Adams Foods' (Ornua Foods) Packaging Line Automation Journey

Adams Foods, now Ornua Foods, is the biggest supplier of retail pre-packed hard cheese in the UK with a 30% market share and over 50% share of private label. Their new cheese packing facility, an investment of over £30m, produces 200 million packs a year, including the flagship brand Pilgrims Choice.

How can automation help reduce product giveaway?

Adams had already successfully deployed OAL Autocoding to guarantee packaging security by continuously scanning 2D barcodes and securing date codes by writing directly to line printers.

In order to increase the payback on that investment, Adams Foods decided to use the same shop-floor touch screens to capture and report accurate Overall Equipment Effectiveness or OEE values.

As most of their products are sold by fixed weight it was also critical that the solution could provide live giveaway percentages and pack weights directly from the checkweighers.

We chose the OAL Autocoding solution as reference visits proved their system to be reliable. Their variety of add-on modules meant we were able to include OEE reporting and live checkweigher links to meet the growing demands of our business.
— Jarnail Sani, Director of Operations

OAL's Automation Solution

Adams believed in the OAL logic of combining the security of package verification with the ability to capture and report OEE. Packaging control ensures the correct film, label and date codes are used to meet the high demands made by major retailers. OEE provides the real-time information that Continuous Improvement teams need to ensure that decisions are based on accurate information.

In order to prove the advantages of a combined solution Adams Foods decided to add a pilot installation of OEE on a single line a few months ago. As product run information was already recorded within the packaging control system, the only additional signals required were product counts and stop signals.

In addition, as most products are sold by fixed weight, it was decided that OAL would link their software directly to checkweigher values in order to be able to provide a real-time giveaway percentage on the touch screen and to record those values by product run.

This aspect was critical to the company as a previous supplier had committed to checkweigher links but been unable to deliver on that promise.

Whilst reporting the average ‘giveaway’ at the end of shift allows lessons to be learnt for future shifts, higher savings come from displaying live giveaway values in real-time ensuring critical adjustment can be made
— Dave Shepherd, Continuous Improvement Manager

With several types of checkweighers in operation Adams Foods have relied on the technical skills of the OAL engineering team to link into equipment from four suppliers with six different model types.

The operations team plays a key part in the process with stoppage times, product counts and giveaway values recorded automatically and the operators selecting stoppage reasons from pre-defined lists, made easier by using images for the selection. The operators are provided with real-time performance data available in a format which is easy to interpret and everyone is aware of the current production status.

To provide the operations team with real-time visibility OAL has installed short interval control dashboards that produce a variety of graphs and reports, including OEE by product and shift to identify exactly where performance is being lost.

All graphs and reports are web based and visible to everyone with access to the company intranet. The lost time event display has proved invaluable with its ability to display a graphical timeline of the current shift; complete with the ability to hover over a lost time element and to indicate the reason for that lost time.

Results

After several months of careful evaluation the pilot has proved successful by providing real-time visibility of performance to target and accurately quantifying all lost time, especially losses due to product and web changeovers.  Operators can now clearly see giveaway values for the current production run and quickly react when adjustment is required.

Based on the progress made Adams Foods is now actively promoting the solution, and has now commissioned OAL to extend the combined Autocoding and OEE system across all 24 lines on the site.

Jake Norman