Group Vandamme is a producer of natural edible oils for the food industry. Convinced that automation is key to building the factory of the future, they were looking for a software solution to monitor, control and analyse their processes on two production sites. We replaced Excel sheets with Factry Historian, our scalable platform for industrial process monitoring and dashboarding. Since then, they have never looked back.

Industrial piping

About Group Vandamme

Group Vandamme is a Belgian company active in the production and refining of vegetable oils. It is the European market leader in the production and refining of corn oil, and a major producer of HO sunflower oil, GMO-free soya oil, and high-protein meal pellets for the feed industry. The company’s activities are divided over two production sites in Belgium (Deinze) and Hungary (Komárom).

The production process

The company’s production process is relatively straight-forward. First, the seeds and beans are conditioned and flaked. Corn germs and seeds are first pressed and then extracted, whereas the soybeans pass immediately through the extraction machine. Afterwards, the remaining meal, preferably with less than 1 percent of oil left, is pressed into pellets and processed into animal feed on a seperate line.

Production site

Why they needed change

The company monitored its production parameters through a self-built spreadsheet system. Data from PLCs was logged in Excel through an OPC server. Production data was captured once every 10 minutes. By means of a VB script, each snapshot was then converted into a PDF report and stored on a server. Every 24 hours, a summary of yesterday’s most important production figures was automatically sent to the management through email.

This system had a number of downsides:

No real-time process data

Because production data was only collected every 10 minutes, the company lacked real-time insights into its processes and quality parameters. This prevented them from being able to react instantly in case of anomalies.

Lack of historical insights

Requesting historical process or machine data was mostly impossible, since PDFs were periodically deleted from the server. When needing specific details on a previous production run, this proved to be a pretty hard job.

Going back in time was a mission impossible. As our production runs in 14-day product cycles, there was no way to compare batches of the same end product

Johan Van de Walle
Operations Manager at Group Vandamme

Hard to manage & maintain

The huge amount of auto-generated PDF reports had become unmanageable. On top of that, the Excel system kept on getting slower with every newly added signal. To query the data, a dedicated PC had even been set up.

Therefore, they were looking for solutions to:

  • Get a thorough grip on external installations in Hungary
  • Get a birds-eye view on machine & process performances
  • Increase responsiveness in case of process anomalies
  • Improve collaboration by making data readily available for anyone
  • Make management reporting more efficient and save time

On top of that, the software platform should…

  • Have no restrictions on the number of users within a single license
  • Allow for instant querying and visualisation of any production data
  • Be scalable for future needs and an ever growing volume of data
  • Be easy-to-use and manageable by any company employee
  • Deliver instant value without the monitoring process going down
Production site

Factry solutions

We replaced cumbersome spreadsheets and reporting with automated data acquisition and dashboarding through Factry Historian. Built to industry standards and upon open components, the software met the company’s need for a robust and scalable system that combines real-time data processing with an easy-to-use interface, limitless possibilities in terms of data integrations and a complete lack of restrictions in terms of speed or the number of users.

As a result, they are now able to reap the benefits from:

Instant dashboarding

Whereas real time process data was locked away in SCADA systems, proprietary software, or spreadsheets, it is now widely accessible for any employee needing it. Custom data dashboards enable real time production insights and visualisation of any set of process or quality parameters.

Creating a new dashboard with any production parameters takes only 10 minutes. To me, this is one of the greatest strengths of the software platform.

Johan Van de Walle
Operations Manager at Group Vandamme

Historical data analysis

Unlimited historical data allows managers to perform root cause analysis in case of issues, or find out why exactly a certain batch nailed it. As such, our historian’s visualisation tool has become the standard guideline during any of the company’s weekly production meetings on both production sites.

Hassle-free data querying

Though querying by variable values, it has become easy to get information from any data source on both sites. How much oil was produced in the last 3 hours? How high was the temperature of the flaking machine? At how many amps was the extraction machine running? It takes only an instant to find out.

If you would ask me how much power any piece of equipment is currently using, I would be able to tell within seconds.

Johan Van de Walle
Operations Manager at Group Vandamme

Automated alerting

In case of potential issues, especially temperature anomalies, management, production managers or operators are instantly notified through email alerts and alarms. This enables them to intervene when e.g. a silo of raw materials or natural oil reaches a too high temperature due to biological processes.

Production site

Improved traceability

In the food industry, being able to trace raw materials and products is of the highest importance. Factry Historian allows the company to zoom in even further on the ERP data. This enables them e.g. to tell exactly which silo was filled with a certain batch of raw materials, at the exact point in time.

Custom integrations

In order to customise the historian according to the needs of Vandamme Group, we developed two additional integrations: a manual interface for the company lab for manual entry of quality data, and a stock supply interface which is accessible to a dedicated, third-party temperature monitoring system.

Lab interface

Quality parameters from the company lab can be integrated in the historian through a manual entry tool. This allows the management, production managers, and operators to understand the quality of the raw materials during the process and adjust machine parameters to get the best production results.

Stock interface

We built an XML stock interface for inventory management that accurately keeps track of the stocks in the silos. Through the open nature of the system, data is not only visible through dashboards, but is also made available to an external system used to monitor silo temperature and avoid scalding of raw materials.

What is more

Smooth implementation

The implementation of the software was done in two steps, and finished on a single day. First, we started logging data from machines and equipment, based on a list of data points that were already connected to the OPC server. As soon as this was done, data and visualisations were available immediately.

No extra license fees

Not only is the software a lot more flexible than proprietary software, the licence cost is more competitive. No extra fees are charged, regardless of the number of users, data points, or the amount of data that is gathered. Since it is built with open components, there is no technology lock-in.

Open architecture

Any data signal, coming from SCADA systems, sensors, PLCs or external applications, can be integrated in the historian platform using standard protocols. Adding data points does not require custom development or Factry support. Any collected data can be freely used by any third party application.

Web-based interface

Through an easy-to-use web application that is accessible from any device, management executives, the operations manager and floor managers can follow up on process and quality parameters, anytime and on any location. Data from the two production sites can be accessed in a glimpse of an eye.

Feedback from machine operators is great. The software gives them more flexibility than SCADA systems can offer, and is simply a lot easier to use.

Johan Van de Walle
Operations Manager at Group Vandamme
Piping on production site

The results

By implementing Factry Historian, we were able to improve the existing data collection process and finally make it maintainable. Instead of searching for a needle in a haystack with the lights out, they can now follow up on real-time and historical performance of their production sites through a single interface.

This is what it brought them:

Better process insights

Group Vandamme uses our data historian to monitor a multitude of process parameters, such as pressures, temperatures, heat and power usage. This allows for a better understanding of the production process, machines and equipment, as well as for quicker inventions in case of anomalies.

Factry Historian is a very open system. Adding new data signals is easy. I can do it myself in a matter of minutes, without the need for Factry support.

Johan Van de Walle
Operations Manager at Group Vandamme

Better quality control

To determine the quality of batches, various parameters are of importance. For instance, the amps consumed by the flaking machine are generally a good indicator of the quality of the raw materials. Apart from that, a wide number of quality parameters are collected, such as moist levels and water dosage.

Higher throughput

Through better automation of processes, increased efficiency and a higher throughput, the company was able to increase profitability. At the same time, it has drastically reduced the risk of wasted products due to potential overheating of the raw materials, which would come at a very high price.

Being informed in real time about the production process, has enabled us to control it better, be more responsive and therefore become more profitable.

Johan Van de Walle
Operations Manager at Group Vandamme

Reduced reporting time

Through the speed of both the database and the visualisation component, dashboarding becomes an instant experience. As the reporting process has become much more user-friendly, this saves the Operation Manager hours of time each week, when compared to the previous spreadsheet system.

Better collaboration

Our historian has shortened the lines between the lab, the management, production managers and departments. Process parameters are now available to anyone in the process, so people can align their actions and the machine settings accordingly, and get insight into the totality of the process.

Faster set-up of machines

The historian also proves its worth when setting up a new machine or production line. As the machine data is immediately available in real time, it becomes much easier to discover correlations between machine settings and product quality. This drastically speeds up implementation of new equipment.

More grip on external installations

One of the company’s primary goals to implement Factry Historian was that it wanted more control over its installations in Hungary. Before, the group’s Operations Manager leading both entities, had to log in into separate systems to see how the factory is performing. Not anymore with Factry Historian.

Operations Manager

Use case summary

Group Vandamme was able to manage production through advanced macro magic in Excel, but lacked the real-time and historical data to really gain control over its processes. With Factry Historian, any type of process data, going from temperatures and pressures over to electricity use can be measured, stored eternally, and visualised in custom dashboards. As such, they can connect the dots and make their processes more efficient.

Before, data insights were limited to a small group of executives and production managers. Today, a variety of people use the software every day, going from production managers and project managers over to operators and process engineers. The company’s PLC programmer even uses the historian dashboards to debug his own code. It has brought people together around the production data, enabling new production insights and better collaboration.

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