British Sugar is the leading supplier of sugar to the UK market. From its four UK processing plants based in the East of England and East Midlands, the company produces over one million tonnes of sugar and a further 1.1 million tonnes of sustainable products and co-products of sugar manufacturing such as electricity, animal feed and topsoil.
Grown commercially for sugar production, sugar beet is a plant with roots that contain the organic compound sucrose. Harvested between September and December and delivered by 3,600 contracted farmers, British Sugar handles 7.5 million tonnes of sugar beet each year across its four UK plants.
The production of sugar involves many processes. The lorries transporting the beets must be weighed and random samples taken for analysis. Once approved the beets are unloaded on a large flat pad for storage, ready for cleaning. To separate the soil, stones and weeds, the beets are washed using water jets and then stored in large 500 ton hoppers.
Next, the clean beets are sliced into thin strips called cossettes and diffused in hot water to extract the sugar. The resultant raw juice is then filtered and purified with the remaining substance evaporated before being crystallised to form sugar.
Because British Sugar’s plants handle such large quantities of sugar beet, the manufacturing process has to be constantly monitored to ensure efficient and timely production. With early stages of cleaning and storage in the hopper particularly crucial, British Sugar needed a video link from the storage hopper to a central control room to monitor beet levels, as well as remote wireless control of water jet valves to provide a steady flow of water when cleaning. British Sugar approached Wood & Douglas to install a wireless communication network across three of its processing plants in Bury St. Edmunds, Wissington and Cantley.
To provide remote control of the water valves, Wood & Douglas deployed its OpenNET 3000 UHF base station and transceiver system. Set up in a central operations room, this unit handles up to 250 simultaneous connections, with a ‘fit and forget’ radio sensor installed onto the water valves. This allowed operatives to easily manage the flow of water during the cleaning process from a range of up to 1000 metres.
To monitor the beet level inside the 500 ton hopper storage unit, Wood & Douglas installed its Insight Digital CCTV Video Link system. Housed in waterproof casing for protection in an industrial environment, the inferface module features a video encoder/decoder, linked to a pair of directional antenna transceivers, to deliver a wireless transmission of high resolution, full frame rate video back to the control room.
Wood & Douglas’ two separate systems allowed British Sugar plant operatives to both monitor and control vital parts of the sugar production process, enabling the company to maintain its production schedule and improve efficiency during busy periods.
- Reliable and fast radio links allows remote control of water valves to provide a steady flow during the beet cleaning process
- Secure and vital video transmission enabled accurate monitoring of beet storage level