Automated Plate Freezing Project

Our customer approached us with the challenge to automate their plate freezing process to help them achieve more efficient production

The challenge

Our customer, Cool Off, the pet food raw material manufacturing division of Staughton Group approached us with the challenge to automate their plate freezing process for more efficient pet food production.  We needed to work with them to design new innovative technology to help them meet the ever-increasing consumer demand for their product.

To complement Cool Off’s unique offal collection and plate freezing process, they were looking for a solution to reduce the labour-intensive unloading and palletisation process which required extensive manual handling by operators.

The solution

To increase throughput and limit manual handling requirements, together with Cool Off we designed an automated plate freezing process, eliminating the requirement for manual handling.

Our longstanding relationship with Cool Off, resulted in a detailed understanding of the plate freezing process. In order to meet increasing customer supply contracts, Cool Off undertook some expansion work at the plant that included building works and new freezer panel rooms. There wasn’t a simple, automated unload process for the large plate freezers so together with Cool Off, we placed an arrangement of pneumatically actuated panels and built plate freezer apparatus to utilise the existing infrastructure to release each block one by one down the plate onto a common conveyor belt, eliminating the requirement for manual handling. Given that margins for pet food are not near margins for human consumption, the opportunity for automation was extremely important.

Combining integrated control and safety, the Allen-Bradley® GuardLogix® was selected as the most appropriate choice for this application. The Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture® system, including PowerFlex® 527 drives with safety over Ethernet, offered an innovative, modular design to support fast and easy installation and configuration. These compact drives also offered embedded EtherNet/IP™ communications and standard safety features.  The Allen-Bradley Kinetix® Servo drives provided advanced motion control for the system and the capability to standardise on a single communications network for easier commissioning, configuration and start up. FactoryTalk® View SE human machine interface (HMI) was used to monitor and control the plant. To help with remote assistance and maintenance we have VPN access to the site. 

We saw an opportunity in terms of that single platform with safety over Ethernet. The PowerFlex drives provided an integrated solution with motion, drives and safety all on the one common platform. This helped reduce engineering time and ongoing maintenance requirements.

The results

The technology and innovation around the plate freezer design has helped our business to earn a growing reputation for ‘out of box’ thinking for large and small projects alike. Cool Off’s patented plate freezing technology was the product of intelligent engineering and problem solving – resulting in:

  • Increased throughput – The automated plate freezing system resulting in an increase in plate freezing capacity by 120 percent
  • Improved safety and efficiency – Safety and efficiency parameter are improved by eliminating the requirement for manual handing of the freezer plates

There is no technology that rivals this new patented system. The solution allowed Cool Off to increase throughput, reduce downtime and redeploy operators that were doing manual labour.  Staughton Group, enjoys significant advantages over international and domestic competitors via its technology. The development of this patented automated plate freezing system, in combination with the abattoir chilling system, has given the Cool Off production team a massive international competitive advantage in quality and processing efficiency. 

Staughton Group have seen nothing internationally that compares with this system. This patented system was developed by Cool Off and VK Logic, using experience gained over 20 years of collecting offal from abattoirs located throughout Eastern Australia. 

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