No Cheese Left Behind: Bringing an entire system up to speed with zero downtime.

A Controls Retrofit Case Study

Controls retrofit brings entire system up to speed with zero downtime

Replacing obsolete hardware at Tillamook Creamery with a controls retrofit leads to the execution of a new plan to mitigate risk and eliminate production downtime.

The Problem

Tillamook, a longtime partner of Concept Systems, asked us to come in to quote a controls retrofit to the two Remote I/O Enclosures (RIO) that tie together the I/O for their eight Block Towers. The primary goal was to remove the old Texas Instruments (TI) hardware and replace it with Allen Bradley FlexTM I/O hardware. The TI hardware is long since obsolete, and the facility has already transitioned their PLC over to a Control Logix platform. The Block Towers are where the cheese curds are stacked; the pressure created by the weight in the tower melds the curds into a solid, which is cut off at the bottom to form a large block. These blocks are then sent to storage to age before they are cut into smaller bricks or slices. You can see these in action at the Tillamook Creamery Visitor Center.

The Solution

The major challenge with any retrofit project at Tillamook is their requirement for zero downtime impact on production. The plant runs 24/7/365, and whenever the plant isn’t running, milk has to be trucked great distances. The cows never stop producing! Our typical method of executing these projects for Tillamook is to build a new enclosure next to the old enclosure, have all the wires ready to switch over, and plan a downtime event -which shuts the line down for a few hours.For this solution, we had to prepare to do the work opportunistically when short maintenance windows became available. Our engineers created an extensive plan that would allow for as seamless an integration as reasonably possible. In this case, the two Remote I/O enclosures for the Block Towers each contained over 300 points of I/O. The work required to move and test each wire would be too much to fit into a small window of time using their traditional approach, and would also carry incredible risk of extra unplanned downtime, considering the quantity of I/O needing to be transitioned. A plan was needed to help mitigate this risk and ensure success! During the job walk for the proposal, we investigated the I/O in the cabinet to determine what exactly it was being used for. We discovered the bulk of it was being used for the Operator Panel and the Valve Panel at each Block Tower. Our suggestion was to upgrade each Block Tower Operator Panel and Valve Panel to a touchscreen HMI and an ethernet valve bank, before tackling the two Remote I/O Enclosures. These upgrades could be done sequentially and would only require taking down one Block Tower at a time, which could be planned around. Once these were upgraded, the remaining discrete I/O points left in the Remote I/O Enclosures would be reduced by 400 points to a more manageable 100 points per panel. Increasing the scope to reduce the risk resonated with Tillamook decision makers.

The Results

The success of this project would not have been possible without the extensive preparation and detailed drawings from our engineers in the field. Seven of the eight towers were completed, the eighth is being planned for a future retrofit. Phase 1 has been a success. Phase 2, the Remote I/O panels themselves, will be completed in the future. The result so far has been a great success and left us with an execution plan which carries much less risk of unplanned downtime, which was a big relief to the folks at Tillamook, and exactly what we at Concept Systems strive for!

Project Details


Client: 2

Concept Systems: 2 engineers


Replace outdated hardware with minimal impact on production


9 Months

Technology Used

• Allen-Bradley ControlLogix

• FlexTM I/O

Concept Systems Time On Site

5 Months