In today's world of convenience foods, the supply of high-quality food products, delivered on time and at a reasonable cost, is an extremely competitive market place in which to operate. Standing out as market leaders in their field, Kepak Convenience Foods (KCF) began as manufacturers of frozen beef burgers for the Irish food-service market. By the end of 1989, the company's business had grown to such an extent, that it supplied half of the retail frozen beef burgers sold on the Irish market and half of all food-service frozen beef burgers sold to the independent sector.
KCF have become one of the key drivers of the chilled snacks category in the UK and their brand of ‘Rustlers' burgers, retailed in supermarkets throughout the UK, is now the market leader in the hand-held microwavable burger market. Here, the supply of their ‘quick and easy to prepare', hot filling snacks, has seen KCF's ‘Rustlers' business grow at a far quicker rate than that of the overall market for convenience foods.
Operating from four sites, the latest 160,000 sq ft KCF food processing facility at Kirkham, near Blackpool, was opened in Autumn 2004. To contribute to the sites overall security and process management, a surveillance system capable of providing a number of key operational attributes was ear marked for the site.
In charge and with overall responsibility for procuring the new surveillance system, Chris Whelan, KCF's IT Manager explained his objectives for the new system. "The decision on a specification for the surveillance system was based on experience gained at Kepak's Preston site, where a traditional analogue coax cable based CCTV system is installed. Here, due in no small part to the company's rapid growth, reflected in the requirement to expand and redesign shop floor work space, we found the inherent inflexibility of coax awkward to deal with, when we needed to relocate, or add additional cameras to the system."
To alleviate the issue for the requirement of intrinsic system flexibility, to allow the easy expansion and repositioning of cameras, if and when needed, Whelan opted to go down the IP route. This, rather than an analogue system, he believed, would offer the greater amount of system flexibility he was looking for.
To ensure the correct camera coverage would to be achieved, an assessment of the number of proposed camera positions and their specifications was instigated, with a full audit of the site, conducted by management, engineers and IT personnel.
The types of cameras to be deployed were chosen according to Whelan's defined criterion, this included; the nature of the area to be monitored and the precise visual information required. As an example, the site has 3 ‘out', and 4 ‘in' loading bays. The audit methodology, as applied to this area meant that here, fixed, rather than pan/tilt & zoom cameras were prescribed. This suits the precise nature of the internal and external dome camera coverage required for the zone, as for safety reasons, comprehensive monitoring of delivery vehicles reversing up to ramps and the loading procedure could be captured without the need for fully functional camera control.
Having supplied a very competitive reply to tender and with the advantage of them previously supplying surveillance installations for KCF at their Preston and Dublin facilities, Whelan's experience of working with Panasonic Premier Integrator, ZOOM CCTV led him to approach the company once again, to assist him with the specification and design of an IP based surveillance system.
Initially, Whelan met with John Lawrenson, Technical Director at ZOOM, to discuss and evaluate the proposed visual imaging solution for KCF at Kirkam. "We discussed the various security and a process control management scenarios Kepak highlighted, and we appraised each in turn to secure the best working solution," explained Lawrenson. "The Kepak site has the capability to operate 24 hours a day if production demands necessitate this, so we needed to provide a future-proof solution that would cater for this from the outset - in order to provide the bespoke IP security and process control monitoring solution Kepak at Kirkham was looking to deploy."
"When you are committing a not insubstantial company resource of over £45,000, you really do need to be confident in your choice of business partner," explained Whelan. "The level of knowledge and experience displayed by ZOOM in their ability to provide an effective, cost-effective solution, is reflected in their Panasonic Premier Integrator status. Their Panasonic accreditation means that their engineers, surveyors and installation project managers attend regular training for technical support and service, and the benefit to KCF has been delivered in the product advice we have been able to obtain. This level of technical support has given us peace of mind that the IP dome camera products we have opted for are a reliable and high-quality product solution."
Bounded by a brook, a railway line, and adjacent to residential housing, the food processing site's perimeter is overseen by six dome cameras. Chosen for their rugged build, these domes feature a 22x zoom lens with automatic colour/mono switchover imaging, making them ideal for outdoor applications. Inbuilt privacy zone masking also ensures that local residents can be assured that the powerful observation system is designed to ensure that their right to privacy is being upheld.
Guarding the security gatehouse and its main exit/entrance gates, a further two dome cameras are installed. Delivering crisp, clear 570-line resolution imaging, the cameras' 2x vari-focal lenses enable fast, easy installation and fine adjustment to precisely frame the desired field of view. Powered by 240V locally, the dome cameras' video output is relayed back to the factory via coax cables. At the IT equipment room, the analogue pictures are processed by an encoder and passed onto the IP Ethernet system via a network switch.
Within the factory, Kepak's own IT department installed a bespoke CAT5 UTP cabling network, along with dedicated IT cabinets, to supply internal cameras with ‘Power over Ethernet', distributed from centrally located IP67 network boxes. Ensuring the ample delivery of camera power (within 12V DC tolerance limits), the CAT5 cable runs were kept to a maximum length of 70m. A major benefit of this method of delivering power over UTP is that it saves on both installation time and money vs. supplying each camera point with a local fused spur.
Flexibility is key
In all, 9 fully functional PTZ IP Cameras and 22 fixed IP dome cameras are used to supply internal coverage of the facility. IP camera video in the factory is run over a fibre-optic backbone between fibre switches, joining point-to-point hubs together.
Whelan commented: "The functionality is better with IP. We further ensured this by separating the surveillance system from the IT data system, partitioning it on virtual area networks (LANS). The site's IT network structured cabling has approximately 300 devices attached to it. The IP surveillance system has not affected IT data transfer in any way. Greater operation flexibility is available with the ability to go ‘outside' the site to via a wide area network (WAN) if required, for an external production manager to review the local food processing operation. Also, using UTP structured cabling, it's easy to add more cameras if required, as we've made sure that the CAT5 based system has lots of spare capacity built-in, ready to simply connect additional cameras into it - real plug and play versatility."
A graphical software package is used on the local network to control the system's dome cameras ‘on-screen', via a mouse from nominated network PCs. With this arrangement, the site's manager and two floor managers can access the IP system and review any recorded footage. Key managers on the shop floor can also access the system via a unique password; with access being locked down to specific cameras; for both live viewing and historical playback.
The IP system's camera networked images are recorded for 31 days onto a central server in the IT equipment room. Featuring 2-terabyte storage capacity, all system cameras are recorded using self-managing video motion detection (VMD). Programmed at a rate of 2fps, this feature makes the system very efficient in terms of the digital storage capacity requirement.
Summarising, Whelan concluded: "IP technology is set to change the way that surveillance monitoring is applied. The strength of IP is in its ability to handle large numbers of devices, such as cameras, control points and recording nodes, and to communicate to them on an ever-increasing scale. Another is the advantage of ease of expansion in being able to add additional users and cameras, simply and efficiently. Using IP over an existing UTP IT structured cable network means that installations are installed ‘future-proofed', with the inherent flexibility that end-users value."