Once the artistic work of creating a fragrance is complete and the formula has been signed off, the process of extracting the raw materials and blending begins. Safety and compliance are a priority during the manufacturing process and so, when flavours and fragrances giant Givaudan wanted to strengthen its safety critical alarm systems at its Kent facility, it partnered with Omniflex to upgrade its fleet of annunciators.
Located in Ashford, Kent, Givaudan’s UK plant is where the company creates fragrances and oral care flavours. Here, the company brings together the various ingredients to create the finished formula that gives consumers their favourite scent or oral care flavour.
In this process, the facility uses a variety of plant machinery and equipment to carefully monitor variables such as atmospheric quality, oxygen levels, temperature, pressure, well-levels, ventilation, pump operation and extraction processes.
The ingredients being processed are carefully chosen from a palette of many thousands and include powders and liquids. A typical batch could contain anywhere from just two or three up to 120 ingredients at a time, at various weights and volumes. These raw materials arrive on site in packages weighing anywhere between 0.5 kg to 20 tonnes, and are tested to ensure they meet the high-quality standards before being used.
The facility uses onsite labs to carry out Quality Assurance (QA) on samples. Nitrogen and hydrogen-based gas chromatography equipment is used to ensure the materials have not been exposed to air. To ensure worker safety and to maintain compliance with the UK’s Control of Major Accident Hazards (CoMAH) regulations, the QA areas are fitted with sensors to detect safe oxygen levels.
To meet these safety regulations, and to ensure that the materials are kept within containment guidelines, the plant uses safety instrumented systems, including alarm annunciator panels, that alert plant staff if the process measurements deviate from safe parameters.
“As part of our continued drive to meet the highest levels of safety on site, we review equipment regularly, and one of the areas we decided to upgrade was a range of our legacy alarm annunciators,” explained Stuart Brazil, Electrical Project Manager at Givaudan. “Our goal was to add networking functionality to our alarm system and reduce the amount of physical wiring on the network that spans around eight-hectares. Not only would this make the process of adding new alarms more efficient, it would ensure the system met the latest IEC 61508 Safety Integrity Level (SIL) rules.”
The site was already using Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) technology - in fact, it was originally one of the first sites of its kind to move away from traditional relays, towards a digital system that made it easier to add switch points and alarms.
“To consolidate our operators’ alarm sheets and deliver even faster response times, we partnered with Omniflex on the upgrade project,” said Brazil.
Based in Greater Manchester, in the UK, with operations in Australia and South Africa, Omniflex specialises in industrial networking, remote I/O systems, utilities monitoring, process automation systems, signal conditioning and alarm and event management.
“We worked with Givaudan’s Ashford facility to upgrade the site’s legacy Highland alarms, while keeping engineering costs down,” says Gary Bradshaw, director at Omniflex UK. The two key points in the brief were to add networking and a way of prioritising critical and non-critical alarms, so that in an emergency the operator can start at the top and work down a list of alarms in order of severity. This makes for a comfortable environment for the operator and drastically reduces response times.
“We also enhanced the layout of the alarms to ensure that they are displayed to the right person, in the right area, at the right time,” continued Bradshaw.
The project began in October 2019 and was completed by November 2020. Omniflex delivered several OMNI 16C alarm annunciators, as well as the necessary HMIs and signal conditioning units required to work alongside the existing system.
“These 16-point modules allow users to create up to 256 alarm points using a panel mounted LED-backlit display,” said Bradshaw. “Crucially, the units also provide connectivity to interface with a PLC, DCS or SCADA system.”
“We’re really happy with the upgrades to our safety-critical alarm system,” said Brazil. “It’s faster, more responsive and less complex, allowing easy alarm prioritisation and the ability to control it centrally.
“The team at Omniflex has also been brilliant in helping us through the process. Despite social distancing constraints, their engineer successfully carried out the factory acceptance test on-site. This allowed us to do a dry-run and test all the system before it was installed and commissioned.
“Additionally, the team also provided the ongoing training session via video calls due to the pandemic. This really showed how flexible they are at a time when most companies were closed during lockdown.”
While this project was designed to consolidate alarms at Givaudan’s Ashford site, it highlights the drive to maintain the highest levels of safety in industrial plants across the sector, especially safety-critical alarm systems.