Automation and productivity
Q: How much interest in automation are you seeing in the industry?
A: Manufacturers in the food industry are under pressure to make their operations as efficient as possible it’s a way of developing a competitive edge and maintaining profitability. There has been a recent upsurge of interest in plant automation, plant interconnectivity and software solutions that can push the boundaries.
Q: How has OMAC helped in process automation?
A: Production equipment is a large investment for manufacturers. In addition to the initial machine cost, manufacturers then have to pay integrators to “connect” all of the equipment. This can be a difficult, time consuming and costly exercise and is often responsible for projects running behind schedule. PackML is an industry technical standard, created by OMAC, and defines a consistent way to control and automate packaging machinery. Rather than manufacturers investing in costly equipment integration, PackML aims to make integration a “plug and play” exercise.
Q: How does this link to Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things?
A: Industry 4.0 or the digitalization of the manufacturing industry, describes smart manufacturing and smart factory initiatives where production lines are fully autonomous and self-organizing. The specifics of such solutions are still in the process of being defined by the industry but it’s clear that standardized information models and connectivity for machines are a fundamental enabler. This need is supported by PackML and the OPC UA Companion Specification.
Q: How does this support packaged food manufacturers?
A: The tools I refer to provide an ideal way of consistently quantifying performance, downtime and ultimately the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) of a machine or line. The set of PackTags are rich enough to allow for complex custom definitions of OEE and can provide actionable insights into reducing unplanned downtime and easing performance bottlenecks.
Q: Can you explain an example of this in action?
A: In a typical food manufacturing plant, facilitating the efficient and effective transfer of data between locations on the factory floor is critical. When PackML is combined with a protocol like OPC UA, a production manager can monitor the performance of a metal detector on a production line remotely from his location. He is able to stay in control of processes and make informed decisions based on up-to-date information.
Q: What other changes do you see on the horizon for the industry?
A: OMAC and its members have identified and are currently working on a number of areas of interest for future standardization. We are actively evaluating a number of proposed initiatives within the OMAC Packaging Workgroup and are prioritizing according to the perceived needs of OMAC members and the wider industry. The Packaging Workgroup is committed to creating the next PackML revision (PackML 2020) to ensure continued support for the latest Industry 4.0 and IoT initiatives. We are also actively working on standardized HMI designs and OEE definitions, which will be delivered during 2019.