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Here’s to standards and canines

In a recent edition of the online Machine Automation Insights newsletter that I produce, I presented a summary of a Webinar in which Bryan Griffen, manager of electrical and automation engineering at Nestle and chairman of the OMAC Packaging Workgroup, outlined Nestle’s perspective on the business value of OMAC PackML.
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In a recent edition of the online Machine Automation Insights newsletter that I produce, I presented a summary of a Webinar in which Bryan Griffen, manager of electrical and automation engineering at Nestle and chairman of the OMAC Packaging Workgroup, outlined Nestle’s perspective on the business value of OMAC PackML. I included Griffen’s comments about Nestle’s plan to create a standard HMI template so that HMIs on packaging machines around the world will begin to have the same look and feel. The idea is to make things much easier for the operators, mechanics, and technicians who interface with the machines.

The story generated a number of comments and inquiries, including this from Dennis Fox, controls engineer at Haumiller Engineering: “Wow, there were so many styles of HMI interfaces at the last Pack Expo. If PackML was difficult enough to standardize on, the user interface is going to be even more complicated. All the same, I agree that there is too much variation, and some of it is very poorly executed. So I would welcome an HMI standard. Might I suggest that as many OEMs as possible are queried as to their HMI design practices?”

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Also submitted was this question from Jerry Buthmann, a member of the engineering team at Concept Systems, Inc.: “Procter & Gamble set a precedent by making their PackML standards and applications available for download from the PackML Website. Will Nestle follow suit and make their HMI standards available to promote openness and further the state of the art?”

Here is Griffen’s response to Buthmann’s inquiry: “The simple and definitive answer is: Yes! What we don’t want to do is create another customized approach that no one else uses. That won’t benefit anyone. We would much rather gain widespread adoption of a standard HMI look-and-feel coming from machine builders. We are currently working with OMAC and some of our fellow CPGs to finalize the HMI templates. The goal is to distribute these as a part of the toolset coming from OMAC, and eventually have them built into the standard toolsets available from the automation suppliers. This will help to ensure consistency across the industry. We are hoping for an OMAC release by the end of this year. As you can imagine, there are still coordination efforts to do to meet the needs of the OMAC member companies. However, we are moving in the right direction and are confident we will have the solution as planned.”

Thanks for the feedback, gentlemen. I continue to think that OMAC’s idea of a standardized approach to packaging machine programming will be a significant boost to all who build and buy packaging machinery. That’s why I was encouraged by the recent announcement that MillerCoors has joined OMAC. Says Steven Abramowski, senior manufacturing solution specialist at MillerCoors, "As a company focused on quality, we believe that OMAC's mission to establish and implement universal machine specification standards across industries is vital to improving productivity and is necessary in order to remain competitive."

Finally, an observation on a totally unrelated matter. It surfaced April 14 while I was attending PMMI’s Executive Leadership Conference in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Included in the program was a visit to K9s For Warriors, an extraordinary group that pairs rescue dogs with our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress. After a three-week stay at the group’s PonteVedra Beach “dog house,” these veterans return home with their very own service dog, a canine that is a medically proven recovery aid for our warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress. Each month, four or five warriors return home from K9s for Warriors ready to start their new lives as productive members of society. The cost is about $11,000 per warrior/canine team, but there is no fee charged to the warriors. And that’s where you come in. Please visit www.k9sforwarriors.org and consider a donation. Even if you don’t contribute, at the very least you’ll learn about a remarkable program.

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