OPC Keeps Bottles Moving

Feb. 1, 2005
A soft drink bottling company uses OPC technology to track the ingredients and components in each bottle and analyze traceability.

When a soft drink bottling company needed to be able to track the ingredients and components in each bottle of their product back to their original sources, the company turned to a system from Cyberlogic Technologies, located in Troy, Mich. Cyberlogic’s Enterprise Information System uses OPC technology to keep production moving by bringing data and software together. The EIS uses Cyberlogic’s OPC Server Suite to gather data from across the plant floor and present it to the Genesis32, AlarmWorx and ReportWorx software from ICONICS.

A key benefit of the Enterprise Information System is the ability to collect, store and analyze traceability information for the plant. From a code printed on each bottle, the system can determine which batch of syrup was used and where the water, bottle and cap came from. If there is a concern about the quality of any of these components, the system can generate a report detailing all of the finished products that used the ingredients in question. In the event a recall is needed, the plant can identify the specific bottles to be pulled and where they went. This can save the supplier thousands of dollars by narrowing the recall to only the suspect containers, rather than having to pull the entire lot.

Minimize downtime

The system also plays a crucial role in maintaining production during the daily operation of the plant. In a high-speed bottling plant, even a short stoppage can cost dozens of cases of product. The Enterprise Information System provides a window into the production status, keeping plant personnel constantly informed of what’s going on. Maintenance and management personnel can get detailed real-time information right in their offices. They can even generate reports to tell them what happened when they weren’t in the plant.

On the floor, the operator displays provide a graphical representation of each line, with real-time animation showing the status of each machine or conveyor. As problems occur, diagnostic messages are displayed on the screens, so the operator knows not only where the problem is, but also the exact nature of the fault. Downtime incidents due to faults, scheduled maintenance or any other reason are stored on disk for retrieval and reporting. Other screens show production goals, actual values and efficiencies.

Using OPC as the data gathering technology provided both the efficiency and rapid deployment that was crucial to the success of the project. Cyberlogic’s all-in-one DHX OPC Server Suite allowed engineers to set up a system with a single server to obtain data from all of the different models of Allen-Bradley programmable logic controllers in the plant. The interoperability assured by the use of OPC-compliant products meant that the data transfer to the ICONICS Genesis32 could be configured rapidly, freeing the engineers to work on the desired user features and getting the system on-line much more quickly than would otherwise have been feasible.

“Choosing an OPC-based system allowed us to pick the best HMI software and the best communication software, knowing they would work together with no problems,” explains Cyberlogic’s Engineering Manager Eric Bellas. “The ICONICS software gives us powerful display and reporting capabilities, and the Cyberlogic Server’s unsolicited communication grabs everything we need as fast as we can handle it.”

This unsolicited update feature was critically important to the success of the project. With this feature, the PLCs send data to the server whenever the data changes, eliminating the unnecessary data transfers. The inherent efficiency of the unsolicited approach allows the system to update its information far more quickly than could be done conventionally by polling for solicited data.

The system gathers over 2,500 I/O points from 40 PLCs across four production lines. The controllers are a mix of Allen-Bradley SLC-500, PLC-2, PLC-5 and ControlLogix PLCs, but all data communication is handled by a single Cyberlogic OPC server. Cyberlogic’s servers are highly optimized for performance and include a full set of device drivers so no additional software is needed to communicate with the PLCs.

The results for the bottling plant: a clearer picture of what's going on in the plant, better record keeping and improved production efficiency.