Smart Machines: Redefining Packaging Operations

Smart Machines: Redefining Packaging Operations

By Steve Mulder, Regional Segment Manager for Packaging, Rockwell Automation

Packaging end users are eager to better understand their operations, improve productivity and keep up with competitive pressures. As a result, they expect their machine builders to deliver packaging machines that fill two primary purposes.

First, end users want smart packaging machines that allow them to capitalize on the transformative potential of smart manufacturing. Smart machines are connected, Ethernet-enabled machines. They should deliver real-time diagnostics, utilize modern machine-safety technologies, and be easy to integrate. They also should be designed with an eye to the future, with capacity to scale up to support additional connections and expansions.

Second, end users want machines that can support increasingly high-performance packaging operations. This means helping them boost productivity to gain a competitive edge, as well as improving their operational flexibility to support expanded product varieties and more diverse packaging sizes. It also means helping them address new productivity and worker-safety challenges that are arising from an evolving workforce.

 

Embracing Smart Machines

Smart, high-performing machines can help packaging end users improve their operations and address pressing business needs in several ways. Four key focus areas include the following:

 

1. Improving Productivity and Efficiency

One of the most essential ways end users can get more from their packaging machinery systems is by connecting machines, sensors and devices, and using intelligent software to improve control. They also can combine standardized machine functionality with standardized information reporting to drive continuous OEE improvements across multiple sites.

But the greater connectivity available in a smart-manufacturing approach also creates completely new ways to improve productivity. Remote monitoring, for example, can be used to oversee operations, perform real-time diagnostics and troubleshoot problems.

For example, Premier Tech Chronos offers a cloud-enabled, remote-monitoring solution for its packaging equipment. The solution can give end users mobile access to machine statuses, and it allows for the sharing of diagnostic information. It can even provide the required part numbers, fulfill part orders and schedule maintenance if an issue arises.

 

2. Increasing Flexibility

Expanding product portfolios and more diverse packaging sizes means that production runs are shorter and changeovers are more frequent. As a result, end users need greater flexibility in their machines to minimize changeover times and ultimately maximize throughputs.

Traditional motor solutions that use rotary-driven chains, belts and gears can be rigid, with complex designs and little flexibility. New machine solutions can better meet modern production needs.

An intelligent track system, for example, is a scalable, motion-control system that provides independent control of magnetically propelled movers on a track. It replaces traditional mechanics with simple software profiles, which can improve speed and flexibility in a diverse range of packaging applications.

Food and beverage packaging machine builder Delkor Systems uses an intelligent track system on its HSP-400 case packaging system for flexible pouches. The track system’s independent control of product movers allows the HSP-400 to reach three times the average speed of other case packers with precision.

 

3. Reducing Design Complexity

End users that incorporate smart devices from multiple manufacturers can face challenges in getting those devices to communicate and operate in concert with each other. This can increase engineering time and costs during machine design and commissioning, and create maintenance challenges in the future.

Improved controller-device integration helps address these challenges. This unique capability, known as Premier Integration, consolidates controller programming, device configuration, and machine-operation and maintenance activities into a single software environment. Premier Integration is made possible by using the latest intelligent devices in a Logix-based control architecture.

During integration, the Logix-based controller can recognize and automatically retrieve the profiles of other Logix-based devices. The engineer simply selects the specific device module, and the software pulls in all of the device’s parameters. This can reduce substantial time spent by engineers pouring through device manuals to identify the meaning of parameter fields in the control-system software.

Library management is another capability in Premier Integration. It allows packaging machine builders to store, manage and reuse code from their programs. This can help them reduce development time and build on the outcomes of their successful projects.

 

4. Addressing Workforce Challenges

The global manufacturing workforce is in the midst of a massive transition. Skilled worker shortages have emerged as a threat to growth and productivity in multiple regions around the world. To help end users cope with these challenges, packaging machines should be designed for easy use by newer and experienced workers, while also optimizing worker safety and productivity.

Contemporary, machine safety systems can help reduce safety risks and improve productivity. These safety systems are integrated with machinery-control systems and are less prone to nuisance shutdowns than hardwired systems. They also are more ergonomic, reducing the probability that workers will override the systems and put themselves at risk.

Additionally, human machine interface faceplates with systemwide diagnostics and easy-to-understand display screens can help younger, less experienced workers detect issues and ease troubleshooting. Embedded help functions and user manuals also can help improve machine familiarity.

 

Design Considerations

Achieving the desired levels of connectivity and performance are essential to a smart machine’s design.

At the network level, the machine should be able to communicate in real time across an Internet Protocol (IP)-based, standard and unmodified Ethernet network infrastructure. For example, EtherNet/IPsupports a simple, network architecture, with the ability to handle discrete, continuous process, batch, safety, drive and motion applications.

At the system level, the machine should utilize the latest integrated control and information technologies. These technologies are ideal for smart machines because they offer increased performance, easier access to information and reduced machine complexity.

New, compact controllers provide up to 20 percent increased application capacity to support the growing demands of smart manufacturing. New I/O modules also offer two 1-gigabit Ethernet ports for faster scanning and for connecting up to 31 modules without the need to expand.

Security also is essential in a smart machine. More connections present more opportunities for security threats, whether they’re physical or electronic, malicious or unintentional, remote or onsite.

Smart packaging machines should follow a defense-in-depth security approach to help protect intellectual property, safeguard operations and secure remote-access connections. Defense-in-depth security is based on the idea that any one point of protection can and likely will be defeated, and uses a combination of physical, electronic and procedural safeguards to establish multiple layers of protection.

 

Smart Manufacturing Comes to Life

Smart manufacturing is transformative. It helps connect people, processes and technologies to improve collaboration and decision-making at all levels. It can replace laborious, manual data collection with automated data collection to save time and reduce the risk of human error. It can use production intelligence to increase productivity, improve quality, address safety risks and more.

Machine builders are central to making all of this possible in packaging operations with smart, secure, high-performing and Ethernet-enabled machines.

EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA Inc.

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