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GE Intelligent Platforms recently announced that Cliffstar Corporation has implemented the company’s Proficy production software suite to increase the efficiency of production lines in its juice manufacturing facilities. Cliffstar is the largest independent grape, cranberry and prune juice processor, and one of the largest private label beverage suppliers in the United States, with more than 145 blends of juices.
A year and a half ago, each Cliffstar plant had its own performance metrics and varied tools for tracking production activities. In a pilot program, the company installed Proficy on one line in one plant in Dunkirk, N.Y., as the first step toward bringing a common approach to performance measurement and continuous improvement. Cliffstar was introduced to GE Intelligent Platforms by sister company GE Capital and undertook a SmartStart implementation where users can realize real results from Proficy software solutions in a short amount of time.
“The pilot was successful,” said Robert Kapilevich, industrial engineering manager for Cliffstar. “We were able to relieve some of the performance issues we were experiencing, so we are rolling out an additional five lines in Dunkirk. All six lines will be connected within 30 days. In the next six months, we will roll out to all Cliffstar plants.”
The company also has incorporated GE’s data collection and Web-based visualization systems for monitoring and analyzing performance information into the solution.
The company, with five major bottling plants in the U.S. (California, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), began this process to increase yield and improve quality, gain visibility into real-time management operations, reduce line stoppages, and solve flexibility issues as it adds new equipment and build new lines. The beverage maker also desired a system that required minimal support and development because it would have to maintain it after implementation.
“The Proficy solution Cliffstar has chosen empowers them to optimize and balance operating priorities across the plant,” said Sheila Kester, general manager of operations management for GE Intelligent Platforms. “This insight through information provides them with a sustainable competitive advantage for the business into the future.”
“The goal of the tool is to have greater insight into the process,” said Don Enstrom, senior director of manufacturing and engineering services for Cliffstar. “By taking the ‘one line, one plant’ phased implementation approach, we have been able to sell this based on proven success as people on the floor become its best salespeople.”
Enstrom believes it all comes down to people. Even very large projects can be tracked back to two or three people who were the cause of that success. Kapilevich and his team of control engineer Jim Lucas and production continuous improvement representative Chris Kristian have done much work to make sure that the data is accurate and to get the system running the way Cliffstar wants. And, with the integration assistance of Martin Lambert, a senior consultant with Manevco Management, the project was delivered on time and fully operational.
“One of the challenges is that there are a whole lot of people who believe they know the process, but they don’t really know it,” Enstrom said. “They have learned a lot by looking at real data. They are excited, however, because they know that this is a tool that will make their lives easier if they use it. Once they see it in production, we have converted them.”
For Cliffstar, this is not an IT-driven project. According to the team, information technology is involved in the networking and archiving aspects of the project, but the company took an operations approach and focused on continuous improvement, including lean practices, to drive results. According to Enstrom, Proficy is illuminating issues that will help Cliffstar’s continuous improvement process soften the impact of operating and supply cost increases over the next year through running efficiency improvements.
The company is using their efficiency gains as a sales tool. Cliffstar business development managers are relaying the fact that they are using Proficy in their operation to potential customers as a commitment to being an efficient operator in the beverage industry making them a more cost-effective supplier. “We are making sure that this is a sustainable tool for us,” Enstrom said. “It is in the business plan.”
For more information, visit www.ge.com.