Grober Nutrition is in the dairy industry for animal food products in facilities built to human food standards, which is unique to the Northeast. Grober’s product is a powdered formula that is used as a milk replacer for young animals. Surplus Whey from a Skim Milk manufacturer is readily available as a supply component for the formula. The process included evaporating whey to a specific concentration, which was then used as an ingredient in producing a slurry which then fed a large dryer. The company needed a turnkey supplier for support of their new 60,000-sq-ft, state-of-the-art facility in Auburn, NY to produce the formula.


Optimation provided skilled trades installation services which included mechanical, electrical and construction management support, as well as control panel, pipe supports and frame fabrication. Optimation also provided software and controls engineering for process control.

For the process equipment, Optimation installed a liquefier, mix tanks, a surge tank, homogenizer and process filtering equipment, a large dryer, as well as all pipe and electrical between the process equipment. Around ten thousand feet of pipe and stainless steel, some large diameter, was installed as a part of this project.

All of the equipment and necessary utilities were installed according to Grober’s specification, which had to meet FDA requirements and sanitary codes. Grober also required an X-Ray inspection of 10% of welds.

Another challenge was installing some used existing equipment without detailed drawings. Teams of ten to twenty people had to complete the work using only preliminary engineering drawings.

Grober also needed a controls system and Optimation provided a lot of guidance in this area. Optimation conducted interviews to better understand what processes Grober wanted to control. The evaporator was integral to concentrate the product, which needed to be between 40 and 50 percent solids.

The batching system made the same product over and over during a run and the system was set up to automatically restart recipes. The recipe system was configured using Rockwell’s Sequence manager. This overall system had three unique subsystems, that each ran recipes.

Each system fed the next in line and after the mix was complete, was homogenized and fed a continuous dryer. Optimation wrote custom code to allow different recipes to be run, all of which were editable by the end user. The hardware consisted of Allen-Bradley Rockwell PLCs, View SE distributed HMI, and a Stratus hardware redundant server was used to run the system software.

Rockwell’s PlantPax was used on the View SE application. This allowed a consistent look and feel of the HMI using objects available from Rockwell, with standard faceplates. This also allowed the PLC code to be modular reducing development time by using these PlantPax objects.

Software developed was broken down into three different ControlLogix PLCs. There was an evaporator/tank farm plc, a batching/mixing/CIP plc and a homogenization/dryer PLC. These breakdowns were chosen because of the IO required for each, and to make each program more manageable.


Optimation provides troubleshooting and support for the plant.

Since project completion:

  • Operators are able to focus on optimizing equipment
  • Process Consultants are easily able to try new recipes
  • Grober is running around the clock, five days per week for production