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Article | January 31, 1998
Controls: Unleashing a new productivity tool
Few topics in the packaging engineer's lexicon have changed as much as that of machine control. Not long ago, a controversial issue was the size of the start and stop buttons, or whether companies would pay extra for a discrete control panel that could swivel from one side of a machine to another.
Today the word "controls" conjures up sophisticated electronics devices that can allow a plant engineer to truly become a wizard in wringing out the maximum productivity from one or a group of machines. And no matter if the engineer works for a product packager a line integrator or a machine builder this topic has universal appeal. This first special section on controls an outgrowth of our coverage of components focuses mainly on "networked" control systems that do far more than operate a single machine. For some highly automated packaging lines even these controls are not new; for others they can bring dramatic new opportunities to enhance both the quality and output of packaging equipment. Our coverage begins with two different stories both describing the same packaging line in the same plant. On this page you'll learn the advantages that Amway of Ada MI gains through an easy-to-program network of programmable logic controllers on a personal care packaging line. This is followed by a separate story that explains how on the same line Amway customized a personal computer-based operator-machine interface software package to serve as a diagnostic tool to help cut downtime. Along with these two feature articles this section also describes some helpful technical literature and a preview of an upcoming automation expo that presents an opportunity for packagers to learn more about controls. This special section culminates with short reviews of new products that have been introduced into the controls area. As always we'll be interested to learn your response to this specialized coverage. You can reach us by phone (312/222-1010) via mail (One IBM Plaza Ste. 3131 Chicago IL 60611) or by e-mail ([email protected]).
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