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Expert Line Control and Diagnostics Serves an Unplanned Client

Process and Data Automation (PDA) is frequently engaged to provide solutions for the most efficient line control and information systems that Krones produces in North America. Users enjoy an unparalleled operating experience and rich information from their line monitoring and management software systems.  When deployed with a fully automated Krones solution, the result is a level of integration between hardware and software unparalleled in high-speed packaging.  Normally it is the end customer who benefits the most from these Manufacturing Execution System (MES) packages but Krones themselves recently found themselves to be the beneficiary of the PDA efforts at one of their mutual clients.

Krones recently installed aseptic filling lines for a client in the southwest United States. This included the filling system itself with all product and material feeding systems as well as all the secondary packaging machines, inspection units, and interconnecting conveyors.  The client, operating as a startup location, quickly learned they were not immune to the current labor challenges facing employers today when a significant portion of their newly hired staff turned over during the construction phase of their plant. This will have little long-term impact on operations as they had wisely chosen highly integrated Krones systems, but it presented a significant challenge in the immediate timeframe.

Krones Lifecycle Services (LCS) teams were deployed to provide short-term operating support to see the project through the final phases of construction and startup. This included both the contractually obligated aseptic startup as well as extended staff to fill the temporarily open client positions.  Their teams provided the direct labor for daily operations as well as crash course training for replacement staff as the permanent positions were filled again. LCS worked closely with PDA to tune the MES software system’s line overviews and reporting function to offer the best possible value in connecting the line’s business drivers to fast reporting.

The Syskron Line Diagnostics (LD) package provides the ability to monitor key aspects of the system’s machines and line from a central system.  PDA had commissioned LD including line layout and piping diagram (P&ID) features on the recently installed Krones lines. To provide the most engaging user experience, PDA deployed the Information & Analysis boards which provide a simple, widget-based interface for users to monitor the line in real-time and create custom views to aid in the same; Downtime & Failure Analysis tools which direct users to failure points when they occur and speed the remediation of problem situations; and comprehensive reporting & trending.

The LCS team leveraged their line operations’ expertise and the LD software to monitor the line’s machines and step them through final commissioning.  Information from the system’s detailed machine overviews, Gannt charts, Failure Analysis Board, and Downtime Analysis tools helped to tune the final characteristics of the line.  LD was also used to validate the aseptic system’s performance and critical maintenance figures.  Once established, the line was monitored full-time against these benchmarks to judge performance and monitor the critical filling system’s health. Aseptic-specific metrics were all easily tracked using LD, due in large part to the customizations for reporting that were implemented by PDA at Krones’ direction.  Line supervisors, both LCS, and client, utilized the LD tools to monitor proper operation, identify the weakest points within the overall operation, and remediate any failures as they occurred.

In addition to the LD suite, PDA also deployed a Line Management (LM) end-of-line application to interface with the client’s ERP system.  The LM application receives production orders from ERP while also providing connectivity to the new Warehouse Management Solution (WMS).  Information from these sources is mated with production order data with pallet creation messages and the resulting License Plate Numbers (LPNs) are applied to every pallet.  The LM system allows both automatic generation of LPNs and the ability to edit payload information while a pallet is in the queue. Payload information is sent to the pallet label printer/applicator including a method to route the pallet label information to an alternate printer to minimize interruptions if there are problems with any primary applicator.  The interface with their WMS and ERP systems reports finished good pallet details so that inventory can be increased, and raw material consumption can be properly accounted for.

The LM system insured the smooth flow of information from and to the plant’s business systems.  Accurate information in the warehouse and related software systems was never in question.

The challenging labor scenario the client found themselves in was quickly offset by the additional resources supplied by the Krones/PDA team.  Krones’ expertise in line control supported by robust information provided by the MES suite from PDA proved to be the winning combination.  By having consistent data and intuitive tools, Krones/PDA provided an environment that allowed the client to focus on their core business and succeed in the face of this challenge.


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