“We invested heavily in controls technology, but in the last few years we’ve changed directions because in too many cases the technologies we implemented were complicating, not simplifying, our packaging operations.”
So says Wade Latz, senior director of global operations engineering at The Hershey Co., Hershey, Pa. Latz and his Hershey colleague, Joe Wagner, manager of the controls engineering department for global operations engineering, will be among the speakers at the May 24 “Packaging Automation Forum—Driving Profit Through Controls and Information Technology,” sponsored by Packaging World and Automation World magazines.
“We used to be quite rigid when it came to the controls platforms that we specified on our packaging machinery,” adds Wagner. “But about four years ago, we opened up our controls standards to enable our OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to utilize controls platforms that they are most familiar with. In turn we are realizing reduced machine delivery times, cost savings, and performance guarantees that are in line with our corporate strategies. In the past, we were adding complexity and were forcing major engineering design changes onto the machinery builders. By modifying our internal expectations and behavior, and by opening ourselves to other major globally based controls manufacturers, we’ve made it less complicated for the machinery builders to build packaging machines. Other benefits we have realized are that the equipment can also be delivered, installed, and commissioned more quickly.”
Stable and friendly
When asked what he’s especially keen on seeing in packaging machinery controls, Wagner says two things stand out as paramount: platform stability and software that’s less costly and more user friendly.
Elaborating on the software issue, Wagner adds that Hershey frowns on yearly maintenance costs for the required software updates.
On another point, Wagner mentions that “If a controls platform is being updated with a new, more powerful generation of controllers, the controls manufacturer and our OEMs must give consideration to a seamless, low-cost migration path on control equipment that is becoming obsolete. Many times we need to remediate and update the obsolete controls on machines that are currently in production. Too often when parts are no longer available for the older system, obsolescence issues are not considered by the controls manufacturer and our OEMs. This can be very costly and time consuming for the end user. Ease of replacement, footprint compatibility, ease of software migration, and a low cost remediation path is what we would like to see implemented.”
Joining Hershey’s Wagner and Latz on the Packaging Automation Forum program will be representatives of Procter & Gamble, Coors Brewing Co., Miller Brewing Co., Schwan Food Co., Clos du Bois and other packaged goods companies. To see the agenda and register for the forum, visit www.packworld.com/paf.