New SCADA system brings efficiency and flexibility to Scottish malting barley plant

Effective site-wide energy management is a key function of the new control system which is being used to synchronise heat systems that include new biomass boilers.
A grain drying and storage facility that supplies some of Scotland’s leading distilleries has installed a new Movicon SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system from Products4Automation (P4A) to consolidate series of plant upgrades and expansions. The new software is providing control and visualisation for product movement, processing and storage, including the integration of biomass boilers and heat recovery systems.

Highland Grains Ltd is an agricultural cooperative, owned by its 89 members, which dries, conditions and stores malting barley and other crops. It primarily supplies the Scotch whisky distilling industry, but also exports high quality grain to other countries.

Based just north of Inverness, Highland Grains was founded in 1978 with a capacity to handle 4,400 tonnes of barley a year. Steady expansion has seen its annual throughput grow to over 40,000 tonnes. Today the plant consists of five continuous flow dryers, seven wet and fifteen dry storage silos (ranging from 250 tonnes to 2,300 tonnes) and two warehouse-like flat stores of 7,500 tonnes each. Committed to constant development, the site also includes innovations such as heat recovery on its drying systems, power synchronisation and biomass boilers.

 
The facilities were always automated, and the control system and software were frequently expanded to meet new requirements and accommodate new equipment. The control system has been maintained and developed over many years by specialist local firm Coldcurve Ltd, which most recently was commissioned to replace the existing much-extended control system with an efficient state of the art one.

The project was lead by Coldcurve engineer Daniel Castle, who explains that although the site’s operations are relatively complicated, a simple system architecture was achieved: “Lorries are constantly delivering grain from the growers, while others collect dried malting barley for the distilleries – it’s a 24/7 process at busy times, plus there are several different drying processes. There are also a number of subsidiary processes to control, such as incoming and outgoing weighbridges, boiler operations and heat recovery for energy efficiency.”
The whole site is now controlled from a single, powerful PLC supporting 29 separate I/O cards. There are also two PCs and a number of touchscreen HMI’s on the system, providing main and secondary control stations.
“The system now runs Movicon SCADA software,” says Daniel, “which has been used successfully in many food and beverage applications, as well as for materials handling and in many other industries.”

Movicon provides constant real-time production process information, collecting data from multiple sensors on the plant and processing it into high level information. This allows Highland Grains to efficiently manage its plant and processes to meet customers changing needs.

Movicon is based on an XML technology that offers an all-in-one development environment for managing all HMI, SCADA and statistical production data analysis applications. This allowed Highland and Coldcurve to minimise project development times and also to achieve a powerful, open, solution that is easy to maintain and flexible so that it can accommodate future developments.
Movicon also supports web services, scalable vector graphics, OPC, SQL, ODBC, and many other functions that allow highly integrated information and control systems to be developed, whether they be large or small.

Paul Hurst of Products4Automation offers an expert view on today’s SCADA: “Flexibility is one of the major needs in modern automation. Plant operators increasingly insist that their control systems have the ability to easily adapt to new demands.”


Movicon protects plant owners’ investments because it is able to satisfy all automation application needs from field control level (PLCs, HMIs, sensors etc) right through to SCADA/MES and enterprise management levels. Thus it can provide a systems architecture that is as simple as possible, containing initial set up costs and allowing easy subsequent developments.
“Movicon is a real-time flexible platform with high levels of connectivity, capable of adapting to all modern automation application typologies, so is the only software needed in the system,” says Hurst.

Movicon includes a large number of tools for easily creating powerful visualisation and control projects and its comprehensive connectivity capabilities means simple integration with other, related systems such as MES, ERP and the web. This ability reduces initial project costs and goes on to control total lifetime operating costs.
Highland Grains has been successful over nearly forty years because of its willingness to adapt to new and changing demands. Now, with the Scotch whisky industry once again resurgent (it is worth about £5bn to the UK economy and growing at 5% a year according to the ‘Scotch Whisky Association’), it is expecting to further develop its site and facilities over the coming years. The simplicity of its control architecture and flexibility of the Movicon software should make this as straightforward and efficient as possible.

 
Products4Automation (P4A) is a specialist supplier of new and innovative software and hardware solutions to the UK market. Product ranges available from P4A include the latest touch-screen HMI’s and flat panel PCs, SCADA software and plug-ins, a wide range of SCADA enabled hardware, Alarm plug-in software for large automation systems, and a full range of Production Intelligence software solutions.

For more information please contact: www.products4automation.co.uk

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