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Article | May 31, 1996
These days, the word "interactive" is usually followed by either "Internet" or "web site." In the case of Coca-Cola Bottling of Chattanooga and Hartness Technologies (Greenville, SC), what's interactive is a unique audio and video system that links the production floor at the bottling company with the service technicians at Hartness' headquarters in Greenville, SC.
Called the Video Response System the process uses high-powered ISDN phone lines to convey sound and a video image between the two locations. VRS' concept is to have the manufacturer's service people assist plant mechanics to solve problems on the OctoPack(TM) packer without the service people actually traveling to Chattanooga. That saves time and money. It also can drastically slash the amount of downtime experienced on that machine. But it does even more by virtue of the hardware and software provided by Hartness Technologies (Greenville SC). Both Hartness and the bottling plant are outfitted with video cameras microphones and remote-control devices to permit control over the system's cameras with full camera rotation and zoom potential. Technicians at Hartness control these agile cameras at Chattanooga to show exactly what they need to see to diagnose a problem and suggest a solution. Coke/Chattanooga expects audio/video links with other equipment suppliers as well. "The real payoff will be when we have arrangements made with other suppliers to use it. We expect that we'll soon be linked via the video system with other OEMs including the maker of our filling machine and other packaging equipment. That's really the goal" says Don Rockholt plant manager at Coke/Chattanooga. "We're strongly encouraging other suppliers to install the VRS in their tech service departments." Coke/Chattanooga identified two instances where VRS helped keep the plant up and running. Within the first week of OctoPack operation the plant experienced some jam-ups of bottles at the infeed. The plant couldn't detect any changes so it contacted Hartness via VRS. "We got the camera focused on the infeed and they told us we had something rough on the siderails. When we examined them closely we found a build-up of glue from bottle labels" recalls Rockholt. At first the plant solved this via a soap and water cleanup. Meanwhile Hartness decided to add a special high-slip treatment to those rails and shipped them to Chattanooga within a few days for retrofitting. The other instance the plant manager says came in diagnosing a release problem with one of the grids. One of the heads didn't fully release every time; sometimes it did sometimes not. When Hartness technicians could watch the grids operate through several cycles they recognized that the fingers weren't working just right and the head was replaced. "We haven't had a lot of problems with the OctoPack but the VRS system has already helped us. The manufacturer talked us through correcting the problems without having a serviceman visit the plant" says company president Ed Mizell. "We haven't put final numbers on the savings but we know the payback will be tremendous. "In mid-April we discussed the kinds of opportunities this could afford us as a corporation with five production plants [including Augusta GA Birmingham AL Hattiesburg MS and Baton Rouge LA]. That way we can easily trade information not only with the manufacturers but also within our own company." Not only is Coke/Chattanooga's video system a "beta site" within its group but Coca-Cola U.S.A. is monitoring it too. "This is absolutely the future for us" predicts Mizell. "When we can use it on all our production lines it will generate phenomenal savings. Any company has to have an edge in costing and the VRS will give us that."
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