Process and Data Automation (PDA) has implemented Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) at dozens and dozens of client sites throughout North America. They regularly use the powerful Line Management (LM) software from Krones Digital to handle order management activities, ERP integration, changeovers, materials management, and more.
The PDA team recently worked on a unique application for a customer in the northeast US. This application was the first ever pairing of the new 100,000 bottles per hour (100kbph) Krones Modufill Dual, block-style filler with the same LM software. High-speed packaging is nothing new to Krones nor PDA but the speed at which this block outputs finished bottles was unprecedented for the pair. “The new fillers operate so quickly that a problem with label coding, for example, could create a cascaded problem if not addressed efficiently”, says Tim Smith, a Senior Engineer with PDA. “The machines employ two filler and capper heads within each filling block so there are more validation points and material setup locations per overall machine”. All of this complexity is skillfully planned for by Krones and the PDA team but careful setup is required.
The speed at which Krones innovates sometimes dictates that the first connection between hardware and software happens in the field. That was the situation in this case. Krones has made a significant investment in their R&D functions in the preceding years and the output was evident in this new platform. Not only was the physical machine different from prior fillers by a matter of format, footprint, and output, but the machine is one of the first available on the filling side with the Siemens S7-1500 controller and the innovative Krones Connected HMI human-machine interface (HMI) tablets. This resulted in new styles of machine-to-software connection, new programming standards, and an entirely different user interface experience.
“Krones has deployed hundreds if not thousands of the legacy filling systems which used the S7-300 platform, so our integration schemes were very much tried and true”, says Smith. “The R&D department worked hard to minimize integration problems with the new controllers. They heavily leveraged the controller and HMI systems’ new technology, so the upgrade wasn’t merely new hardware. Planned integration with MES was at the forefront of Krones’ minds during development and it shows in the final product”, he continues. When pressed about technical differences between the legacy and new machines, Smith says “we realized that these increased speeds will require a new scheme for barcode validation of the UPC codes. We’re working on that with Krones now and our next update will reflect this. We can’t risk any products being mislabeled because it could result in a lot of waste at these operating speeds”, he concludes.
The systems were a planned upgrade from other lines they have elsewhere, so the customer was expecting a new feel. The customer’s MES Team quickly adapted their standard operating procedures to reflect the new system controls, particularly the Connected HMIs. “There’s a lot more information available on the new HMIs and it’s delivered on hardware with a lot more functionality than the prior versions”, says Smith. “The environment operates like an iPad or similar tablet and gives operators rich information with a very familiar type machine to handle”, he says.
The work done by PDA and Krones on this project benefits not only the customer at this site but will be leveraged by the team for many future MES applications which utilize this filling equipment. PDA’s connection to Krones made this deployment a tremendous learning experience for the customer, Krones, and PDA. As is always the case, field-side information will flow from the North American team back to Krones R&D so that the feedback can be considered with future upgrades or innovations. PDA looks positively to the future for what this revised control platform will mean for future customers of theirs and Krones.
Posted In: Application Stories, Digitalization Digest
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