Parmareggio Unigrana has used Product4Automations’ low cost Movicon 11 SCADA to automate one of the creameries that has helped it become a major butter producer, as well as world-famous for its cheese.

With demand for the region’s butter soaring (up 22 percent in 2011 to Euro35m) the decision was made to automate the Fiordalba creamery in Modena, to increase production, guarantee quality and ensure efficiency. To maintain quality and originality many food products from this area of Italy have special Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status.

The creamery’s systems design and installation was entrusted to I.T. Technologies Srl, a Movicon integrator that works extensively in the region. The plant, which was already partially controlled by Movicon equipment, was to be fully automated, including installation of a new SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system. This would improve the system redundancy and add a quality certification capability. Many other new systems were also installed on the production floor, while some existing systems were enhanced with extra functionality.

Butter production

Fresh cream is the raw material used for making Parmareggio butter. This comes directly from regional PDO dairies which themselves use automation systems to guarantee security and quality. Close relationships are maintained with suppliers, often built up over decades, to ensure product integrity.

The cream is first put through a centrifuge where it is mixed with water and melted butter. It is then pumped into a storage tank from which it is collected and sent onto be skimmed. From here it is immediately sent on to a pasteurisation plant. This delicate process cycle is constantly monitored and recorded by the Movicon SCADA system to ensure compliance with stringent European food safety standards.

Once pasteurised, the cream is left to settle naturally in vats. During this phase the temperature is constantly controlled in order to obtain a perfect end product with an easy spreading consistency. After this it is pumped on to ripening tanks where it cooled and remixed then pumped on to the butter making machines, where it is churned while milk enzymes are gradually. This thickens the cream to make butter. Separated buttermilk, a useful by-product, is sent to a separate pasteurising process then stored in silos to await collection for other processes.

A sophisticated NIRS (Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy) system working with the SCADA constantly controls the all the products’ chemical parameters.


The butter is automatically transferred to the packaging area. As with the rest of the production, this phase uses completely enclosed and automated equipment to prevent the risk of product contamination from operators or the environment.

The high speed lines are able to package butter in all shapes and sizes according to market demands. They are also equipped with automatic weight control systems.

With all the production and packaging processes complete, the butter is placed in a refrigerated storeroom where temperatures are constantly monitored and recorded until all the product quality controls of each batch have been double checked by the Quality Control Office. Security and food quality are always maintained at maximum levels during this stage.

Plant and control

The entire production plant is controlled by a Movicon 11 SCADA system implemented on three Siemens S7 PLCs built into stainless steel control panels in a central control room and connected via Ethernet. One PLC manages the production process system; the other two manage the CIP (cleaning in place) systems and the storage systems. Together they guarantee maximum security during the different production stages. They also measure operational and chemical parameters, which are mainly determined by temperature and the product’s micro-organic profile.

The control system also includes a number of Movicon HMIs or graphical screen which can display pages for every process within the plant, covering critical parameters for quality, hygiene, productivity and maintenance. The HMI screen pages are all divided into two frames, one containing operational statuses, the other containing operational command sequences.

Perfect hygiene

The control system also runs an automatic Clean-In-Place CIP system, which is fully integrated with the production processes and implements cleaning processes without any disassembling of the plant or its parts.

The cleaning system ensures uniform treatment of surfaces that have direct contact with product, while damage to mechanical parts is avoided. Further there is no risk of contamination while the plant is disassembled. The cleaning is scheduled automatically and all cleaning data is stored for traceability.  The overall objective is for efficient and effective cleaning and to fully meet the FDA and health and quality standards.

The CIP system uses comprehensive detergent recovery to ensure product quality. The recovered washing liquid is collected so that it can be regenerated and reused, a critical principle for maintaining the highest environmental standards. Again, all data is recorded.


The main control room also accommodates two additional PC stations, which run Windows 7 with Movicon 11 setup in a redundant configuration. Both PCs are constantly updated and each backs up the other, including recording of all data for track and trace requirements. This guarantees maximum availability and continuous 24 hour running of the creamery.

Thanks to the redundancy system, the operating personnel have two workstations. These can be used independently; for instance, an operator may be using the first to monitor a cream collection tank and start a cleaning process, while his colleague checks skimmer operations and prints out a product quality report.

Communication within the control system is based on Movicon S7-TCP communication drivers, which collect and aggregate data in a Real Time Database residing on an MS SQL server.

The production process is managed visually on the HMIs, from where instructions can also be sent. These instructions are collected on the database, no matter which HMI the come from.

A predictive alarm management programme follows trends within the accumulating data to pre-empt malfunctions and provide step-by-step guidance on appropriate corrective/maintenance procedures.

The system runs the plant in compliance to the FDA CFR21 part 11 regulations. These are normally associated with pharmaceuticals production, but are also used for high quality food operations. They are designed to control access to plant and product to authorised personnel only.

Movicon has a simple but very sophisticated user and command access management system explicitly designed to support the CFR21 Part 11 regulations. In addition to all the requirements defined by the user privileges (area and access level), the system manages ‘electronic signatures’ in reports and for historical data. This way, each significant action executed in the plant, such as commands or target parameter modifications can be traced back to an individual person. Audits are recorded in the database with encrypted access and can be documented appropriately in reports.

The creamery continued to run throughout the whole installation process, which was completed quickly and efficiently thanks to the I.T. Technologies technicians’ vast experience and the rapid design and configuration ability of the Movicon platform.

Parmareggio has achieved its target productivity rate and is set to maintain strong growth well into the future.