Automation Simplifies Product Tracking

The ability to quickly and accurately track finished products is one of the main reasons companies seek to automate labeling/tracking systems. An automated system can provide product specific information via product, case and pallet labels. Label information can be coordinated at central planning or headquarters then shared with various operating plants through a network configuration.

The ability to quickly and accurately track finished products is one of the main reasons companies seek to automate labeling/tracking systems. An automated system can provide product specific information via product, case and pallet labels. Label information can be coordinated at central planning or headquarters then shared with various operating plants through a network configuration. The resulting tracking label will consist of dynamic data fields including the case serial number, plant code and line number, ensuring unique identification for every carton produced at a facility.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that programming and installing an automated system with such capabilities would be too complex and expensive for almost everyone. That may have been true before Delta Systems, Inc., a software company specializing in control system software, invented SoftFlow™ software, to create customized, application specific, automation systems.

At a fraction of the cost and time it takes to program a conventional general control system, Delta custom builds application specific control systems that include the most common discrete systems in one application.

Using SoftFlow software, Programmable Logic Controllers, Motion Controllers, Human Machine Interface, graphics, automation, network communication, and platform, become part of one software system.

For example, at Tyson Foods a mobile, self-contained, production unit designed to apply tracking labels to product cases for the purpose of post-production identification and tracking was used as the point of origin to link Information Technology (IT) and Machine Control (MC).

Functioning as part of the production line, the Delta system provides the reliability, operability, and maintainability of a standard piece of production equipment. It looks and feels like a production machine while providing the communications typically required of a server, router, and data entry terminal. Product setup features are stored in a Recipe system that allows the operator to change the label using a "One - Button" selection process. As the labels are printed for the production cases, messages are sent to the server associating each case to a particular pallet and providing a unique serial number for future product tracking. The system tracks multiple products and handles product change over quickly. Using Tyson's internal communications network, master product labels are input at headquarters and distributed via the network to various production facilities. The system checks the server for updated labels whenever a product is selected for production. This automatic update and distribution of labels across and the entire manufacturing base provides tight control of product label information.

All of this functionality is possible because SoftFlow's component modules bundle each software component onto a single CPU. These software components provide all the functionality of industry standard components while offering far greater flexibility than standard counterparts. SoftFlow Component Modules consists of:

1. Soft PLC (Programmable Logic Controller)
2. Soft MC (Motion Controller)
3. Machine State Controller
4. GUI (Graphics User Interface)
5. Multiple Product Setup
6. Production Reporting
7. On-Line Help
8. On-line Diagnostics
9. Password Security Protection
10. Network Communications

System Integration
The Soft PLC, monitors the state of field inputs, and using user-configurable logic, controls the state of field outputs, as well as other logical aspects of the machine's control (Soft MC). Part of this logical control is the Machine State Controller, which is built into the SoftFlow system, and predominantly controlled by the Soft PLC logic. The machine state controller automatically sequences the machine through its various "states" or conditions, such as: Emergency Stopped, Stopped, Homing, Running, Waiting for Product, etc.

Automated Changeover
The GUI, or Graphical User Interface (aka HMI, or Human Machine Interface), graphically represents the machine state and control information to the operator. It allows the operator to input configuration and setup information and supports the Multiple Product Setup (or "recipes"). Once the initial configuration for a new product is done, it is stored as a "recipe" for instantaneous recall at any later date. The operator can easily switch between recipes with the press of a button.

Production Efficiency
The Production Reporting component provides the operator and line supervisor with dynamic feedback of their productivity level and operational problem areas.

Diagnostics and Operator Support
The On-line Help component enables new operators to quickly "come up to speed" by providing a description of the use and intent of each system function.

The Soft PLC component assists plant maintenance personnel diagnose a hardware failure. The On-line Diagnostics component provides a suite of tools allowing maintenance personnel to quickly isolate failed devices without having to connect to a laptop or other diagnostics equipment.

Security
Password Security Protection allows the plant systems administrator to customize the access to the system functions based on the capabilities of the logged in user.

Location Independence
The network communications for this particular model uses TCP/IP, FTP, and 802.11b wireless Ethernet. TCP/IP provides a global standard for computer communications. FTP allows the quick storage and retrieval of information from a remote server.

"Tyson Foods is implementing leading edge product tracking systems as part of our commitment to the highest possible level of quality assurance for our customers," says Steven Martin, Director of Plant Systems at Tyson Foods. "We have been developing our new systems for some time, and Delta has provided critical software that will allow us to push ahead with the next phase of our system deployment. Our product labeling machines are a key part of our quality control, so we needed software for these machines that provides ease of use, high speed, and a reliable control solution, and is also able to integrate with our existing wireless network and core business systems.

After evaluating Delta's SoftFlow solution against our business requirements, we were very impressed with the ease with which the software could be configured. SoftFlow allows us to provide more information to the plant floor operator, and reduces the time required for product set up on the production floor. Most importantly, the software is scalable to meet our future needs as we work to further improve and extend our product tracking abilities throughout our organization."

For more information, please contact Jake Bushey, President, at 479-619-2585 or jbushey@delta-systems-inc.com.

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