Largest Cherry Production Line in the World Thrives on Ignition

Overhaul Brings 50-Percent Increase in Production

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Prima Frutta, based in Linden, Calif., has the largest cherry production line in the world. The company achieved that status in 2016 when it installed new equipment and overhauled its cherry line. The result was a production increase of 50 percent — without expanding the workforce.

Prior to the overhaul, Prima Frutta wasn’t able to fully utilize all its production lines. It wanted greater efficiency and productivity without increasing labor. The company hired systems integrator Industrial Automation Group (IAG) of Modesto, Calif., to help with the upgrade.

The successful project was also aided by Ignition by Inductive Automation®. Ignition is an industrial application platform with fully integrated tools for building solutions in human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Prima Frutta had already been using Ignition for other functions, and with the software’s unlimited tags and licenses, it made sense to expand it into the new cherry line.

“We wanted a new control system,” said Tom Augello, production manager at Prima Frutta. “Normally we use Allen-Bradley PLCs and HMIs, and that is a costly approach. We wanted a larger HMI, and IAG recommended we use Ignition, since we already have it in-house. We were able to leverage that Ignition server that we’d already paid for. So it was a great HMI solution that fit our production needs perfectly.”

Data Everywhere

Ignition enables Prima Frutta to share data about the line with workers throughout the plant. Every day, 10 managers and 900 other employees get data from more than 120 video screens around the facility. The screens are three different sizes: 27 inches, 32 inches, and 60 inches. Every year, Prima Frutta adds more monitors.

“It’s very important to provide this data to our employees on the plant floor,” said Augello. “As fast as we run, every second counts. If a change is coming — whether it’s in size, quality, or variety — our people have a very short time to react. So we put that information up, and we flash things, or we use different colors, to make sure everyone sees the data. The large productivity increase we’ve seen with Ignition is from these screens.”

Smaller screens play a key role as well. The production line is now controlled from 10 tablets. The Dell tablets have stationary holders, but they can also be carried around the plant. The tablets provide full SCADA control. Four Moxa wireless access points communicate with the tablets.

Jason Kieffer, project manager for IAG, said Prima Frutta could have gone with “indestructible” tablets, but opted for less expensive, consumer-grade tablets because they’re so easy to replace if the need arises. Kieffer also said he was very impressed with how easy it was to connect the out-of-the-box tablets with Ignition. “It was so quick,” he said. “Within two hours of pulling the tablet out of the box, we were running the application on it. We were really surprised at how quickly it went.”

Greg Sinigaglia, production manager at Prima Frutta, said having Ignition on the tablets — and on the larger monitors — saves time and money. “Let’s take grading of the fruit, as an example,” said Sinigaglia. “Before, we had to walk down and look at the quality and see what the sorters were doing. Now with Ignition, we have all this information displayed on screens. There’s no more running around from spot to spot.”

Little Time, Big Result

Prima Frutta and IAG made the project a success despite a very tight timeline. IAG mimicked Prima Frutta’s Ignition server system, building a digital twin in its own office. “That allowed us to develop Prima Frutta’s application in their working environment, so we could bring their application on-site and implement it very quickly,” said Kieffer. “We did it in less than a day. It was very fast.” The new code was copied and pasted to Prima Frutta’s server with no issues.

The project also adhered to standards developed by the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). “The extensive planning and the use of CSIA standards really allowed us to deploy this rapidly,” said Kieffer. “It helped with the design, testing, startup, and commissioning phases.” Kieffer said other key factors were the extensive documentation, and strong communication with Prima Frutta.

Ignition performed well too, including when it came to updating the software. “The update process went flawlessly,” said Prima Frutta’s Augello. “We had no issues after the update. With other software packages, there’s always something that goes wrong. We had nothing go wrong with this update.”

Prima Frutta and IAG completed the project on time and on budget, without excessive change orders. The project was everything Prima Frutta expected it to be. Some of the credit goes to Ignition. “We’re running the newest version of Ignition, and we’re very happy with it,” Augello said.

Industrial Automation Group (IAG) serves the food and beverage industry. IAG has implemented complex automation solutions across North America. The company is based in Modesto, Calif., and also has locations in Sacramento, Fresno, and Visalia, Calif., and Reno, Nev. For more information, visit



Don Pearson: New equipment and controls allowed Prima Frutta, of Linden, California, to create the largest cherry production line in the world. To overhaul the line, Prima Frutta worked with systems integrator Industrial Automation Group, IAG.

Tom Augello: We have a 48-lane Compac Sizer that we integrated in with IAG and Ignition, 32-pack tables. We increased our production by 50% without increasing any labor, which was our major goal. We have two lines that we were unable to completely staff, so we modified those lines with this new Sizer and new controls, and we were able to achieve our goal and become the largest production line in the world.

Don Pearson: Every day, 900 employees get data from displays throughout the plant, and the plant is now controlled from 10 tablets.

Jason Kieffer: We actually first brought the tablets online with Ignition in our office. I was blown away at how quickly we could open a tablet from scratch, do the standard Windows updates, install Java, and then point that Java browser to the Ignition server and instantly have our application running on an out-of-the-box tablet.

Don Pearson: Prima Frutta used inexpensive tablets because they're so easy to replace. This provides more flexibility as technology changes.

Greg Sinigaglia: In the past, if you wanted to test the machine, you'd have to go motor by motor by motor in the breaker panels, turn it on, turn it off. Now with the tablets, we could walk around the entire line, touch a button, it works, great, move on. So the time and effort that it saved us was great, great time savings and money savings.

Don Pearson: The production line has over 120 screens of various sizes.

Tom Augello: We take Ignition and display it on TV screens throughout the building, which will give us production rate information, quality control information, packaging information, sort of a heads up for what's next coming down the line.

Greg Sinigaglia: With the use of Ignition, information is now readily available to us where the information is displayed for us on a large TV screen that anybody can see at any time.

Jason Kieffer: The wireless capabilities that were inherent to the Ignition system, I think were critical with the success of this project.

Don Pearson: Ignition also helped the project in numerous other ways.

Tom Augello: The ability to communicate with multiple brands of PLCs flawlessly with one software package, and the ability to change screens very easily were two huge things that Ignition provided us.

Don Pearson: Prima Frutta has been using Ignition for other functions, extending it for the new line was very affordable, thanks to Ignition’s unlimited licensing.

Tom Augello: Every computer that we have, every screen that we have runs Ignition, so that was a very nice feature that we could use without having to spend more money when we add more computers.

Don Pearson: Working with a tight schedule, IAG saved development time by creating a digital twin of Prima Frutta’s system in IAG's office. Ignition saves time as well.

Tom Augello: With using Ignition, changes are easily made in a very time-sensitive manner. Changes that I thought would take an hour only took 30 seconds to make.

Greg Sinigaglia: It's very user-friendly, so somebody with not a lot of experience could go up there, study the screen a little bit and be proficient at operating the line.

Don Pearson: Building upon a successful overall of the cherry line, Prima Frutta has more plans for Ignition.

Tom Augello: With cherries, it's very integrated into all aspects of our production facility. We've been using it in our apple production for the past couple of years, and we're growing there again this year, and we just started using it this year in our walnut facility and plan on expanding that over the next couple of years as well.

Posted on December 5, 2016