Fast-Paced Project South of the Border

Just outside of Mexico City in Los Reyes, Mexico, a new flour mill for Harinas Elizondo is up and running thanks to Interstates’ design, engineering, programming, and startup teams. Built at an incredibly fast pace, the facility has automation everywhere – from receiving rail cars to packaging machines. This is the second flour mill Interstates has automated in Mexico for Harinas Elizondo, which has several flour mills in Mexico City and needed to expand its capacity.

“Their goal was to expand and build a new flour mill outside of Mexico City, and they wanted it to run just like the facility we did for them in Tlalnepantla,” says Kris Hulstein, Senior Project Manager at Interstates. “Working internationally is always a little different and comes with its unique challenges,” he says. Equipment must be sent to brokers to get across the border, and international travel presents its own challenges. “The client provided us with transportation between the site and our hotel each day, so that was very thoughtful and much appreciated,” adds Hulstein.

The entire scope of automation – from panel design to control programming – was expansive. “This mill is very modern in its design and construction,” says Ben Langstraat, Automation Manager at Interstates. “We used all the latest equipment, and there are a lot of industrial communication protocols. We’re getting data from absolutely everything,” he says. Interstates provided full Operational Technology (OT) network design and procurement. All servers and clients are virtualized and redundant, and Interstates delivered antivirus, firmware updates, and patch management services. “This was one of the largest automation jobs we’ve done, and it needed to be completed in just a six-month timeframe. That meant thousands of in-office hours to build the control system,” says Hulstein.

The tight schedule left no room for a global pandemic. When COVID-19 took center stage about halfway through the project, there were some Harinas Elizondo Mill slowdowns, but manpower was the answer. “We got our work done in time, and amazingly, the site construction wasn’t delayed. They had over 500 construction workers on site at the busiest time. Everything worked out well, and no one got sick,” says Hulstein.

Supply chain issues were solved by Interstates using its partners in the US to find the necessary materials in a hurry. Langstraat adds that the plant’s built-in connectivity was especially crucial during the pandemic. “The importance of their network and connectivity was higher than normal because we were trying to minimize the boots on the ground. With all the machines and motors integrated, that network was critical. We were able to act quickly and make sure the network stayed healthy as well,” he says. The client benefited from Interstates’ single-source responsibility. “If there had been ten different vendors, I don’t think the reaction would have been as quick and seamless. The schedule was already extremely compressed, and our response was fast,” says Langstraat.

With the flour mill up and running, Interstates provides Harinas Elizondo with 24-hour support for automation, networking and OT infrastructure. “When you have a facility putting out millions of dollars of product, you need to minimize downtime as much as possible. Our well-trained support does just that,” says Hulstein. He adds that the success of the fast-paced project all comes down to pre-planning. “Having a good plan in place is key – starting with engineering and going all the way through programming. All those pieces together result in a successful startup. We came well-prepared and had a safe and quick startup with very few holdups. This saved the client money and time,” he says.

Hulstein continues, “Harinas Elizondo is the type of client you hope for. They know what they want and are extremely hard workers and have some of the cleanest mills anywhere in the world. They are fantastic to work with.”