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RFID tracking boosts production at chemicals plant

Syngenta is one of the world’s largest producer of agricultural chemicals. Its manufacturing centre in Grangemouth, Scotland employs over 350 staff across five separate plants, and produces crop protection products for farmers worldwide.

Four plants are dedicated to manufacturing ‘active ingredients’, which are then put into bulk containers or ‘bags’. Some then go on to the fifth plant where they are used to make the finished products, while others are shipped to production plants overseas or stored in a warehouse until required. Syngenta wanted to be able to track the bags of valuable ingredients around the site, and to gain better control over production. Given the risk of explosion within the plant, any system had to conform with ATEX standards.

“Replacing spreadsheets and manual data entry has minimized mistakes and provided greater visibility – we can see where everything is and how much of it there is. A paper system is just not manageable on the scale that we manufacture and doesn’t have benefit of ensuring right product, right place, right time.”
– Paul Johnston, automation and information systems manager at the Grangemouth Manufacturing Centre

Right product, right place, right time

The use of RFID tracking has provided much greater visibility, allowing the company to see the whereabouts of ingredients within the site in real time and ensuring that the right product is in the right place at the right time. The new automated system has enabled Syngenta to step up production and reduced the risk of error.

Tracking ingredients every step of the way

Syngenta previously used Excel spreadsheets to track the bags around the site and the data was then manually input into ERP system. The company wanted to automate the process and integrate it with its enterprise resource planning (ERP) system which it used to control production.

RFID offered an ideal solution and CoreRFID worked with the company’s IT partner, Solutions pT, to design the system and provide the right products.

Every bag is now fitted with an RFID tag and tracked at each step of the way, From the very start of the process where it is filled with active ingredients, each time is loaded on or off a trailer, when it leaves or re-enters the site or as it enters the final production line where it is used to make the end product.

The RFID tags are read by fixed readers at critical points along the way where location is important such as consumption points, or by staff using hand-held scanners, and the database is automatically updated each time.

The benefits of automation

The new automated system has enabled Syngenta to step up production at Grangemouth which now manufactures around 10,000 bags a year. It has slashed the time involved in data collection and released personnel for more high-value tasks. As data is automatically uploaded into the ERP via a MES middleware system, it has reduced the risk of errors. The system produces a wealth of data which can be analysed to enhance production efficiency.

It also provides some additional safeguards, for example on the final production line where the machines ‘recognise’ each bag and ensure that only the right products are used at the right time in the right quantities and strengths.

“We’ve always found the CoreRFID team to be very helpful, nothing was too much trouble. It really makes the difference and is why we’re still working together six years later.”
– Paul Johnston, automation and information systems manager at the Grangemouth Manufacturing Centre

RFID in explosive atmospheres

Where producing chemicals in ‘potentially explosive atmospheres’, any electronic equipment must meet standards such as ATEX 137 or ATEX 95. However it presents no barrier to using RFID as both tags and readers are available in fully encapsulated versions, thus preventing the risk of ignition. CoreRFID supplied Syngenta with a full range of ATEX-approved equipment to comply with the regulations.

For more info please contact Richard Harrison on 07752 389 745 or richard@corerfid.com