Fresh Upgrade for Fruit Processor

Based in Shelby, Michigan, Peterson Farms is a market leader for fresh-cut fruit, frozen fruit, fruit juice, and fruit concentrate. The company is one of the largest processors of fresh-cut apples in the entire country.

The facility where these apples are cut and processed were ready for an upgrade to its design and equipment. The system relied on old school relay logic and push buttons, giving Peterson Farms no way of monitoring the production process or tracking issues. Not ideally, the facility’s control panels were situated in the production area itself. The environment was wet, humid, and acidic—especially during daily cleaning shifts. Corrosive chemicals were getting on the control panels and rendering them unreliable. Over the years, downtime and troubleshooting had become difficult for Peterson Farms. The company wanted to improve the reliability of their facility, and that meant trading out the control panels and getting them out of the production environment.

WIndemuller’s Automation and Electrical teams worked in concert to design four new control panels, establish a standalone control room, and run cable to the motors and systems of the production facility in a way that would minimize wear and tear.

The Challenge

The major challenge of this project was the timeline. In essence, Windemuller’s teams had to fit a year’s worth of work into the space of five months. Complicating matters further was the fact that Peterson Farms needed to keep their facility up and running throughout the installation process. Our teams had to work with the Peterson schedule and make themselves available on facility down days – mostly weekends.

The Solution

Our teams worked collaboratively and on a rolling basis to deliver positive results for Peterson Farms. We devised a new control system, consisting of three large control panels and one smaller one. Our panel designer worked 10-hour days and came in on Saturdays to develop the perfect approach. As the panel designs came in, we sent them one by one to our panel builders, and then eventually on to Peterson Farms for installation. We even brought in reinforcements from our electrical service team to assist our usual panel builder on getting the panels done quickly.

We installed the panels in stages, one by one as they were finished. This installation technique actually made sense given the design of our control system, where each panel corresponds to a specific section of the production facility. Being able to implement the panels separately, instead of all at the same time, also helped us minimize the impact we had on the day-to-day operations at Peterson Farms.

Ultimately, Peterson Farms ended up with a brand new control room, situated away from the production area and the environmental problems it posed. The section-by-section control panel design makes the system easier to learn, operate, and troubleshoot. SO cords run from the panels to cable trays on the ceiling and then down to the equipment motors, protecting the electrical components and making the production area easier to clean. Overall, the new system ensures reliability at Peterson Farms for years to come.

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