The Plant Management Webinar Series, sponsored by Invensys Operations Management, included a February 19 installment called “The business value of OMAC PackML—the Nestle perspective.” Content delivery was in the hands of Dr. Bryan Griffen, manager electrical & automation engineering at Nestle and chairman of the OMAC Packaging Workgroup. He covered territory similar to what he covered at The Automation Conference last May in Chicago. But the significance of his message makes it one that bears repeating. Paraphrased here are some of the points Griffen made:
• We wanted to put the PackML standard to a test by coming up with a prototype. We had three goals. First, implement the standard and implement it correctly. Second, we wanted to make the equipment on this prototype line coordinate without any need for a separate line integration PLC. We spend a lot of money every year paying integrators to put all the bits and bytes together in such a way that machines coordinate with each other and talk to each other. Now it’s not that we don’t value system integrators. But if we can reduce the complexity of machine communication, then our system integrators can focus on things that bring more value to the business, something beyond the bits and bytes. Third, we wanted to show that we could have controls components from disparate technology providers communicate with each other on the same communications protocol. All three of these goals were achieved, and the PackML prototype was demonstrated at Pack Expo in Chicago last Fall.
• There are too many HMI variations. So if an operator needs to move from one machine to another or one line to another, performance and efficiency goes down as the operator figures out the different HMI. We need a common look and feel in our HMIs. So we’re creating a standard HMI template and hope to deliver it to OMAC in a month or two. Then we hope to integrate it into the PackML standard.
• We need better diagnostics on the packaging machines we install. It’s no longer acceptable to have a maintenance person plugging into a machine’s PLC code to figure out why the machine is not functioning as it should. If a machine was running yesterday but not today, it’s not something in the PLC code that is at fault. It doesn’t magically change. It’s something else, like a photoeye that’s malfunctioning or a switch that’s jammed open, or any number of different things. The OEM should provide to us a set of diagnostic tools that tells us why the machine is not moving. Things like cam profiles and acceleration/deceleration rates are the expertise of the machine builder, so the only one I want to see messing with the code of a machine is the machine builder. Give us better diagnostics so that operations and maintenance can fix a machine without getting into the PLC.
• Vertical integration is next. We need to get information to MES and ERP to report automatically what happens on the factory floor. PackTags will help us do this. We’re also working on developing new SCADA templates with Wonderware to help us determine which information is most relevant to supervisors, operators, and maintenance and get that info to them so they can take appropriate action.
• Safety information has to be conveyed across the line, too. Reaction to a safety event is more critical than ever. We need to be able to transmit information about a safety event to the machine before and the machine after. We’re looking at the Open Safety concept. One thing we don’t want to do is shut down every time there is a safety event. A slow mode or safe mode is better. Because restarting is inefficient. You have to re-home a lot of motors and re-set heater bars. If we had better information about safety events when and where they actually occurred, the machines can make an intelligent decision about what they need to do. If shut down is required, fine. But if not, then go to a mode that is easier to come back from. So we’re looking for ways to transmit safety data from machine to machine the same way we have shown we can do with packaging information.
• What makes the widespread adoption of PackML so compelling is that it benefits all stakeholders. End users like Nestle need a control structure and data structure for managing our equipment so that we can achieve more vertical integration and lines that work more seamlessly. It will lower the Total Cost of Ownership on our machines. OEMs using PackML get to choose the technology platform they want. Also, with PackML they can protect their IP because they don’t have to let a system integrator hired by us get inside their machine. As for system integrators, PackML lets them deliver more value-added contributions. They don’t make money by getting inside a machine and figuring out bits and bytes. And finally, the technology suppliers benefit because PackML evens the playing field and lets tech suppliers focus on the advantages of their systems.
• We at Nestle believe standardization is necessary for us to have proper control of our packaging ops, and we believe we’ve found that standardization in PackML. In ten years if someone asks for a packaging machine that is not PackML-compliant, people will give him a funny look. It’s like S88 in Batch Control 15 years ago. There were other ways to do Batch Control, but then S88 came along as a standard. And though there was pushback and complaints for a while, today if you ask for a batch system other than S88, people will think you’re crazy. PackML will take some time. But we’ll get there.