Digitalization Digest: The Addition of Line Management

An energy drink manufacturer recognized the need for integrating features of a manufacturing execution system into its new production line.  After careful consideration Process and Data Automation (PDA) was hired to configure SitePilot Line Management (LM) to the new production line.  LM centralizes the coordination of the entire filling and packaging process – from the definition of the production route based on the order to the labeling of the pallets.  LM provides a continuous flow of information, from production planning right through to the order for the line and individual machine.  This addition adds a level of automation to the production line so that all the processes, for instance, entering orders online or printing services, are automated instead of having to be manual.  The addition would also effectively integrate the company’s business system and the new, fast canning line.  Furthermore, this addition would allow the alignment of orders dispatched from their ERP system to be produced on the new line, as well as assisting operators with transitioning through orders, correctly tagging the finished product, and relaying information back to the ERP system to maintain warehouse inventory.

While implementing LM, PDA found that communications between the line network and the internal network of the company, allowing movement of information back and forth, resulted in issues with the network traffic.  Other issues that confronted PDA arose with the printing, OEMs, and integration of printing and coding devices onto the line.  The company was integrating information from the mixing systems into the packaging line, and it became necessary for PDA to develop methods of reviewing expiration data.  This development allowed the identification of expired products and the operators were notified so that the production line could be stopped.  PDA was unaware of the methodology being followed by the company for this occurrence so that some interaction was developed by PDA.

The addition of Line Management also allowed items to be tracked through the production line.  PDA integrated into LM two other pieces of equipment that were on the production line.  Similar improvements to the existing production line were consistently undertaken by PDA.  For example, two features were introduced to provide more data for reporting the timing of batches and lot association.  It is felt by PDA that this activity demonstrated its capability to deliver above and beyond the original scope of the project.

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SCADA Improvement For Wastewater Treatment Facility

Project Summary Highlights:

Hardware/Software implemented:

  • Inductive Automation – Ignition HMI
  • Rockwell – CompactLogix PAC
  • Custom Control Panels

Key Improvements:

  • Obsolescence avoidance
  • Migration planning
  • Network design
  • PLC programming
  • HMI design
  • Reporting
  • Alarm management

A large public sewer authority, comprised of a wastewater treatment facility and 28 remote pumping stations, was using a legacy SCADA system with little visibility and central control of their system.  Only the remote pumping stations and a few critical plant flow signals were connected to the SCADA system.  The authority was aware of the expected remaining service life of the system, knew of the capabilities of present-day SCADA systems, and the new regulations required for their industry.  These needs had to be balanced against their budget.    PDA was consulted to provide a long-term solution that could help them achieve a balance.  Considering the limited budget available to the sewer authority, PDA provided a systematic approach to the upgrade, planning the work in phases.

Before improvements could begin, the sewer authority requested that a parallel control system be implemented.  This would provide the plant with consistent operation and ease learning of the new system until the legacy controls were all replaced.  To assist in the design, a tour and client workshop were arranged by PDA with a similar, successful project at a participating regional client.  This arrangement removed any reservations within the authority regarding the new SCADA application.  Sample HMI screens were built allowing the plant operators to gain experience with the conversion.

Overall, Phase One of the project went very smoothly.  Challenges on the project included harmonizing legacy and modern controllers and networks while limiting rework in future phases.  The remote sites currently are communicating through leased copper lines.  Although cellular was considered for future phases, the authority now plans on installing fiber to each remote site.  This will change the communications to Ethernet and will be able to connect each site directly to the SCADA system.  phases will include upgrading these to a consistent, industry-standard hardware, at which time a fiber-based network from a local service provider will be introduced.  PDA planned to ease the Authority into the changes, giving them exactly what they wanted, but minimizing scarring on the project.  Project scarring is most common when upgrades are phased. This means you must complete engineering to a certain level to achieve system functionality during a phase. The next phase may require rework from the first phase to continue advancements. This work is known as project scarring. PDA engineered the project phases to minimize the scarring while designing each phase to fit within a municipal’s budget constraints. This allows municipals to enhance their systems while making each phase financially manageable.

The next phase will involve the addition of Secondary Gate Actuators to be PLC controlled.  Presently to operate these gates someone has go to the blower building and physically open and close the gate.  These operations are major safety hazards due to some of the weather conditions involved and must be eliminated.   In addition, in this phase, PDA will also introduce more signals to the SCADA system in the plant which are currently not visible.  The New HMI (Ignition) screens will be created to show the same data found on the existing legacy screens.  To minimize project scarring, and to conserve budget, PDA will be able to use the same tags and registers in the SCADA screens.  Facility Managers have options when working with PDA regarding SCADA screens. They can choose to mirror the existing screens to minimize operator change management, redevelop the screens to a new templated-based screen development allowing for ease of implementation across a SCADA system, or adopt new standards such as High-Performance HMI visualization. Any option that is chosen will undergo a thorough review of the screens as they are developed in the new platform. PDA hosts HMI workshops that promote functionality checks and review with the municipality as the screens are being developed to ensure that all parties are satisfied with the look/feel of the screens. Overall, these solutions will provide a better (safer) work environment.

No technical roadblocks have been encountered in Phase Two.  The largest challenge was to adapt the scope of the phase to meet the Authority’s approved budget.  PDA led open and iterative planning sessions with the client to triage the highest priority items into the budget allotment.

Future phases will include the upgrade of the control systems at each of the 28 locations.  Also, the installed fiber communication will allow direct control from SCADA to any of these remote sites. Finally, the original alarming notification was very basic. There was one person on the call list and the information provided on the call-out was vague.  The person had to go to the plant to see what the alarm was before addressing it. Now with the alarms going through the Ignition call out, the person who is at the top of the roster gets the exact description of the alarm and can travel directly to the location instead of having to go to the plant to determine the issue. At the end of the projects, the Authority will have a single source of information for their entire operations.  All necessary operations and notifications will be visible to those who need it, when they need it.

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Digitalization Digest: Lines Configuration

A problem, facing a large beverage manufacturer, was the installed network operating at the plant, connecting the equipment on the production line.  The approach that had been adopted was a hodgepodge that had grown with the plant.  This resulted in the existence of multiple lines on a single network, an arrangement that worked for a while but clearly was not the best practice going forward. For instance, an obvious limitation was the availability of IP addresses and outages to several lines due to unrelated machine issues on the shared network.  New sub-networks were created to accommodate additional lines, but the problem remained in that the original network still serviced multiple different lines.

Process and Data Automation (PDA) was hired to reorganize the existing network and to isolate this equipment from other networks. This required PDA to work with the Client’s IT team to define the new architecture, installers to provide new media (creating a new physical network), and other OEMs to provide the client the correct hardware and programming to meet the client’s new corporate standards.

PDA engineers initially undertook a pre-planning phase, a type of network architecture overview.  The preplanning phase involved choosing and assigning IP addresses for each of the machine centers based on the new machine orientation.  PDA engineers worked with the key stakeholders (Client, contractors, and OEMs) to provide a roadmap leading from the singular, overlapping network to independent networks for the new, independent lines.  That the company intended to simultaneously move an entire network proved to be advantageous since it allowed the rearrangement of things.

The selection of IP addresses followed a pattern that was logical to the actual flow of the line, i.e., machines at the beginning of the line would go to the top of the IP address range.  Much of this work utilized an Excel spreadsheet and was done with the technical knowledge of what the IP addresses represented and how they were to be used.  PDA engineers went on site to use the new IP addresses that had been selected.  This involved accessing the machine centers to reconfigure them to use the new IP addresses.  This did require updating not only hardware addresses in network equipment-line network switches, PLCs, HMIs, and gateways. Machine logic for communications also needed to be updated as messages between machinery followed new paths. As needed to assist the Client in meeting its new standards hardware was replaced.  This resulted in the need to commission the new switches on this new network.

A significant challenge to the work arose from the fact that the company was completing physical changes to the line while PDA was disentangling the IP addresses.  For example, the equipment from one line was disassociated with its former line and reused on the second while needing to minimize downtime.  This interfered with the ability of PDA to focus on just one line, and it became necessary to consider both lines since changes were occurring simultaneously.  A further challenge arose with the changing of some switches, for which the available documentation did not match the actual reality.  It was found that for some older switches it was necessary to reset them before changes could be made.  PDA corrected the documentation where it was necessary, i.e., when it did not match reality, and labeled the equipment to simplify further work on the network.

PDA engineers successfully untangled the lines and networks, taking it all back to its’ roots and rebuilding to give better isolation between the systems.  The changes made by PDA have represented a significant improvement, providing reliability, and eliminating any dependency of one line upon another.  The operation of the machines has also improved.  From the standpoint of administration and management, the changes realized an improvement due to the clear separation of the lines.  Future upgrades would be to improve operator visibility, possibly deploying a comprehensive level package SCADA or MES.

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Process and Data Automation Welcome Krones’ Digitalization Expert, Doug Brooks, to the Team


January 2021 – Process and Data Automation (PDA) is excited to officially welcome Doug Brooks, MES Project Manager, to our team. Doug has spent the past five years building the Digitalization team for Krones and has worked with us at PDA since the integration of our two companies. Having him on the PDA team full-time will benefit our clients greatly and we are thrilled to have him with us.

While at Krones, Doug was involved in every aspect of the Digitalization efforts, from pre-sales all the way through Post Go-Live support. Prior to Krones, he spent 12 years as an ERP Consultant/Project Manager with a software company (partnered with Sage Software) based in the Charlotte area. He oversaw projects including Financials, Manufacturing, Warehouse Automation, MRP, Point of Sale, Inventory Control, and Supply Chain Management. They did not have MES software, so making the move to Krones was an opportunity for growth.

PDA President, Jeremy Anderson shared, “Doug has been part of our extended workbench since our integration into the Network of Krones. His professionalism and client-first focus are a perfect fit with PDA’s culture.  While the extended workbench philosophy was good, having Doug as a direct employee is better as this allows for tighter control of projects that Doug will manage and provide him (and ultimately the customer) better access to our entire team.”

When asked what the driving force was for coming to PDA was, Doug replied, “The original plan was to build a Digitalization team within Krones, Inc, however the acquisition of PDA changed that approach overnight.  I was the lone person remaining in the KINC Digitalization group, so it just made sense to move over to the PDA side of the House of Krones. The vast majority of the MES projects and support that I have worked on in the past few years has been with PDA team members, so I felt very comfortable in making the move from a personal and professional standpoint.”

And what is Doug looking forward to most with PDA and transitioning from Krones?  “When I was hired by Krones, the only other person on the Digitalization team was a salesman.  Since we were a new group within Krones, they didn’t have a defined place on the organization chart for us, so they attached me to the New Machine Sales group alongside my counterpart salesman. Although I met a lot of great people and learned a lot about the sales process, I was always a fish out of water in the sales meetings, conferences, etc. simply because the work I was doing was so vastly different than the other members of the NMS group. By moving to PDA, I am now part of a team of like-minded people all driving in the same direction to get projects completed and satisfy our customers.”, Doug said.

We look forward to working with Doug and building a stronger team for our clients with his expertise.

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Optimize Production Operations with Share2Act

Digitalization is revolutionizing the world. Share2Act is revolutionizing the beverage industry and rendering its production operations intelligent and efficient. Share2Act networks staff, machines, and IT systems, and is thus the ideal open platform for applications and analyses.

Share2Act is a social media platform developed specifically for companies in the food and beverage industries. It networks all the people, machines, and IT systems involved in the production process – and thus gets us a whole lot closer to our goal: you see, the app enables procedures to be streamlined, communication paths shortened, and downtimes reduced. It groups together all a plant’s information on a central interactive platform. From automatically generated production data to empirical feedback from the staff, a huge array of different contents can be imaged, exchanged, discussed, and jointly edited.

Share2Act networks staff, machines, and dietary systems and is thus the ideal open platform for applications and analyses. All the systems connected can access a comprehensive base of data, which are aggregated and computed using edge devices. Machines and lines can be linked together irrespective of the manufacturer involved, and already existing IT systems integrated through interfaces. Thanks to the modularized structure of Share2Act, the various services involved can be individually and flexibly put together to suit the production requirements concerned. The aim is to cut costs and upgrade quality and productivity. This is accomplished using data-driven decision making, mathematical models that run in the background, and on-the-basis of data to help to make the right decisions. Thus, the user automatically receives information specifically tailored to his/her job precisely when he/she needs it.

In shift operation, for example, by utilizing Share2Act, an operator comes to work and uses his/her terminal to log on to the platform. The shift manager can see in Share2Act which operators are available and allocate tasks accordingly. The shift manager can then monitor the entire integrated production operation using the live visualization feature in Share2Act. The operator sees his/her allocated tasks immediately on the dashboard. On the dashboard and in the timelines of the machines, the operator can also check everything that happened in the previous shift.

Tasks are also generated by the machines themselves, not just from maintenance intervals and error messages. In addition, the machines can output maintenance tasks themselves, which are then assigned to the operator either automatically or by the shift manager. The maintenance tasks are supplemented by SOPs, which describe step-by-step instructions on how the preventative maintenance routine must be carried out. If the operator cannot carry out the maintenance routine himself, he/she can use smart glasses for live support from the machinery manufacturer’s service team. The completed maintenance of the machine is then posted automatically in the timeline and the shift manager is informed by a push notification.

Additional tasks can be scheduled in the calendar, enabling all staff to see what task is currently being performed. After each shift, a shift report is created automatically, which the shift manager can view at will. By using Share2Act, the managers and operators can significantly optimize everyday production operations!

To review more of the features and benefits of Share2Act click HERE.

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PDA Upgrades Failing Controls for Large U.S. Manufacturer
Process and Data Automation (PDA) reviewed and refined the scope of work required to upgrade failing controls equipment for one of the largest privately-held manufacturers of ice cream and frozen treats in the United States, at their production facilities in upstate New York.  The clients needed the upgrades since the existing controls equipment was aged, unreliable and a DEP mandate for tighter controls and better reporting practices had been issued.

Completion of this project moved the facility from an unknown to a known state with respect to automation, as well as providing a comprehensive system overview contrasting the legacy, existing islands of discrete controls.  PDA not only upgraded the core control equipment but also added Monitoring and Automated Reporting capabilities to replace the manual-entry method at the facility.  PDA also delivered process narrative and documentation, that could easily be followed by the client, integrated disparate controls into a cohesive facility-based model and assisted the client’s ERP team with the integration of key data into the Oracle reporting system.  The agile interactive approach to project planning allowed the client to achieve regulatory milestones in an expedited fashion.  PDA also completed the upgrade of the core control hardware with selected use of existing equipment in order the minimize costs.

The major challenges to successfully completing the project included:

  1. A compressed timeline.
  2. Unknown or unreliable site and equipment information.
  3. Multiple trades working on co-operative yet competing deadlines.
  4. Difficulties encountered in implementing the solution included scheduling, the lack of site knowledge, and competing ideas from key client contacts of how to do it “right”.

The solution implemented by PDA resulted in better visibility of the entire process, multiple adjustment points to fine-tune controls and the assurance that only approved materials are transferred.  The facility now has automated chemical injection processes, separation of fat and valving and motors as necessary.  Further, the tracking and data collection for the chemical dosing and for raw and corrected pH and TSS are available.

In the future, the client could consider increased capacity and different correction methods.  In addition, the introduction of remote monitoring and increased data collection should be considered.

PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. Our Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. We also feature a dedicated Digitalization Group (DSG) that connects automated equipment and systems to the business system environment including protected recipe systems, data collection and reporting, and data historian implementation. DSG can provide the systems you need to set your systems up for proper operation and then provide the tools you need to make sure you execute as planned.


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Upgrade to Grit Well Controls for a Pennsylvania Borough WWTP

The latest entry into our Digitalization Digest consists of a project for a Pennsylvania Borough of an existing Grit Well control system that was based on a DCS system. The system was proving to be very costly and now effectively obsolete and could not be readily expanded. The system’s age made replacement of parts difficult, with long lead times and limited sources for the required parts.

For the new system, it was decided that the remote DCS I/O would best be a new Modicon hardware, to include a new PLC and panel to replace the existing remote panel. Modicon provided compatibility with the WWTP – supplier Activar VFDs as well as accessibility for product spares and replacements. The software selected for the control system was Ignition, an affordable product providing unlimited clients, unlimited data points, unlimited screens and remote alarming via email/SMS. A further advantage to the Ignition platform is that scalability is very cost-effective relative to the leading competitors. Additionally, the Ignition software was selected by PDA for the SCADA aspect as well as for the overall visualization of the project.

The new system is a standalone control system operated via Ignition. For estimation purposes, data collection was assumed to occur on up to 25 points and initially, the data points were collected and stored within the existing SQL database for the DCS system. As the changeover progressed the existing database became the Ignition database and provided historical long-term storage for both data sets.  This action was predicated upon PDA having full access to the SQL database.

PDA provided the labor for engineering and data services, as well as for the system I/O requirements.  PDA also provided hardware, including the main control panel that housed the controller, all M340 rack-based I/Os and an M340 rack for future expansion. This panel was also fitted with a door-mounted HMI touch screen for local control of the system. All control equipment was pre-installed in the cabinet, together with E-stop equipment, power requirements, and miscellaneous panel components.

At the completion of the project an internal assessment led to the following observations:

  • Any potential customer can benefit from the solution that was presented to the Pennsylvania Borough. It is applicable to a large municipal system or a large manufacturing plant, looking for a more custom based solution.
  • The focus of the solution was to alleviate ever-rising costs in maintaining older control systems and yet avoid licensing costs that can force a client to stay with the obsolete system.
  • The water authority had the ability to test the system and, if satisfied, begin their phased migration.
  • Ignition creates an interface that is user-friendly and both flexible and expandable. The best practices used by PDA ensure that the platform is pre-loaded with useful scripts and memory tags, allowing convenient setting up of new screens and advanced techniques, as well as maintaining low costs for any future modifications.
  • The most difficult part of the project was determining what could be removed from the existing DCS system and incorporated into the new controlled system.
  • Training was provided allowing the customer to become self-sufficient.

PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. Our Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. We also feature a dedicated Digitalization Group (DSG) that connects automated equipment and systems to the business system environment including protected recipe systems, data collection and reporting, and data historian implementation. DSG can provide the systems you need to set your systems up for proper operation and then provide the tools you need to make sure you execute as planned.

Our Digitalization Digest includes articles and thoughts regarding manufacturing plant digitalization.

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PDA’s expertise on Plant Digitalization leveraged in Food Engineering 2-Part Series

In a recent 2-part Digitalization series for Food Engineering Magazine, Scott McCausland, Digitalization Services Manageroffered his expertise on planning for digitalization in manufacturing plants.

This two-part series takes the reader through the process of becoming a digitalized plant with experts weighing in on how to best navigate the journey.

Part of that journey is a solid assessment of the network environment. That will allow a processor to see any deficiencies and formulate a plan to move forward, says Scott McCausland, “Just because equipment is ‘old’ doesn’t mean it isn’t capable of acting as support to reach a goal. In general, a robust network infrastructure is required.”

Scott later discusses that some machine builders, such as Krones, have already provided a solution that allows the addition of new sensors and data aggregators without touching the original legacy machine. PDA is the North American integration arm for Krones’ Syskron.



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