Facility Upgrade Aims to Increase Capacity by 50%

Outside view of a pet food facility.

October 31, 2022

Interstates recently worked with Des Moines, IA-based Weitz to help client, TFP Nutrition, upgrade its existing pet food facility in Nacogdoches, TX, utilizing Interstates’ construction, engineering, and control systems services. The project faced challenges ranging from damaged equipment and long lead times to balancing the logistics of working in a running facility, but with solid communication between the client and the project team, TFP is making strides toward its ultimate goal of increasing the facility’s capacity by fifty percent.

Built in the 1970s, the facility was limited by its legacy controls and electrical infrastructure. While increasing capacity was the practical goal, enhanced safety was also part of the plan. Kris Hulstein, Senior Project Manager at Interstates, says, “As an older facility, it didn’t have much in the way of safety devices, so the project included safety updates along with an overhaul of the whole control system. TFP had several different legacy control systems that needed new controls hardware and programming. At the end of the project, everything but the extruder will be on our system.”

Safety enhancements included leg protection on the elevator, speed switches, temperature sensors, and other measures to monitor and reduce fire hazards in a potentially dusty environment.

Medium Voltage Redesign Saves Money

Safety also came into play when Interstates reviewed the medium voltage distribution plans across the facility. Jacob Denning, Project Coordinator at Interstates, says, “After we got to site and did a proper investigation of the medium voltage route, opening up panels and learning the plant, we were able to eliminate a lot of the gear on the original design, as well as better utilize some existing equipment. This saved the client money, as we ended up not purchasing extra, expensive equipment. The client is also able to sell some equipment they’ll no longer use as part of the redesign.”

This redesign better serves TFP’s needs and provides cost savings. Looking out for the client’s best interest is part of the process for Interstates and Weitz. Matt Olson, Project Manager II at Weitz, says, “The entire team worked very well together, along with TFP, and we have been able to come in on or below budget for each phase of the project. The entire team finds ways to value engineer each portion of the project, looking out for what is best for TFP.”

I-Control Provides Customized Processes

To modernize TFP’s controls and automation, Interstates installed its custom I-Control system for receiving, batching, grinding, routing, and coating applications. “With I-Control, TFP can control everything with one single system,” says Hulstein. “From receiving, all the way to product being put into bags or loaded out onto trucks, I-Control handles every process.”

The software is customizable, and it’s easy to add or change I/O cards and run reports on outputs and inventories at any time. Hulstein says, “The biggest benefit is that TFP can run it all from the head office. The computer is watching the control system, and you can take a glance any time to see what’s going on and what inventory you have.”

Training TFP operators and managers to use the new system involved two steps. They came to the Interstates office for a User Acceptance Test (UAT) and went through the system, testing it out for their needs. “That’s one part of the training, then the rest is hands-on at their facility when we start it up,” says Hulstein.

Though working in a running facility and through fast-paced shutdowns had its challenges, the years-long relationship and strong communication between Weitz and Interstates, along with their shared value of safety, made the project a success. Great communication and experience were crucial during this project’s shutdowns and startups.

According to Josh Evans, Director of Operations at TFP, “The best thing that happened on the project was Interstates’ ability to solve complicated problems on the spot during a plant shutdown.” He adds, “The crews from Interstates that have worked on our project have been amazing. They exemplify hard work and customer service all at the same time.”