Case Study

Leading Pet Food Producer Wanted to Increase Operational Efficiency by Upgrading Controls to Critical Retort Basket Handling And Tracking System


A global leading manufacturer of pet foods was faced with increasing operational inefficiencies of their wet pet food processing attributed to their obsolete and unsupportable control system. Malisko was tasked with not only upgrading the control system platform but also with helping correct unexplainable production interruptions.


  • Improve operational efficiency in the area of basket handling and tracking in their retort process area.
  • Provide more reliability control system utilizing the latest technology and proven methodologies.
  • Improve the basket tracking methodology before and after the retort process.
  • Develop and implement new tracking and alignment system for OPR (over pressure retorts) loaders and unloaders.
  • Reduce troubleshooting time by delivering more thorough and accurate system documentation.
  • Meet project schedule and tight budget.


  • Managing project expectations between client’s engineering team and operations.
  • Existing code had been modified over the years without updates to system documentation.
  • Programming was blamed for certain issues in functionality that turned out to be physical device and equipment related.
  • Existence of old and abandoned code.
  • Working through anomalies within the code.
  • Short downtime window to complete the on-site system cutover and testing.
  • COVID-19
  • Client would not allow any outside contractors to visit the plant site due to COVID.
  • Client even restricted their own engineering resources physical access to the plant facility.
  • Design reviews and FAT had to be conducted virtually with very limited plant resource participation.
  • Local COVID distancing and stay-at-home restrictions forced our development and programming team members to collaborate and test virtually.


  • Replaced legacy Schneider Electric controllers with Rockwell ControlLogix PCS.
  • As a cost-saving step, reused the existing Modicon I/O racks and modules.
  • Maintained the MODBUS communication protocols with the legacy Modicon devices.
  • Converted legacy Taylor DOS-based code into RSLOGIX code.
  • Upgrade iFix HMI screens to follow ISA 101 high performance graphical standards:
  • Provided more streamlined and easier improved visualization process to follow.
  • Material and product flow became easier to read.
  • Deployed barcode scanners for basket identification and tracking.
  • Utilized proximity sensors switches throughout the conveying system for “basket presence” tracking and control.
  • Selected and configured new highly accurate dual laser alignment sensors to measure positioning of loader and unloader trolley.
  • Programmed constant monitoring to detect mechanical misalignment and warn operators prior to the occurrence of potential equipment or product damage.
  • Developed advanced basket tracking system.
  • Performed the cut-over in the tight time shutdown window.
  • Worked closely with plant production and maintenance teams to identify the true root causes of the many chronic operational issues impacting productivity.
  • Updated all system documentation.
  • Provided operator and maintenance training to all three (3) shifts.


  • Improves safety and profitability by enabling operators to rapidly identify and mitigate emerging abnormal situations.
  • Maximized uptime and throughput for this line with improved controls and automation.
  • Accurate tracking and alarming/rejecting of faulty product.
  • Deliverables were exceeded with automated control of areas that didn’t work prior to upgrade.
  • Client is requesting Malisko to assist them with improving and automating additional areas of their facility.

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