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OMAC packaging ideals make life easier, profitable

Control Engineering and Packaging Digest on March 29 interviewed Keith S. Campbell, then-executive director, OMAC Packaging Workgroup (and with the Louisiana Center for Manufacturing Sciences). Campbell, previously with Hershey Foods, and a long-time proponent of OMAC ideals, addressed the bottom-line impact of packaging machinery guidelines.

Q:OMAC (Open, Modular Architecture Controls) group's vision, simply stated, is that open architecture control requirements can save end users a lot of time and effort. Could you explain how the OMAC Packaging Workgroup has extended that vision?

A:Emerging and advanced technologies applied to packaging machinery have the potential to make a lot of money for end users, by improving productivity and speeding time to market. Applying guidelines in an OMAC way, using open architecture, makes the application of advanced technologies even more beneficial for end users, machinery builders and providers of packaging equipment.

Q:Do the goals of each differ?

A:They can, although I sometimes wonder why. We try to keep the three groups aligned. Early in the development of generation 3, or Gen 3 packaging technologies, while I was still working for an end user, an engineering representative from a packaging machinery company said that new servo technology would allow them to lower project costs and hold the price. Of course, end users want lower prices. But I really think end users more often want performance increases that will make their applications work more profitably. Price is important, but it's not everything. Other examples I've seen vary by region of the world. In some regions, packaging machine manufacturers view closed proprietary automation systems as a means of end-user account control. Any perceived attempt to lock in use of a single vendor is usually opposed by end users.

Q:How do guidelines differ from standards, especially as they relate to the technologies OMAC touches: software models and languages, PC-based controllers, drives, motion interfaces and industrial networks?

A:Speed of development is the big difference. Volunteers can put together guidelines in a couple of months and make them available to people who want to use them. The process for creating standards can drag into years. When you're working with emerging technologies, people don't have years, otherwise they have to undo what has been done in the meantime. Guidelines are a shortcut. In some cases, OMAC guidelines reference other standards. If there are already applicable standards in place, our guidelines will recommend following [those] standards. We cite IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standards quite a bit, including SERCOS (SErial Realtime Communications System), Profibus and IEC 61131 programming standards, among others. In addition, PMMI [Packaging Machinery Mfrs. Institute] and ISA [Instrumentation Systems and Automation Society] (S88), both ANSI [American National Standards Institute] standards bodies, are interested in working with us on moving our PackML work to the status of a standard [more on this below].

Q:Who's presently involved with the OMAC Packaging Group?

A:We categorize OMAC Packaging Group members into end users, machinery builders, technology providers and affiliates. Present end-user community leadership in the executive committee includes Hershey Foods, Procter & Gamble, Pfizer and SAB Miller from South Africa. Among OEMs in the executive committee are Schneider Packaging, Lidington Technologies and Markem Corp. Technology providers are Bosch Rexroth, Beckhoff and Elau. Affiliates include organizations and educators: PMMI, Alexandria Technical College, ARC Advisory Group and the Louisiana Center for Manufacturing Sciences. Pack teams include large multinational end users, major packaging machinery suppliers, automation suppliers and others [there's a full listing of OMAC Packaging Group members on the OMAC website at www.omac.org].

Q:What other organizations is OMAC working with?

A:PMMI, PLCopen, World Batch Forum, ProfiNet Users Group, SERCOS IGS, SERCOS NA, JETT (Joint Equipment Transition Team) consortium, VDMA [the German Engineering Federation], PPMA [Processing & Packaging Machinery Association], ISA and the Weihenstephan Group from Germany, which does standards relating to bottling plants. We're trying to leverage these organizations' efforts and have them reference our work as well.

In my opinion, much of the work from process control is easily molded into packaging guidelines. Packaging is another process in which each machine is a unit operation. As the unit operations become more capable and the packaging lines become more integrated from door-to-door, then packaging becomes more like a continuous process rather than a group of discrete operations.

Q:Skip Holmes, OMAC member and P&G's associate director for Power, Control and Information Systems, recently reported that P&G's financial benefits from OMAC Packaging Guidelines could reach $15 million annually, by increasing reliability, quality, capacity and speed to market. Could you explain why that's significant, and for whom?

A:As I recall Skip's discussion, the $15 million in P&G savings was from use of the OMAC guidelines without consideration of their considerable benefits on time-to-market. I think every company is trying to purchase equipment for less money, purchase less equipment that's more capable and reduce lifecycle costs during installation, integration with enterprise or other company systems, in startup, optimization, redeployment and maintenance. There's a strong emphasis on having more capable equipment at more competitive prices in shorter amounts of time. Having systems designed to a common architecture, using open standards and advanced software-based technologies, rather than hardware-based technologies, brings costs down.

I've heard that with new mechatronic Gen 3 machines, the only time that a mechanic needs to touch the line is when a part breaks. Gen 3 machines have 80-percent fewer moving parts and won't often break. They support maintenance, use less downtime and have other advantages, such as opportunities for predictive maintenance.

Benefits from the OEM side include being able to configure to order, and put more capabilities into a smaller footprint. A lot of older plants don't have space to modernize in a conventional way. Smaller packaging machine footprints make modernization possible. Because newer technologies integrate more quickly, shorter startups are also possible. Selling more technologies into today's machines creates win-win-win scenarios for everyone. We've been encouraging people to quantify their savings, although often end users don't like to do that. A year or two ago, we talked about an anonymous case study with $13 million in annual savings. People are making money and can also save money. As a corollary, we're trying to get OEMs to speak out that they're using our guidelines, but some don't want to say they are because they see using the guidelines as a significant competitive advantage.

Q:What is the PackAdvantage Team, and what value does the User Application Guide offer?

A:The PackAdvantage Team illuminates business benefits of all the work that we do. I've asked them to try to validate and report on our goals and the steps we take toward reaching them, to identify case studies and to do things that help users and machinery builders to care about our work. They're putting out documents on the general characteristics of Gen 1, Gen 2 and Gen 3 machines. They look for case studies and are working on an application guide at present. They're working on information for Pack Expo; we're hoping for a larger presence there to discuss business benefits.

Q:Can you explain a bit about the PackML Guideline and the effort with World Batch Forum to harmonize PackML with ISA S88? And how do PackTags 2.0 fit in?

A:The state model for packaging machines is good place to start. We looked at the work done on the ISA S88 standard as a starting point for our state model. We're fairly early in the game, but there are a number of implementations that have been completed using the state model. I know of some systems integrators using it as the basis for work they do. There's no way of knowing how many; it often turns up in places we don't expect. We have received feedback from a couple of major implementations: Tetra Pak gave a presentation at a recent event in Italy, and SAB Miller will speak at the next PMMI Executive Conference in Arlington, VA. Indications are that, in a complex system of machines, more work needs to be done on how modes propagate through a line when some part of a line changes state. We've started working with World Batch Forum; people there are already experienced in solving similar issues. That will help us take PackML modes and states to the next level.

PackTags are standard tag names that two operating machines can use to communicate both with each other and with connected systems about what states they're in. The tags offer quantitative and qualitative reasons why things are taking place: how many products, how many wraps, and related questions. In some cases, such information wasn't collected previously; because if you don't have standards in place, that kind of communication takes lot of custom engineering. In the past, even with a wrapper and cartoner from the same company, an end user may not have been able to easily integrate them to produce information about the amount of packaged product they produced. Standard tag names are a great help, within and between companies and machines. In my experience, the amount and complexity of the required custom integration is one of the most significant reasons why packaging machine information is not successfully collected and used.

Q:It seems there's a lot of room for growth in application of automation and controls to packaging equipment and lines. Do you have estimates of growth potential, formal or anecdotal, from OMAC participants or other sources?

A:There's tremendous room for growth. With Gen 3 penetration, there's perhaps 20-percent market penetration. We don't see Gen 3 as the end. We've started talking about Gen 4 machines. After Gen 4 comes along, it will be harder to catch up. Technology comes in waves; people need to keep up.

Q:Do you have any other near-term comments or advice for those applying automation and controls to packaging?

A:People need to keep an open mind, explore alternatives and pick the best ones for their business. If they use Gen 2 as a benchmark, they may miss the advantages of Gen 3. Making the best decision can be done by getting together with groups of peers. OMAC tries to provide opportunities to work with and learn from your peers. The National Association of Manufacturers reported recently that inadequate preparation for the application of advanced technologies is a greater threat to U.S. manufacturing jobs than low overseas wages. The PackLearn team is helping prepare our educational system for the long-term application of advanced technologies. Other parts of the world have mechatronics programs to help effectively prepare people for high-tech positions. OMAC's working to do that also, to help bolster our workforce for the future.

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