Producing snacks in great shape

Rockwell Automation

As a subsidiary of the global Mars group, Mars Austria is based in Breitenbrunn in Austria’s Burgenland region. Here it heads up the production of well-known brands of confectionery like Mars Delight, Amicelli, and Milky Way Crispy Rolls for the European and Middle Eastern markets.

The manufacturing systems have an annual production volume of more than 20,000 tons, making Breitenbrunn the Mars group’s competency center for wafer products. Indeed, Mars Austria has been honored with several awards, for its strength in innovation and for being the most family-friendly employer in the region.

Fully Automatic Restart Required

The secret of the Mars Delight chocolate bar lies in the composition of its wafer, which as well as being unique makes a decisive contribution to the product’s huge sales success. The details of the techniques used for its production, like preprocessing, precise ingredient measurement, heat treatment in special oven segments and further processing are, of course, a carefully guarded trade secret.

For the most part, Mars Austria eschews standardized process technologies – and that can make automation challenging.

Rockwell Automation’s engineering specialists played a major part in the construction and expansion of the new Mars Delight production line. The hardware and software aspects of the project were planned in detail from start to finish, and implemented in accordance with the group’s stringent requirements.

Alongside Thomas Winkler, a technical consultant at Rockwell Automation Austria, the project partners included the Rockwell Automation Service Team and two locally based companies. The engineering side of the project was driven by a particularly ambitious timeframe, with a period of only six months between signing the order and the initial start-up of the production system.

Figure 1. Production of sweet snacks at Mars is based on best practices.

The project partners needed to keep to this schedule while ensuring that Mars Austria’s production could be run at maximum capacity with a minimum of maintenance effort. As a result, they used solutions based on Integrated Architecture, Rockwell Automation’s scalable control and information platform. In a manufacturing context, this combination makes a decisive contribution to overall profitability. The goal of the high-performance, integrated control environment was to monitor the exact status of all system components – such as servo drives, I/Os and HMIs – at all times. To reach this goal, the engineering specialists were involved in the planning phase right from the start, and were able to tailor the system architecture to fit the production task. In addition, all requirements relating to speed and quality were directly incorporated into the system design at an early stage.

Managers at Mars Austria emphasize the excellent cooperation they experienced with Rockwell Automation. Although the automation technology specialist is a preferred vendor throughout the group, they single out the work with Rockwell Automation’s local Austrian team for particular praise.

“Right from the planning phase of our production line extension, Rockwell Automation’s engineering expertise enabled us to define the best possible solutions for our needs,” says Hannes Huszar, technical manager at Mars Austria.

Figure 2. The ControlLogix multiprocessor system (left) is at the heart of the production system’s control technology.

Integrated Environment Meets Stringent Demands

As well as fulfilling the food industry’s demanding requirements for managing hygiene, recipes and traceability, the implementation also meets the targeted production cycle times. The complete solution, designed for maximum productivity, comprises a fully integrated environment with high-performance control and servo technology, EtherNet/IP-based fiber optic communications (SERCOS) and DeviceNet to connect peripherals.

Mars Austria decided to use an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix control platform with three processors. This system combines sequential control, motion applications and process control in a single platform. Powerful and compact drive modules for the servo axes (decentralized Kinetix high-power servo drives connected via the SERCOS interface) were chosen as the optimal solution for this multi-axis application. The Kinetix 6000 servo drives include the GuardMotion function, which allows for safe shutdown of motion controls, as well as quick-start functions. The overall system also features additional Rockwell Automation systems such as decentralized SERCOS and DeviceNet I/O interfaces.

“One of the many advantages of the implemented solution is its routing capability,” notes Robert Heidenbauer, key account manager at Rockwell Automation Austria. “This enables the customer to directly access technical data on parts of the machine, such as AC drives, from anywhere on the enterprise network.”

As a result, time-consuming physical visits to the machine to set parameters are no longer necessary, and the staff always has a clear overview of the whole system.

Figure 3. Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Architecture Platform

The potential for engineering cost savings became clear once the planning phase had been completed. During engineering, the programming software RSLogix 5000 was used as the common development tool for PLC and motion applications. The software stands out due to advanced features like its multi-discipline instruction set, which facilitates the integration of sequential and motion control. As a result, engineers were able to complete the programming and configuration very rapidly.

Indeed, the machine’s key figures are impressive. In the final implementation, the overall design allows 60 servo axes to work hard and deliver detailed information about their current status at any time. In addition, around 1,800 digital I/Os have been implemented in the production line. The system also includes a six-axis robot that performs handling tasks, and this adds further complexity to the conveyor equipment. However, it is critical that all parts of the system interact smoothly and product samples can be taken and checked at any time. Intelligent process technology allows the system to comply with the precise procedures that regulate commands like “Stop” and “Restart”, in order to guarantee a consistently high level of product quality.

Although interruptions are rare, they can occur unexpectedly in some areas of the production system due to the physical characteristics of one of the primary products, such as when sugar clumps together. Because the production line is structured into different areas separated by buffers, this type of incident is easier to resolve.

Figure 4. Mars Delight and its delicious wafer filling on its way to be packed.

Massive Expansion of Capacity Delivered On Time

The team was able to implement a massive expansion of production capacity – in every section of the system – right on schedule. As Heidenbauer comments: “Together, we were able to successfully implement a highly ambitious and innovative project. Great communication on both sides, as well as our solution expertise, produced swift results.” At the completion of the system expansion, Mars

Austriawill be able to chalk up an increase in output of more than 100 percent."

Hannes Huszar, from Mars Austria’s Breitenbrunn factory, is now also responsible for ongoing improvement processes. Summarizing the project, he says: “The production system’s mechatronic structure is designed for maximum productivity and security. As a result, it corresponds to the objectives that have made our company so successful around the world. The overall design of the system enables it to restart automatically after a production stop. In everyday practice, this is really useful because it significantly reduces the amount of maintenance necessary.”

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