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With these goals in mind, Barry Weller of Mitsubishi Electric explains why machine builders and system integrators should be adopting the PackML standard.
Packaged goods manufacturers face two seemingly conflicting issues. On the one hand, they are constantly seeking ways to cut costs per packaged unit, while on the other they need the highest level of flexibility to be ready to introduce new advanced packaging innovations.
Machine builders and system integrators working in the packaging sector must develop solutions that address these challenges but they face two of their own: how to program the advanced functionality that these machines will require and how to integrate them into a multi-vendor environment.
A key element of the solution to all of these challenges is adoption of the Packaging Machinery Language (PackML) standard. For packaging industry companies, this provides a standardised way to collect the data they need to measure performance, quality and machine availability and to drive up their productivity. Further, by providing a common standard between different vendors, PackML allows the operator to look at any display screen on the line and see familiar information.
PackML first appears on the scene
PackML was first proposed to the packaging industry around 2001 by the OMAC Packaging Workgroup, with the first official release in 2002. It has continued to evolve over the years, and today is a prerequisite for anyone looking to supply equipment into the biggest packaging organisations. That said, increasingly smaller packaging operations are also coming to recognise the benefits of PackML standardisation.
The benefits for end users include simplification, maximised line uptime, increased flexibility and significant cost savings. Configuration of the line operation and systems is simplified and streamlined, even in a multi-vendor environment. All operator tasks, from maintenance to troubleshooting, are eased by the consistent look and feel across the line. In addition, the learning curve for everyone from operators to engineers and managers is reduced.
For system integrators, investment in PackML is a future-proofed investment. Any software and libraries that are purchased are reusable when expanding the system or implementing line changes for the end user, saving time and costs. By providing the ability to leverage the full functionality of a given line, the PackML solution can actually reduce the total cost of investment. The efficiencies gained from reusable hardware and software result in lines that cost less to build, operate and maintain.
Making the highly complex, simple
With packaging machines being increasingly complex, adoption of PackML offers further benefits to both system integrators and machine builders. Both must respond to the needs for product diversity while delivering higher performance and who must design machines for easier changeover, with improved interfaces and simple operation.
Templates provided by component makers such as Mitsubishi Electric are PackML ready, adding business value by reducing build time and cost in system development. With PackML, the time and effort invested in programming is reusable, so there is no re-inventing of the wheel with each new project. By reducing the volume of code to test, and with the adoption of modular software programming, the amount of time required to debug the system and get the customer up and running is significantly reduced.
Finally, adoption of PackML can make aftersales support easier. The standardised templates of the PackML solution mean that the same familiar graphic operation terminal screen can be used even for different types of machines, thereby reducing the investment required in training.
In embracing PackML, Mitsubishi Electric has developed systems that not only deliver all of the advantages of standardisation – including a reduced learning curve for operators and increased reliability – but also address integrator concerns about deploying a new standard. From streamlining the deployment of the PackML standard to providing pre-defined HMI templates and ready-made function blocks to speed configuration, the Mitsubishi Electric PackML solution simplifies the entire journey and eliminates many of the costly extras of implementation.
Open communication standards
PackML is implemented in combination with open communications standards such OPC UA, the result for end users is the ability to collect OEE data in a uniform way from multiple machines and lines, highlighting key performance indicators such as production, quality and availability data across the whole facility.
Implementation of open standards also means data can be easily transferred to SCADA systems and beyond to higher level MES and IT systems. This provides improved transparency and visibility of the production environment, enabling end users to increase productivity, quality and availability and drive down costs.
Optimisation on every level
We can see, then, that by adopting PackML, machine builders and system integrators can reduce development times, drive up reusability, reduce debugging time and simplify training. They can also deliver machines and systems that offer end users in the packaging industry the benefits of simple configuration, standardised operation of different systems and interconnectivity; thereby maximising uptime. The improved productivity, availability of data and extended visibility of productivity all lead to ongoing cost savings and are key drivers in the journey to Industry 4.0.
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