Remote Monitoring Key to Freezer Reliability
EP Editorial Staff | March 1, 2022
Rapid growth for a Texas frozen-food manufacturer is assisted by SCADA and remote-notification systems.
Greater Austin, TX-based Night Hawk Frozen Foods (nighthawkfoods.com) began in 1932 as Night Hawk Steak House, a late-night diner chain. In 1964 it shifted its business and became a frozen-food manufacturer selling to retail grocery stores throughout Texas.
Like all food manufacturers, the company experienced a tremendous increase in demand during the pandemic. When Covid-19 forced many to eat more meals at home, the frozen-food market thrived. According to Power of Frozen in Retail, a February 2021 report from the American Frozen Food Institute, McLean, VA (affi.org), the dollar value of frozen-food sales jumped 21% in 2020 and unit sales climbed 13.3%. The report also showed that, in late 2020, 57% of consumers were still purchasing more frozen foods, 58% were purchasing different kinds of frozen foods, and 57% were purchasing different brands than they did pre-pandemic.
Texas families also grew their freezer capacity. Night Hawk knew they needed to address the situation and quickly adapt to meet demand. The company implemented a full-scale manufacturing expansion, which included a new engine room with added compressors to support the increase in production.
Frozen-food manufacturing operation is a risky business with temperatures potentially shifting anywhere between 25 C and -30 C. To stay on top of the fluctuations, the company has a state-of-the art refrigeration system with a large cooler room that keeps products at precise temperatures. The freezer room is equally large with the capacity to keep finished goods at optimal [frozen] temperatures until shipped.
Ensuring safe and efficient operation is critical. To help reduce maintenance expenses and ensure minimal unplanned equipment downtime, the refrigeration maintenance crew uses Wonderware InTouch software from AVEVA Solutions, Lake Forest, CA (aveva.com), to oversee and manage their control-systems hardware. Integrated with this SCADA system is Austin-based WIN-911 remote-alarm notification software (win911.com) to continuously monitor the alarms and provide important security updates on the entire refrigeration system. This configuration allows a maintenance technician or engineer to easily see the refrigeration equipment inflow and outflow status using a remote view from the main office computers to closely watch temperatures, ammonium levels, and other critical metrics.
When a monitored change occurs, email and SMS alarm notifications are immediately sent to the crew. Having this information available at a moment’s notice is key for company operations. Subtle changes can have a serious impact on inventory or crew safety if left unattended. The company’s refrigeration and maintenance crew is akin to first responders, reacting quickly and effectively to help keep the supply chain secure.
Having access to remote-alarm notifications allows the refrigeration crew to respond faster to maintenance requirements and keep the supply line set at optimal levels. Recently Night Hawk successfully increased overall production by 50% using their current control systems and advanced-supply-chain practices. EP