Case Study: Migration Boosts Batch Operations

New control system improves consistency and halves batch creation time.

By John Bryant, Arkema, and Mike Vernak, Rockwell Automation

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To help improve batch-to-batch consistency and reduce manual adjustments, the system incorporates FactoryTalk Batch recipe management software. This can build signature templates and enforce command-verification policies, which improves productivity and the company’s security and regulatory compliance efforts. The software is much simpler to use than the prior system and allows programming batch recipes into the machinery and automatic exact execution of instructions. The improved functionality makes a dramatic difference in the quality of product as well as in overall productivity.

Integrated into the PlantPAx system, communications interface applications allow users to get required data from the plant floor. This enables Arkema engineers and Precision Engineering technicians to gather production data from other applications and optimize communications with the controller. A Rockwell Automation Encompass Partner, Salem Automation, also played a key integration role with its ABNet software interface module. This device allows the new control system to interface via EtherNet/IP with the remaining DCS.

The Rockwell Automation technical support team provided training for line workers and engineers, helping them become acclimated to the new system and teaching them how to leverage the new automation features. Included with the technical support, Rockwell Automation led Arkema through its well-defined and strategic technology migration path.

Impressive Results
The team finished phase one of the migration (replacing the control system, HMI and I/O), in July 2008, well within the necessary six-month window. The new system has experienced zero downtime since becoming operational, yielding annual savings of over $500,000. Also, the plant achieved full production during week one, several weeks earlier than expected.

Batch creation time has been cut in half. The automation system’s engineering tools allowed recipe and batch management to move from control engineers to the production engineering team. This makes procedures a lot quicker if the team wants to add a new product to the line. Now, a production engineer can complete all batch changes and new product additions without having to involve a control engineer. Any small recipe errors found can be fixed immediately for the next batch.

Batch consistency also has improved. Data monitoring spurs greater uniformity in both the control recipe and procedure — and also lowers safety risks. A production engineer can modify procedures and load recipes at the same time while keeping everything synched. Arkema constantly can pilot new grades and make changes at a moment’s notice to the batch. In fact, the company has added two products to its portfolio since the new system has been installed. This would have been nearly impossible with the old system.

Having batch programming done outside the controller has enhanced operator ease-of-use, as well. Changes are much easier and safer than the previous system would allow. Additionally, the ISA-S88-compliant platform lets all operators view batch control elements like temperature and pressure, making it easier for them to maintain consistent and safe production.

Phase two of the migration project — in the facility’s impact modifier production facility — was implemented during the two last weeks of April 2009. Startup and commissioning of the PlantPAx process automation system were flawless. The facility immediately achieved full capacity rates with no safety, environmental or productivity issues. Due to the enormous success of this project, Arkema is developing plans to upgrade the wastewater treatment unit at Axis utilizing the same migration strategy.


John Bryant is engineering and maintenance manager for Arkema in Axis, Ala. Mike Vernak is program manager, DCS migrations, for Rockwell Automation, Mayfield Heights, Ohio. E-mail them at and

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