Volumes have been written about the current and future benefits of big data. Food manufacturing plants are excellent candidates for inclusion in enormous data sets based on information generated via large scale production and packaging systems. Add utility and consumption data and it becomes easy to see the holistic, valuable content that these operations generate. Packaging lines specifically are responsible for the high volume, hygienically manufactured products which people the world around require for sustenance. These operations create a seemingly endless stream of intelligence about both products and the equipment which packages them. Everyone benefits when these systems produce at optimal capacity and quality.
Process and Data Automation (PDA) and Krones are delivering on the promises of cloud-based data systems in a big way. The Krones Digital Share2Act platform provides the medium where massive amounts of data generated from a single liquid food packaging line are stored individually and married with data from many other similar lines. The result is a modular solution which provides the expected benefits of big data user experience, performance, and data analytics. Specific apps within the platform provide simple feedback on things like performance/KPI and consumption while other components dive deep into optimized production parameters and materials management. User-side experiences are enhanced by modules that help with maintenance planning, employee training, and changeover execution.
Lines equipped with both Krones and 3rd party machines are implanted with a ReadyKit edge device which marshals local information and bridges it to the Share2Act cloud. New equipment from Krones may arrive with these units installed but many lines exist which pre-date the hardware and platform. In North America, that is where PDA comes in. One mission of PDA is to support the digitalization of parent company Krones’ automated equipment. This is often achieved via retrofit of legacy Krones and 3rd party equipment. Today that means applying ReadyKit to lines that are predominantly Krones hardware and the related items which come from other machine vendors.
“ReadyKit’s origins are tightly connected to Siemens control hardware and Krones’ manufacturing machines”, says Tom Ludwig, Senior Controls Engineer at PDA. “The device is versatile and we’re able to apply the same solutions to Rockwell Automation, ControlLogix based systems that we find here in North America”, he continues. “PDA enjoys a tight level of connection to the Krones development teams in Germany”, Ludwig says. “We extend that connection to any third-party machines that might be included on a line in in our market. We find that the third-party machine manufacturers are open to their systems being connected in this way as it illustrates the deep cooperation that they enjoy with Krones”.
“The talk of big data has been around for a while now”, says Jeremy Anderson, president of PDA. “The Share2Act platform is really the first system introduced which actually delivers on what big data is intended to do and that has the ability to really collect information from such a wide swath of directly related manufacturing equipment”, he continues.
Share2Act brings the added benefit of scalability, both technically and financially. Customers can enjoy the base functionality found inside the Advanced Analytics app which shares key metrics about the connected lines. They can also add apps like Shop Floor Guidance (Guidance) which organizes vast information about the lines. Guidance groups and prioritizes tasks pertaining to materials and usage as well as maintenance and alarms. Then this information can be embedded with SOPs for corrective actions and sent to workers via subscription. This powerful tool will truly change how plant workers interact with and utilize the plant equipment.
Perhaps one of the biggest features to the Share2Act system involves how it is initiated by a customer. Upfront costs are minimal when compared to large scale, in-plant data systems which are most frequently custom to one facility. The system then uses a subscription model which allows the plant to add new features as they become available or as the aptitude of general users grows to accept the platform’s capabilities. Customers can enjoy the latest in functionality and user experience all while incurring little to no downtime on the equipment. This advantage is important for equipment operators as well as the user interface remains fresh and current to apps they use outside of the business environment.
Krones’ services can retrofit equipment at locations all over the world and PDA provides this expertise in North America. PDA is initiating the systems at multiple clients in North America today. “Our customers have been very receptive to the system so far. The fact that we can connect their new lines and their old lines, all of which may be a combination of many manufacturers’ equipment, is big for them”, continues Ludwig. “Our current clients are enjoying the base functionality today and we have projects scheduled which will expand the platform functionality with apps like Advanced Analytics. The user experience will also be expanded to include operator tablets and connected scoreboards, all which function on the subscription system”, he says. “It’s exciting to be part of this. This is certainly a paradigm shift for someone who has deployed similar functionality throughout my career via heavy, server-based apps in plants. The motion generated by both users and the development teams promises to drive this forward in a way I’ve never seen before and I’m happy to be able to deliver this to our clients”, Ludwig concludes.
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