A controls platform that connects equipment across a processing line has been re-engineered to handle full lines of coating equipment, conveyors, fryers, ovens and freezers. Long offered for process ovens, FMC FoodTech’s Link allows food processing line operators to monitor each piece of equipment closely to maintain product quality throughout each batch.
“In order to find the best solution possible as we created the Link control system, we interviewed more than 20 of our customers across North America, Europe and Asia about their present and future controls needs,” said Thomas Lundqvist, product line manager for FMC FoodTech, Chicago. “These conversations resulted in improvements across three major areas for controls: line speed synchronization, process line recipe management, and data collection.”
The control’s line-speed synchronization feature automates the manual speed adjustment of each conveyor belt across the line, including those involved in coating, conveyors, fryers, ovens and freezers. For example, synchronization allows for the progressive stopping of an entire line should faults occur and interrupt a section of the belt. In these situations, equipment with a heat source would continue to run while equipment without a heat source would automatically stop. This automated belt synchronization reduces setup and operational errors, minimizes waste, increases productivity and improves product consistency.
The control platform’s recipe-management system reduces setup times and improves product consistency between batches. The feature allows the running parameters of up to 2,000 process line recipes to be stored on the system for future use. Once stored, it is possible to search the recipes by name or product code, and produce recipe analysis reports. The improved control system also includes a central data collection feature that allows all process data (real-time and historic) to be readily available. As the processing line runs, parameters on items such as temperatures, belt speeds and pressures are automatically collected and compiled.