Suppose a corporate engineer buys a piece of equipment and puts it in a plant across the country. He has limited access to that machine once the front-end acquisition is over. But with this new feature we give that engineer the access he needs.” That’s how director of marketing and distributor development Greg Levy at Arpac (www.arpac.com) describes the Remote Asset Management Program now available as an option on Arpac’s Model BPTS 5000 combination tray packer/overwrapper. Levy describes it as being similar to embedding a cell phone in a packaging machine. When the machine needs to alert someone that a condition requires attention, the machine sends an email or text message automatically to whomever is designated to be on the receiving end. And, thanks to a wireless communications device from Spectrum Control (www.spectrumcontrol.com), the communication is done wirelessly.
An essential component in the RAMP concept is the Human Machine Interface, which is a PanelView Plus CE from Rockwell Automation (www.rockwellautomation.com) At this HMI screen, an operator has immediate access to all operating information, maintenance requirements, currents, torques, voltages, and so on.
The HMI is doing a number of things that a more conventional operator interface wouldn’t be capable of. Essentially, it’s serving up information and offering functionality to the person standing in front of it. Functionality includes the ability to make a PowerPoint presentation right on the PanelView screen if management wants to conduct training. Video can be embedded, too, for the same purposes. Or an Excel spread sheet can be displayed if a listing of replacement parts needs to be viewed. Finally, in Arpac’s case, XML (Extensible Markup Language) capability embedded in the HMI makes it possible to click on a part that’s displayed on screen to have an email automatically generated that orders the part. “Putting that capability in was a custom application that Rockwell provided for us,” says Levy.
According to Rockwell’s Rick Kostrzewa, other ways of accomplishing the same kind of messaging that RAMP does wirelessly include a dedicated phone line or a dedicated Ethernet link. The phone line option is unappealing because of the hassle of installation and the expense of a monthly phone bill—whether the line is used frequently or not. And while a dedicated Ethernet link seems like a good solution, it probably means giving an outsider access to the corporate network. Most firms are not comfortable with granting such access to their network.
“In this wireless application,” says Kostrzewa, “it’s a point-to-point link. You’re dialing into a wireless server of one machine only.”
At Pack Expo International, Arpac demonstrated RAMP in action on the Model BPTS 5000. RAMP is available, says Levy, as a retrofit on most of the company’s shrink bundlers, case/tray erectors and packers, shrink tunnels, and pallet wrappers and hooders.