A Team Approach to Packaging Automation

July 1, 2006
Drawing on a old sports reference, Editorial Content Director Jane Gerold believes: There may be no “I” in “team,” but when it comes to the automation team, there are IT specialists—as well as a host of other professionals who develop and execute the manufacturing automation strategy.

Who are these decision makers? In addition to information technology pros, they include control engineers, process and production engineers, design engineers, network specialists, buyers, accountants and business managers. Because automation can provide such a strategic competitive advantage, the smart manufacturing organization brings its best people to the table to collaborate.

“People don’t have to be technical wizards to solve machine failures.”

While collaboration is key within an organization, the smartest companies are starting to collaborate across their entire business supply chain, extending the concept of teamwork. Dave Chappell, technology section manager at Procter & Gamble, refers to this as the “Golden Supply Chain.” According to Chappell, manufacturing is too often viewed as a tactical liability and not a strategic asset. “If manufacturing has the agility and flexibility needed to support the business needs, it becomes a strategic asset.”

Chappell was a featured speaker at the “Packaging Automation Forum,” held May 24 near Chicago, and produced by Automation World and Packaging World magazines. His presentation focused on Make2Pack, an initiative that promotes the integration of processing and packaging from an automation and controls standpoint, by defining common models, language and schemas for packaging automation systems.

What’s exciting about the Make2Pack effort is that it bridges automation teams across standards bodies and industries, and among end-users, automation suppliers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Chappell, who chairs the Make2Pack initiative, noted in his talk, “There are several global standards initiatives converging that will lead to an automation revolution in manufacturing.” Heading the pack, so to speak, is Make2Pack, which is a joint working group of the Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society’s (ISA) SP88 batch control standards committee, the Open Modular Architecture Control (OMAC) Packaging Workgroup and the WBF (formerly the World Batch Forum).

Some years back, both the OMAC Packaging Workgroup and the ISA SP88 committee started work on standardized terms for machine states. These groups decided to combine efforts with those of the WBF to integrate discrete packaging standards with processing standards, and serve industries ranging from food and beverage to pharmaceuticals and consumer packaged goods (CPG).

Modularity is key to Make2Pack, from define to design to build, says Chappell. System definition relies on a library of standard components, while system design is based on standard eXtensible Markup Language (XML) schema mechanisms. A modular building block approach to assemble the final applications allows OEMs and end-users to interchange components and support multiple platforms where needed. Documented results for this approach add up to an 80 percent reduction in the costs to design, build and deliver a packaging line, according to Chappell.

New understanding

But the benefits don’t end there. Says Chappell, “For the end-user, Make2Pack reduces failures to faults, by providing visibility and understanding into what makes up a machine. People don’t have to be technical wizards to solve machine failures. And the modular design approach improves flexibility and adaptability of the line.”

Chappell invites end-users, OEMs and automation suppliers to join the Make2Pack team by volunteering to work on one of the standards committees. He encourages end-users to sign the group’s March 2006, “Letter of Support and Benefits,” which can be found at www.make2pack.org. It’s your chance join a winning team of companies that reads like a “who’s who” of manufacturers and technology providers.