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Sugar Beet Factory Modernized with Schneider Electric M580 and X80 ERIO Network

August 14, 2018

Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative (MDFC) was founded in 1974 and is located in Wahpeton, North Dakota. The Coop, which is owned by more than 500 shareholders, operates a 1,200 acre facility that processes over 2.5 million tons of sugar beats per season.

Minn-Dak’s facility was aging and the Coop realized it needed to upgrade and modernize the control panels and equipment that run the plant’s beet pile ventilation systems. The old controls and equipment still functioned, but they were obsolete. In addition, replacement parts could not be found on the open market, which risked extended operational downtime in the event of equipment failure or facility emergency.

Minn-Dak knew they needed the expertise of a control systems integrator and reached out to Control Assemblies to help them with the project. “Control Assemblies has a long history of working with Minn-Dak, said Michal Ciupka, Minn-Dak’s Electrical & Controls Supervisor. “The sales and project team has always provided great insight, value and excellent customer support. Our project was very unique and had many different requirements. We needed many solutions that were customized and tailored to our needs.”

Control Assemblies designed a cost-effective, automated control system upgrade that modernized Minn-Dak’s controls, boosted efficiency and reliability, and made the system easier to operate.

The upgrade removed the existing Schneider Electric Compact 984 system and replaced it with a new Schneider Electric M580 with an X80 Ethernet based system. The new system would need to control all of the ventilation and associated components for the sugar beet piles. Controlled ventilation and temperature maintenance in the pileground area, prolong the sugar beets production viability. From the initial cooling process to freezing the sugar beets to avoid spoilage, the new control panels would be integral to the success of Minn-Dak’s storage and processing operations.

Early on the conversion process proved to be a challenging endeavor. All of the hardware was not being upgraded at the same time. Control Assemblies engineers followed a phased project timeline by removing antiquated PLC LL984 (ladder logic) and converting the system to a newer IEC based programming language with provisions in the program to work on the old hardware. Essentially two programs were developed- one for the legacy equipment and one for the new platform. The hardware itself was also problematic pending SCCR (short circuit current rating) requirements and a requirement for the local controls at the panel.  Always up for a challenge, the Control Assemblies engineering team solved the local control issues, created a custom PCB (printed circuit board) and connectorized the cables for a much simpler, cleaner installation.

Minn-Dak has already seen several benefits from this upgrade. The modernized system is faster and operates more efficiently and reliably with an increased level of safety. The new software and streamlined PLC code, along with updated drawings and documentation, will make support and troubleshooting system issues a straightforward and simple task. All hardware is current and replacement parts can be easily sourced and accessed.  “The innovative solutions, quick response times and on-going support lead to the ultimate success of this project,” said Ciupka. “The system is easier to troubleshoot and has represented a huge time savings for our staff.”