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Q&A: Melding packaging and electronics expertise

A discussion with Hershey Foods' Tom Hernley (top left), a 30-year packaging veteran; Wade Latz, packaging systems engineering manager (bottom right); and Keith Campbell, director of automation and integration.
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FILED IN:  Controls  > Strategy
     

PW: Must today’s packaging engineers be expert at controls? Hernley: Today’s packaging equipment includes so much electronics that you need to really understand both [electronics and mechanics] to maintain it. But to have a totally theoretical background without any hands-on experience . . . it takes much longer for that person to be really useful to us here.

PW: How are the machinery builders that Hershey buys from handling this electronic/mechanical duality? Hernley: There are three types of companies that we have dealt with. One has people with a totally mechanical focus who are [transitioning] to bring us more electronics. A second type of company has people who are doing a good job marrying mechanical and electronics skills. Latz: These folks are taking the current capabilities of computers servos motion controllers and operator interfaces and they’re starting from a clean sheet of paper with a clear understanding of what the current technology is capable of doing. Hernley: But then there’s the third example which is a company with a purely electronic orientation. And they come in with a set of really good electronics folks and programmers and they’re inside this packaging machine and— Latz: —they miss everything else about it.

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PW: How so? What do they miss? Hernley: They’re not packaging people they’re programmers. Latz: They don’t understand the aerodynamics of products moving on conveyor belts or through the air or all the mechanical aspects of friction and heat generation of the machinery or how different types of plastic films respond to different rollers. Campbell: Some companies have had limited success bringing in a consultant to do an electrical piece. But we get nervous when we see these third-party relationships developing because we have no confidence that the machine vendor can support what he sold us. They need to embrace the technology themselves. —DN

[Editor’s note: Hernley and Campbell retired from Hershey this month.]

For more of this interview see: packworld.com/go/w001

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