controlled by a PLC-based system. The batching portion consists of 10 raw-material supply bins and a bulk-bag sugar unit. The feeders feed three independent scale hoppers. Once the product is batched, a vacuum conveying system transfers the batching ingredients to two mixing vessels to complete the process.

Situation report

Now complete, the system is able to produce a batch at the most every 15 minutes to one of two mix vessels. The system ensures batch accuracy and integrity to obtain the customer’s high standards. Line efficiency and profitability have been achieved through automation, as well as the customer’s additional goals of reducing batch cycle time and decreasing waste. The system operates seamlessly and has improved the overall finished product, maintaining a quality standard unmatched in the breakfast food industry.

Prater-Sterling has had an ongoing working relationship with this client for the past decade.  Prater-Sterling has designed and installed four custom-engineered systems for the breakfast food company and is a trusted partner in developing solutions to aid in their continued growth.

Don Goshert is the vice president of Sterling Systems & Controls. Since starting with the company in 1984 Don has been involved in production, engineering, service, system start-ups and sales. He became general manager in 1991. Don enjoys working with customers to apply automation to processes so as to improve efficiency, data management and validation.

Sterling Controls, Inc. offers more than 40 years experience in providing efficient solutions for batching, applications, and providing micro, minor and bulk weighing systems, using the latest technology in data management, raw material and production data tracking. Call 877-959-7620 and based on your specific application, Sterling Controls, Inc. will recommend a custom solution for you.