What’s in a name? Perhaps a lot when it comes to the difference between the controls typically used on today’s packaging machinery and the functionalities packagers actually want.
According to a survey conducted by Packaging World in April 2003 at the request of automation supplier ELAU Inc. the PLC is still the predominant controller (Figure 1).
But when asked to choose the single best term to describe the functionality they want 127 respondents answered much much differently (Figure 2).
In the first question multiple answers were permitted so a wide range of responses was received. The second question required that respondents pick one and only one term.
It was no shock to see that PLCs get the nod from 25.98% of packagers -- but that was down surprisingly from 68.99% in the first question.
Another big loser was any term specifically including “motion.” For example “motion controller” went from 14.73% to zero! “Motion control” went from 20.16% to just 3.15%. Integrated motion & logic a relatively new concept that has been heavily promoted moved from 20.93% to just 5.51%. Clearly packagers are seeking more than servo motion functionality.
Terms such as “machine control” fared no better.
So what do packagers really want?
Interestingly responses to the second question were tightly clustered. Three non-PLC winners emerged with double-digit responses:
-Programmable automation controller
The key words “automation” and “integrated” suggest the trend for automation to encompass more than motion and logic likely to include the trend toward integration of packaging and processing lines.
These new terms align with the vision of leading packaging machinery and automation developers (see archived packworld.com article “Visionaries define ‘Gen4’ packaging”). As the software content of packaging machinery steadily increases motion and logic will continue to play a vital role but so will new applications.
Rather than quantum leaps in drive technology expect the integration instead of other functions previously handled by discrete electronic hardware. These include temperature controllers programmable limit switches vision systems and robotic controllers. This integration will only be possible with scalable Pentium class embedded industrial processors. And that presents another viable reason why packagers don’t see the PLC fulfilling the functionalities they want.
You can also expect groundbreaking advances in the next generation of packaging automation that have nothing to do with traditional control functions. These include better data access for operational equipment effectiveness (OEE) manufacturing execution systems (MES) supply chain management (SCM) and other enterprise applications.
Tell us what you think
Perhaps you’ve come to either similar or radically different conclusions! Tell us what you think in an email with What’s in a name in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may use your feedback in an upcoming Supplier News followup report.
ELAU’s marketing department commissioned the Packaging World research survey to verify its positioning of their PacDrive packaging automation system. For information on PacDrive visit www.elau.com.
Which terms best describe the controls on your packaging machinery today? Please choose all that apply.
129 Respondents Answered
24.03% Automation controller
29.46% Automation system
22.48% Control system
27.13% Integrated control
20.93% Integrated motion & logic
29.46% Machine control
20.16% Motion control
14.73% Motion controller
13.18% Programmable automation controller
27.12% Programmable controller
Which ONE term describes the FUNCTIONALITY YOU WANT for your packaging machinery? (Choose one only.)
127 Respondents Answered
3.15% Automation controller
14.96% Automation system
3.94% Control system
14.17% Integrated control
5.51% Integrated motion & logic
3.94% Machine control
3.15% Motion control
0.00% Motion controller
15.75% Programmable automation controller
7.09% Programmable controller
[This advertorial originally appeared in Packworld.com's supplier-sponsored content area.]