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How To Lower Your Integration Time And Costs

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:22am
Greg Hood, Product Manager, Rockwell Automation

Out With the Old

In end-user facilities that heavily rely on legacy equipment, the right line-integration system can provide real-time insights to prevent and diagnose production issues.

For example, if your customer still relies on relays and has no alarming diagnostic, they can experience major headaches when a line shuts down. Without immediately knowing the problem’s root cause, operators are left to investigate where that problem resides. With lines containing several continuous activities happening at once, this lack of real-time information can result in significant equipment downtime and lost productivity, as well as additional scrap from bad product.

Integrated line-control systems provide insights into how and why a line has stopped. In addition to alerting the operator, the system can communicate this information to the other areas and other machines to react as needed — whether that’s no change, slowing down or stopping — to properly optimize or balance the entire production line.

Improving responsiveness to line stoppages can result in significant increases in machinery uptime. If, for instance, your customer is running 1,200 SKUs per month, and you help improve their cycle time by an average of two minutes per SKU, they’re now gaining 2,400 minutes — or 40 hours — of recovered downtime per month.

Integrating Packaging Processes

Line-integration systems are particularly useful in packaging operations. This is especially relevant because the packaging machines — fillers, case makers, wrappers, labelers, palletizers and more — used in many facilities typically are acquired from different OEMs. This approach has the potential to make it difficult for machines to communicate with one another, requiring customized integration work and hard coding.

Packaging Machine Language (PackML) has created a common language for these machines, and new line-integration technologies are leveraging PackML to create a link between machines across the entire packaging operation. This allows a supervisor to monitor each machine in a connected and standardized format, giving them visibility into the throughput of individual machines and a centralized view of how an overall line is performing.

By standardizing the line integration, end users also can standardize the diagnostics and event-and-alarm information coming off of the line.

This easy integration and instant standardization means that line-integration solutions can provide instantaneous overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) reports on a packaging line. In fact, manufacturers using the line-integration technology in packaging operations have shaved weeks off their start-up times and seen reductions in those times of as much as 50 percent.

Additionally, if changes are made to the packaging process, such as with limited-run packaging insertions like coupons, line-integration systems can seamlessly incorporate the changes. Legacy systems, on the other hand, require that you stop the line for each changeover.

Even packaging changes that impact the line’s mechanical or electrical makeup, such as changeover to a newly redesigned package, can be incorporated much faster using new line-integration technology. It already has the parameters for the other machines on the line and can easily integrate changes and make any necessary adjustments. This has the potential to help customers achieve significant improvements in efficiencies.

What’s In It for Me?

One of the more difficult tasks associated with line integration for the OEM is determining how to establish data collection and interlocking with physical manufacturing equipment, such as process skids and packaging machinery.

New line-control solutions provide a common equipment interface that allows you to install and verify its functionality prior to shipping the equipment. You can also use virtual server technology to set up and configure equipment before on-site commissioning.

In addition, using line-integration technology that can be implemented on new or existing lines with varying control systems allows you to standardize the process for your customers. This creates a repeatable approach that in turn saves you time and money.

Case in Point: Pro Mach Cuts Integration Time and Costs

Pro Mach, a provider of integrated-packaging solutions for more than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 food, beverage and consumer product companies, needs to deliver flexible machinery that can handle a wide range of options at a moment’s notice. Often times, multiple machines on a line need to seamlessly communicate and efficiently react to maximize performance.

Pro Mach demonstrated Rapid Line Integration technology from Rockwell Automation at a recent conference to show how the technology enables easier linkage between machines and across an entire packaging operation. For facilities where machines are acquired from a range of different OEMs, the Rapid Line Integration solution provides a flexible approach to integration by allowing a single location to set up, control and analyze the performance of the entire line.

Using PackML, the Rapid Line Integration solution allows plant managers to monitor each machine in a connected and standardized format, saving time during installation and start-up. It also gives them visibility into the throughput of each machine and a central view of OEE.

Unlike legacy systems that require operators to stop the line for each changeover, Rapid Line Integration technology allows operators to make seamless changes — even those that impact the line’s mechanical or electrical makeup, such as changeover to a newly redesigned package.

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