Ventura Foods provides bulk, custom and branded products and ingredients for over 60 markets worldwide. Their products range from bulk packaged oils, margarines and butter blends to dressings, sauces and mayonnaise. Ventura Foods recently purchased a 750,000-square foot former distribution center in California, which includes warehousing and cooler space. Ventura built several production areas within the super structure, providing them with three small plants in the main facility—one for margarine, one for bulk oils and one for mayonnaise.

ESE, Inc.—a control systems integrator, analytical systems provider and manufacturing information solutions (MIS) provider—and Ventura Foods, with distribution and manufacturing facilities across the U.S., have worked together for over a decade. Because of the good working relationship between the two companies, Ventura turned to ESE to come up with a solution to monitor its anhydrous ammonia concentration levels across the new facility.

A Strong Proactive Notification System
Time is money for any business, especially in food manufacturing where downtime can quickly impact a company’s bottom line. For all the benefits that ammonia compressor use affords a manufacturer, ammonia leaks can trigger downtime and can escalate to major health and safety issues. When it comes to safety and risk management, Ventura is focused on finding solutions that deliver results quickly and efficiently and that exceed their safety and risk management goals. Several years after opening their new plant, Ventura requested ESE help them track and historize the readings from ammonia detectors throughout the facility. ESE’s solution resulted in just one MIS system that—in addition to tracking and historizing—could notify Ventura personnel based on the values coming from the system.

With the technology delivered by ESE, Ventura began tracking nearly 30 detectors, continuously monitoring anhydrous ammonia concentration levels throughout the facility. The detectors not only track data on a 24/7 basis, but they also trigger an immediate, proactive notification if at any time a concentration level is tracked above the prescribed threshold. In addition, the data collected are processed to include trends showing recent concentration readings that provide with the notification, insight on the location and severity of the issue.

Agile Solutions for Greater Leverage
This is one area where a manufacturer like Ventura benefits from ESE being more than just an integrator. ESE is recognized globally as a Rockwell Automation Solution Partner. This elite group of Solution Partners is distinguished for delivering world-class manufacturing solutions while maintaining superior knowledge, resources and skills devoted the highest quality control systems engineering.

The ESE solution design for monitoring and notification of ammonia concentration levels utilizes FactoryTalk® VantagePoint reporting tools and the FactoryTalk® Historian data recording application from Rockwell Automation. The tools and application provide customers the data capture, management and analytical capabilities they need to improve decision making, including on-demand data for plant supervisors on machines, process equipment and production lines.

One of the biggest returns on investment from this particular ESE solution has been Ventura’s ability to leverage this set of tools in other areas of their process. They heavily leverage Historian and VantagePoint to optimize utilities and increase throughput, particularly identifying areas of opportunity in managing energy consumption and promoting production optimization.

For example, in salad dressing production, the facility runs several shifts. Personnel noticed that a certain shift’s production was significantly lower on one of the lines. Using Historian, they historized the automatic controller/manual control state on the device and found the under-performing shift was largely controlling the machine manually. It allowed them to know where additional training was needed and brought attention to standards for production. Today, they are able to direct training to under-performing areas based on the information gathered by Historian—a solution that also includes an optional mobile application.

Dynamic Partners and Innovative Solutions
Through ESE’s partnership with Ventura, ammonia levels are continually monitored, while useful and actionable information is gathered from a process control system: all part of Ventura’s factory-wide commitment to safety and quality.

ESE is currently completing control system upgrade projects for several companies in the egg industry. In each case, ESE proposed additional options using ESE-designed MIS systems to update and gather a greater range of information and data that would increase the benefits of an upgrade in both production and to their bottom line. Both proposals were accepted.

John Tertin is director of manufacturing information solutions at ESE, Inc . He is credited with developing ESE’s MIS solution suite and for expanding the adoption of MIS solutions within ESE’s customer base.