Total Automation Solution for High-speed Production Lines

Cutting-edge automation technology creates world -class facility for successful agribusiness.

For a company processing and marketing more than 1.5 million tonnes of paddy rice annually and considered one of Australia’s most successful vertically-integrated agribusinesses, continuing to meet supply and packaging requirements of growing domestic and export markets is a constant challenge. To compete internationally effectively means that an optimum operating efficiency is the top priority. Achieving the competitive technology edge necessary for SunRice to meet that challenge was the driving force behind the commissioning of a fully automated, purpose-built packaging plant. Significant quality and productivity improvements in packing SunRice branded products for the Australian and overseas markets were paramount.


The problem with multiple products

Integral to the successful operation of the new packaging plant are six production lines conveying multiple products along the high-speed rice-packing machines to two palletisers. Capable of handling up to 38 products of bag sizes ranging from 500g to 10kg – all with varying production times – and with the capacity to convey both boxes and bundles, productivity improvements seemed guaranteed. The problem, however, was finding a turnkey automation solution with the flexibility to maintain precise control of the automated conveyors – where variables of bag size and priority products directly affect conveyor speeds – while achieving maximum operating efficiency.


A high-tech solution for high-speed production

Understanding the critical nature of conveyor speed control to achieve optimum operating output, Machinery Automation & Robotics (MAR) completed the line control automation of the 34 motors powering the production lines and palletisers to ensure a range of products could be efficiently stored and conveyed to the palletisers at high speed. This, in turn, ensured that bagging and production lines were operating at full capacity one hundred percent of the time. Continuous trimming of conveyor speeds via the Profibus control and variable speed drives ensures that constantly changing product variables are accommodated. The flexibility of the Profibus network also ensures that complete fault displays and motor running conditions are accessible. In addition, MAR incorporated an operator interface, allowing operators holding the correct password to easily access recipe selection and implement necessary modifications.

Automated conveyor lines with variable speed


Technology at work

  • The control system features a Siemens S7-300 to complement existing control equipment on the SunRice site
  • The operator interface features a Siemens OP screen
  • The system features SCADA to production reporting
  • Thirty four SEW conveyor motor movimots are controlled by the Profibus network
  • All motor operating conditions are integrated into the control system via the Profibus network, which is fully accessible from remote locations
  • All invertors are integral to motors, saving valuable cabinet space and reducing electrical noise
  • Field sensors detect product flow and are fed back to the PLC via the Profibus nodes, minimising cabling on site
  • An operator selected product menu sets all line speeds and conveyor control specifications
  • Integrated safety systems fully comply with AS4024 category 3 specifications
  • Provision for further field I/O and motor expansion is made available through daisy chaining devices
  • The production line features Kettner equipment to provide smooth product flow from the production line to the palletisers


Adding up the benefits

As a result of their packaging plant upgrade and process improvements, SunRice has achieved a 20% reduction in the cost of processing a tonne of rice paddy in a two-year period – a major win for a company striving to become the lowest cost producer in the industry. As a part of that upgrade, MAR has created a total automation solution for the production line process providing:

  • A fully automated control system requiring no operator input from the early stages of packaging through to palletising when the product is ready for delivery
  • A complete turnkey solution including functional specification and control, system design, CAD drawings, panel construction, PLC and HMI programming, bench testing, installation and commissioning
  • A reliable automation system designed for precision control at high speeds
  • Close collaboration with JL Lennard, agent for German manufacturer Kettner for installation of production line equipment
  • Full compliance with occupational health and safety requirements