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Turnkey Solution for Expansion of Packaging Lines

When a premier global spirits company required expansion in the form of two new dual feed, high-speed packaging lines they turned, as providers frequently do, to Krones for a turnkey solution.  The solution required a high degree of integration both on the incoming equipment and to connect to the plant’s existing data collection and monitoring systems, so Krones turned, as they frequently do, to their US digitalization subsidiary Process and Data Automation (PDA) for assistance.

The base Krones solution included the machinery from the parallel infeed systems, filling through labeling, and packers and palletizing equipment.  This also included container blow molders, related conveyors, 3rd party Wrap Packers, and multiple coding and labeling machines from Videojet and Markem to mark at the container, case, and pallet levels.  Krones’ line solutions leverage block technology wherever possible but integration between the different blocks or blocks and ancillary systems is frequently a custom development, as it was in this case.

The solution for the automated setup and operation of the complete line is Krones’ SitePilot Line Management (LM) software.  This robust suite has been an industry standard for comprehensive line control for years and it is continually adapted with new functions and connections to equipment as new advancements are made in software and as new hardware becomes available.  The LM system allows for the scheduled handling of individual or multiple orders.  It also allows for batch combination and parallel processing for added flexibility in handling multiple orders on the line or multiple routes used within the line.  The software provides full-machine interaction which streamlines overall order management and allows the integration of material management for rich consumption information.  This LM deployment connects to the plant’s existing ERP system for orders.  The preparation included a straightforward effort to adapt the ERP’s payload information to account for variables needed on the new Krones lines, a configuration handled by the PDA team.

The solution for this client originally called for a standalone SitePilot server cabinet from Krones.  Rather than adding more hardware to their infrastructure, the client preferred to utilize virtual space on their existing servers.  This reduced the IT footprint of the new solution and allowed the client to prepare the systems per the specifications not only for today’s implementation but for forecasted future lines.  The adaptation happens frequently and was handled jointly in this case between the client’s IT staff and the PDA team.  “We find many applications where the client lacks the internal structure to properly support this type of deployment”, says Mark Silka, MES Project Lead at PDA, “but it makes sense to leverage what they already have or can expand in cases where the structure does already exist”.

Process and Data Automation was initially engaged to provide domestic software project management, system configuration, and eventual startup on the LM system.  As details of the plant’s existing data collection and monitoring systems became available, it was clear that an expanded role was needed to seamlessly integrate the new equipment to the existing software.  PDA was the obvious solution for this task given their pedigree in line control and data systems as well as their ability to work closely with Krones.  PDA’s team quantified details of this scope working closely with the end client and a solution was drafted.

The plant’s standard for existing lines was the use of a single master line PLC for each complete packaging line.  This master PLC for each line connects to the plant’s TrakSys MES and its Rockwell FactoryTalk ViewSE plant SCADA system.  The existing ViewSE solution provides a graphical overview of the status of all equipment in the plant’s existing lines as well as product production and shared equipment.  PDA was tasked with incorporating new read-only ViewSE screens and navigation into this existing solution.

PDA was also tasked with preparing the new lines’ master PLCs for integration with the plant’s TrakSys system.  This required the deployment of all machine status information within the master PLC in a PackML format for simple connection to TrakSys.  All related handshaking between the lines’ new PLCs and the PackML code within each line’s master PLC was handled by PDA.  This activity ensured that the new lines would utilize the same programming scheme and line performance monitoring OEE as is used elsewhere in the plant.

The attention to detail in both the SCADA and MES portions were paramount for adoption by plant Operations and Quality personnel.  “We worked closely with the client’s staff throughout to prepare them for the incoming system”, says Tom Ludwig, Senior Controls Engineer with PDA.  “The supervisory applications were developed to match the exact fit and feel of the existing lines so that their team would adopt them without issue.  We used Rockwell Automation PlantPAx objects in our development to simplify screen setup and eliminate any feeling of individuality on the new screens”, Ludwig continues.  “Initial deployment occurred without a hitch because of the way we approached the design, including the end customer along the way”, he concludes.

The Krones equipment solutions achieved the goal of placing high-quality products into packages and making them available to the public on a large scale.  The inclusion of Process and Data Automation on the project team achieved the goal of making these lines function impeccably as a comprehensive solution.  Perhaps most importantly, the PDA team ensured that the new equipment arrived ready to connect to all plant software systems without needing an extended period of integration from multiple vendors for each platform.  This Krones and PDA solution is truly best in class for all involved.

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