Cheese has been produced at DOC Kaas in Hoogeveen since 2003. The site was churning out a good 90,000 tons per year at last count, in a fully automated process. However, behind the scenes, the digital plant control system had reached its limits long ago, with any optimization proving extremely demanding and often impossible due to the dated software and aging data center. All that had led to an increase in the amount of downtime, while the control system had become steadily slower. These are all familiar problems from our own computers at home, but they can usually be addressed with an update or by buying a new model.
Meet the winners: The project t team (from left to right): Rens Meijer, Erik Lugies, Paul Fik, Gerard van Riel, Jeroen Schonewille and Jantienus Nijkoops.
The situation at Hoogeveen was tougher to fix. It took two years to dene, optimize and integrate every single step of production at one of the largest cheese dairies in the Netherlands, before optimizing and integrating this into a new digital system. The process required the networking of thousands of measuring and control points throughout the plant. It was a mammoth task that required the writing of 135 programs and the design of a new data center. That was followed by extensive virtual test runs, carried out with protective measures in place due to the pandemic, with people working remotely, while production continued at the same time. The process also involved making all of the digital terminals’ control icons more user-friendly and improving the alarm lists and product codes.
All in all, it was a massive responsibility, says Rens Meijer, a member of the project team. “We were not only responsible for assessing the functionalities, but also for making sure that all the programmers stuck to the agreements. That wasn’t always easy with everyone working at home during a pandemic.” The big day nally arrived on 10 October, 2021. The old control system was shut down and the new system was brought on line in the space of just 16 hours. Now, when production is under way, all of the information can be called up in a matter of seconds. Any malfunctions can be swiftly addressed and the system can be optimized any time. Rens Meijer: “Despite all the challenges, a completely new control system is now up and running and we all worked hard on it together. We are very proud of it!”