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Packaging Integrator of the Year

Integrator AwardNew and advanced automation technologies, including vision systems, robots, motion control, high-tech PLCs and HMIs and sophisticated distributed-control systems, are having a dramatic impact on packaging equipment and operations. Combined with the move to completely integrated packaging lines and reduced engineering staffs, this is a demanding time for packaging companies. To meet these challenges, the industry has turned increasingly to systems integrators for its major packaging projects.


In light of this, last year Packaging Digest, in conjunction with sister publication Control Engineering, instituted its System Integrator of the Year award. This year, after reviewing the scores of entries that were received, Stone Technologies Inc., Chesterfield, MO, has been selected as PD's “Packaging Integrator of the Year” for 2009.

The award was presented to Don Ulrich, president, for the company's accomplishments in the integration of automated packaging systems. The winner was chosen from a field of system integrators who had submitted examples of their work, with judging headed by consulting editor Vance VanDoren, who writes for both Packaging Digest and Control Engineering magazines.

Stone Technologies, which was founded in 1996, is a national systems integrator headquartered in St. Louis with resources in the Midwest and Southeast. It provides industrial automation and information services from conceptual design through commissioning for control and manufacturing operations management systems including electrical design and system development.

Stone Technolgies is focused on the consumer products, chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Its people have worked extensively in these industries and understand their respective challenges. Stone is a founding member of the Automation Alliance Group, a gold-tier certified member of the Control Systems Integrator Association (CSIA) and has qualified for the highest levels in Rockwell Automation and Wonderware systems-integrator programs.

Packaging standards

Stone Technologies is a leading contributor to the promotion and adoption of packaging and supporting-systems standards. They drive consensus, pave the road for quicker capital investment return and reduce the total cost of ownership. Thus, Kirk Weiss, senior project manager at Stone, is directing the OMAC (The Organization for Machine Automation and Control) manufacturing execution system (MES) definitions team, whose charter is to drive global solution commonality and reduce the costs associated with delivering actionable equipment and packaging-line performance information within an organization.

Selection criteria

PD's panel of judges chose the winner based on essays submitted by each entry. Judge Walt Kozikowski notes, “Stone Technologies seems to cover all the bases with CSIA certification, written policies and customer satisfaction. They even try to improve the industry through work on ISA standards panels.” Judge Tom Bullock agrees that Stone Technologies “exemplifies the CSIA-certified organization with its complete set of policies, procedures, and peer group audits.”

Bullock adds, “Stone's technical competence is enhanced by encouraging engineers to obtain project-management certification and to author technical-conference papers. This also encourages each engineer to become a technical expert on some subject critical to the success of the business.”

Judge Mark T. Hoske is impressed by Stone's quest for “raving fans,” not just satisfied clients. He notes that Stone is still doing business with all 20 of the highest revenue clients it has worked for since 1996, averaging nine years of service and 50 projects for each. As a result, Stone has earned a profit every year and averaged a 20-percent annual growth rate.

CHEP case study

In recent years, manufacturing has focused on improving efficiencies and producing more with existing capital equipment and human resources. Stone has been in the forefront of developing OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) systems, ranging from custom solutions using SQL (structured query language) databases and Web reporting to utilizing specialized software with custom features for database management and reporting.

Stone has formed an implementation team with a concentration on plant-floor efficiency, and it has implemented more than 30 successful OEE projects over the last five years in the consumer products, discrete manufacturing, and food/beverage industries.

The challenge with any OEE project is the data and the equipment modeling, as well as the reporting hierarchy. Stone has developed an approach to identify the owners and users of the system and then to fully define the system requirements with their involvement. CHEP USA is an example of Stone's approach to these projects.

CHEP USA is a global leader providing pallet and container-pooling services to customers located in 42 countries. It manages the daily movement of 265 million pallets. In order to reduce operating costs due to transportation logistics, CHEP shifted the damage inspection of pallets from regional service centers to smaller, isolated sortation operations within its clients' warehouses, sending only those pallets requiring repair back to the service centers and keeping the serviceable pallets onsite for reuse.

Integrator Award 2CHEP also sought to outsource the operation of the sortation equipment to third-party vendors, who would be paid by the number of pallets they processed. This new strategy identified several challenges: how to remotely monitor and diagnose equipment problems; how to create an accurate and fair accounting of each vendor's productivity; and how to compare the performance of multiple vendors in multiple geographic locations.


CHEP had previously attempted to develop a system to meet its needs with an Australian systems integrator, whose system was not scalable to the large number of locations covering the multitude of time zones and localities, so the project was not extended. Stone Technologies was selected as the systems integrator for the second attempt at the project due to its expertise with advanced remote data collection and reporting systems.

Reporting capabilities

CHEP desired a flexible reporting solution that would easily allow operations, management and maintenance personnel to review the performance of the sortation facilities from any standard desktop/laptop within its enterprise without the cost or complexity to install custom client-application software to each PC.

The proposed solution would need to allow the third-party operations vendors to access their own performance data; restrict their access to data from other vendors; and yet still allow CHEP personnel to quickly compare the performance of multiple vendors and sites. Stone developed a semicustom solution based upon technologies from Microsoft and Wonderware that would satisfy all of the project requirements, yet be easy to scale to new facilities and be easily supported by CHEP's inhouse resources. Production data is accessed via one of two mechanisms: dynamic Microsoft Ajax webpage dashboards for realtime data or static user selectable time/date range Microsoft SRS (SQL reporting services) reports.


More information is available:
Stone Technolgies Inc., 636/530-7240. www.stonetek.com
Rockwell Automation, 414/382-2000. www.rockwellautomation.com
Wonderware, a business unit of Invensys Systems Inc., 949/727-3200. www.wonderware.com

 

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