Beckhoff: Get ready for the next automation revolution
Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 67 / 43
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Packaging has a language that speaks of Industrial Ethernet

Advances in computer, mobile and wireless technology have transformed the business and IT worlds, and are doing the same for industrial automation. This now includes the packaging industry. More intelligent machine-to-machine (M2M) communications are allowing engineers to gather, analyse and react to machine performance data in real-time, with the goals of reducing machine downtime to the absolute minimum, while improving efficiencies and manufacturing flexibility. But how does Industrial Ethernet fit into the packaging world? James Hunt opens the lid and looks inside the box to discover a specialised homologation.

LIKE IT OR NOT, packaging is part of the daily life of millions, if not billions of consumers. Packaging's main duty is keep products - especially foodstuffs - safe, fresh and hygienic, and it must also make the products more appealing. Packaging is made from a wide range of materials for an even broader array of applications, so the packaging machines themselves are as diverse as the products they package.

Many packaging machines (such as bottling plant - Fig. 1), therefore, need to be highly flexible to produce to cope, yet at the same time, the demands for ever higher production speeds and performance, easier changeover, improved human interfaces and built-in quality check systems have grown. Add to this mix, modern requirements for predictive maintenance, traceability, plus electronic process documentation and validation, and the need for good M2M communications is clear.

Fig. 1. A bottle filling machine: The latest technological advances, including Industrial Ethernet and wireless connectivity, are transforming the packaging industry as they have in other manufacturing sectors.

The latest technological advances, including Industrial Ethernet and wireless connectivity, are transforming the packaging industry as they have in other manufacturing sectors. More intelligent M2M communications are enabling engineers to gather, analyse and react to machine performance data in real-time. The goal is to achieve maximum machine uptime with the automated, real-time reporting of accurate data that can greatly increase productivity, which is - in turn - crucial to achieving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), an important business metric in the packaging industry.

For these reasons, packaging machinery is increasing in complexity, typically incorporating more servodrive axes, integrated robotics, vision systems, machine fault/performance analysis, and communications for integration with line and production management systems. It is clear, therefore, that the sector can benefit from using industrial Ethernet.

Networking technology advances are providing packaging companies with more options to connect their machines, including even older legacy equipment, to the communications network through a combination of wired and wireless solutions. Industrial Ethernet also provides a versatile medium for generating machine-level understanding between packaging lines and other production information and business systems.

Indeed, the packaging sector worldwide is a major market for Industrial Ethernet vendors. Comments Doug Wylie, Manager, Networks and Security, Rockwell Automation: 'The packaging industry is perhaps a hundred years old and is very large, so it is highly important for industrial automation vendors. Rockwell Automation has a very strong focus on packaging; it is one of the major earners for us - a major constituent of our revenues.'

Packaging machine issues

What is different about automated packaging machinery, compared with conventional automated manufacturing and process machinery?

Says Tom Egan, Vice President, Industry Services, with the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) and staff liaison with the Organisation for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC): 'With industrial automation systems, usually, a single manufacturer or systems integrator designs a manufacturing cell or zone that is a plant facility functional area. Often one of many, cell/area zones vary according to the plant. Typically, a cell/area zone comprises industrial automation control system devices, controllers, etc involved in the real time control of a manufacturing process.

'The main difference with the packaging industry, is that typically, a number of different suppliers come together to provide discrete, almost stand-alone, manufacturing solutions, such as a bottle making machine (Fig. 2 on the previous page), a label applying machine and a palletiser. Therefore, machine-to-machine information must be extractable. However, the control and data communication issues are otherwise very similar.'

Fig. 2. Packaging industry difference: the main one is that, typically, different suppliers come together to provide discrete, almost stand-alone,manufacturing solutions, such as this bottle making machine.

Having a number of machines made by different OEMs in the same packaging line can bring it's own problems. For example, packaging line automation has increasingly used PLCs, industrial PCs and robotics - as in other industrial automation sectors - and a PLC may be needed to act as a gateway between the plant information system's Industrial Ethernet protocol and each machine's communication protocol. However, such a situation can make it hard to achieve fast, real-time information exchange - expensive too.

Packaging machinery can be purchased as standard off-the-shelf equipment, or custommade by specialists such as system integrators. Alternatively, they may be manufactured (or modified) by in-house engineers. Some of these machines are now advanced, having the latest computer and HMI capabilities with advanced data communications, such that they can be fully integrated into the MES.

Are the control and communication systems used within the packaging industry similar to those found in factory automation? Says Tom Egan: 'Yes - the products and systems are made sufficiently flexible for application to both plant environments. It is the system integrators and designers who choose which automation and connectivity products to use in their packaging machines.' Where Industrial Ethernet is used, packaging machines are typically hard-wired, as Doug Wylie confirms: 'Most of it is hard-wired LANs, generally copper-based solutions and legacy networks. However, there is now a transition from such traditional systems to more modern arrangements.

'Wireless communication is growing but is not yet prevalent. In the packaging industry, wireless is mainly used to connect mobile workers to the plant or converged plant-wide Ethernet. An example is diagnostics using hand-held or portable devices. Wireless used in this way increases flexibility, leading to greater productivity, especially where packaging machines need frequent re-configuration.

'Wireless does, though, have a significant and growing wider appeal, and at Rockwell Automation, we are working in partnership with Cisco to bring wireless solutions to the factory floor. The other main aim is to enable secure, smooth connectivity from the plant floor to the enterprise network', concluded Wylie.

Industrial Ethernet for packaging

Packaging sector end users spend much time and money integrating OEM machine control systems into well-managed, smoothly operating packaging lines. OEM control code performs and software interfaces between machines in a line must be configured to ensure line coordination. A packaging machine language (PackML - see Box 1) that is a common set of definitions and terms for use in the design of packaging machines and the applications that operate those machines, is increasingly used.

However, multiple programming languages and data protocols are still widely found in the sector. As Doug Wylie says: 'There are a number, and at Rockwell Automation, we can support these. They include ladder logic, sequential function charts, function block diagrams and BASIC. We support and offer customers a number of programming techniques because it can give them the flexibility to integrate their machines more easily into their overall systems.'

Networking technology advances are providing packaging companies with more options to connect their machines, including even older legacy equipment, to the communications network through a combination of wired and wireless solutions. Use of a wireless Ethernet bridge, for example, converts a wired Ethernet device on a packaging line for use on a wireless industrial network. Moreover, OEE is a crucial priority, so OEE data must be transferred from individual machines into business information systems. Figure 3 shows this, along with connectivity between Enterprise, Demilitarised and Manufacturing zones. Applications are coming to market that can be launched from iPads and tablet computers that connect engineers to packaging machine data.

Fig. 3. Connectivity between Enterprise, Demilitarised and Manufacturing zones: OEE data must be transferred from individual machines into business information systems across different hierarchal network levels. Applications are coming to market that can be launched from iPads and tablet computers that connect engineers to packaging machine data.

Modern networking technologies allow engineers to diagnose when machine productivity slows, track why slow-downs and downtime occur, and instruct the machine to correct operational problems. This is crucial because every minute of machine downtime means that the cost of ownership soars; and downtime in a packaging line can negate previous efficiencies achieved in the manufacture of products to be packaged.

Based on its ease of use, low cost, high bandwidth, stability, security, and compatibility across devices, Industrial Ethernet is now a de facto standard for linking older packaging machines to the communications network. In a survey for the PMMI, entitled Machinery Communications-Trends and Advances 2011 and covering North America, 84% of participating packaging professionals said they either use an Ethernet-based fieldbus to communicate with their controllers, HMIs, PACs, PLCs, sensors and vision equipment, or are planning to do so in the near future.

The survey also showed that serial ports having RS485, RS232 and RS245 connections still hold their place for point-to-point communications, while communication to motion equipment is most frequently through Sercos.

The well-known Industrial Ethernet advantages include the ability to support multiple protocols, ease of integration with legacy systems (of which there are many in packaging), greater bandwidth to handle motion and functions, realtime data reporting, smart device connectivity for troubleshooting and maintenance, and wireless connectivity. It provides a ready-made platform for expanding a packaging system with printers, cameras, sensors and other peripherals.

One of Ethernet's most useful attributes is that it supports the packaging sector's increasing need for flexibility, since end-users are not running just one product on their lines, but perhaps as many as six, so machines must communicate with the plant's management information system for recipe and production tracking.

Another significant advantage of integrating machinery into the communications network is that it can be monitored at all times for predictive maintenance. Having such real-time access to performance data allows engineers to diagnose problems in advance.

Wrapped up in a machine language

Customers want open and fully integrated data sharing, but until recently in the packaging machine industry, there have been no consistent machine software standards. To counter this difficulty, the Organisation for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC) developed the Packaging Machine Language (PackML) standard. This, called ISA-TR88.00.02 PackML,was released in August 2008 and it has been designed to improve machine-to-machine (M2M) integration with standard information in/out of a machine. PackML also makes integration with machines easier using different Ethernet-based fieldbuses.

PackML is a common set of definitions and terms for use in the design of packaging machines and the applications that operate those machines. The software describes the operating modes of the machine such as 'Auto' or 'Manual', commands and responses, and the state of the machine, such as 'Stopped' or 'Running'.

Extending operator capability, PackML also improves horizontal and vertical integration (including to enterprise level), it provides packing line plug-and-play functionality, a consistent look and feel for operators, faster software development time and more consistent end user specifications. A further advantage is reduced debug time through modular software programming. The overall result is greater efficiency in hardware and software components, with packaging machines costing less, while being easier to use and maintain.

Note that although PackML was specifically designed for the packaging industry, it could be applied as a general machine control sequencing architecture. National Instruments gives, as an example, a design pattern setup to run on a real-time controller with an HMI communicating over industrial Ethernet sending user commands and displaying machine status.

Although PackML has been around for several years, it has been supported by relatively few large packaging companies, but is just starting to gain broader support.

Real-time packaging

Do many packaging machines require high-speed communications, determinism and real-time performance? 'Yes - absolutely', says Doug Wylie. 'It is not uncommon to see full motion control used within such discrete manufacturing.'

Comments Tom Egan, Vice President, Industry Services, with PMMI and staff liaison with OMAC: 'On a practical level, note that a packaging line can typically operate at a rate of 1000 parts every minute - a high speed that requires information to be available at the right time exactly when expected. This is determinism, and it is often absolutely critical to the process.

Fig. 4. RT operation means less material wastage: if labels: such as these being applied to plastic bottles: are cut at high speed, lack of determinism can result in waste adding up very quickly.

'Real-time operation also means that there is far less material wastage. For example, if labels are being cut at high speed, any lack of determinism can result in the cuts being made in the wrong places - one inch of waste is not a problem, but at the rate of 1000 per minute, the waste adds up very quickly.' Figures 4 and 5 shows labels being applied to plastic bottles at speed.

Fig. 5. A machine on a bottling plant: If the machine operates too quickly, the bottle will not arrive in time. If the machine operates too slowly, the bottle will be gone. Realtime operation is essential.

Therefore, the need to support real-time communications with minimal latency and jitter can be crucial. Determinism - a system-wide characteristic - is now a key requirement for much automated packaging machinery, especially for device-level control and controller interlocking. Network determinism depends upon end-device latency and response time, as well as the network itself and the application.

However, with packaging lines commonly comprising machines from several different OEMs, PLCs often serve as gateways between the plant information system's Industrial Ethernet protocol and each machine's communication protocol, whether DeviceNet, Profibus or any other. This can make fast, real-time information exchange difficult to achieve.

PMMI's Machinery Communications-Trends and Advances 2011 survey showed that, at least in North America, the protocol most favoured by end users is ODVA's EtherNet/IP. According to the study, 51% of companies surveyed have already standardised on EtherNet/IP, or have indicated that they plan to support it as their protocol of choice.

Comments Doug Wylie: 'There are several reasons why EtherNet/IP is popular in such applications. Firstly, it can be implemented on standard off-the-shelf infrastructure components and devices such as I/O, sensors, actuators, drives and switches.

Secondly, standard Ethernet and IP networking technologies can work well in industry when part of larger integrated industrial automation control system architectures. The key driver is unifying the architecture. EtherNet/IP can allow convergence of the plant-wide system, right up to enterprise level.

'Not only that, but with the ODVA having over 300 different vendors supporting EtherNet/IP, with thousands of critical components are currently available. Many of these vendors are highly significant manufacturing companies, such as Schneider Electric, Bosch Rexroth and Emerson. ODVA adopts commercial-off-the-shelf and standard, unmodified Internet and Ethernet technologies as a guiding principle.

'The transition to modern Ethernet and IP networking technologies from previous vendoroptimised networks is starting to provide great benefits. Standard communication and uniform networking is crucial for optimised services, greater visibility and lower total cost of ownership. Therefore, standard Ethernet and standard IP are increasingly being adopted for industrial automation control system networks, including for automated packaging machines.'

'However, though the PMMI study was very objective and comprehensive, and we were not surprised by the findings that EtherNet/IP is the preferred choice for so many, the 51% result cannot be directly extrapolated to every packaging application, nor to the rest of the world, and there are a number of other protocols being used widely, both within and outside North America', concluded Doug Wylie.

These include EtherCAT, Profibus (master/slave), DeviceNet and Sercos, as well as OpenSafety. For example, Rexroth's IndraMotion MLC - specifically designed for packaging machines (Fig. 6) having distributed or centralised architectures and a maximum of 16 axes/controller, provides a controller base module offering standardised communication interfaces including some of the above. The modules can be expanded with additional communication interfaces or technology modules for flexibility. In another example, express parcel delivery company TNT's distribution centre package sorting system uses Varan. There has been a production increase of 80% compared with the field bus solution that Varan replaced.

Fig. 6. EtherNet/IP is often the preferred choice for packaging machines [says Rockwell]: other protocols include EtherCAT, Profibus (master/slave), DeviceNet, Sercos and OpenSafety.

As to the future, Doug Wylie comments: 'The automated packaging sector is a very large one that is growing. It has been characterised by a 'mishmash' of solutions in the past, but this is now changing with greater harmonisation, so the sector represents big opportunities for vendors, system designers and integrators.'


Packaging industry trade association Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute has over 500 member companies associated with the packaging sector in the US and Canada. (PMMI -

The PMMI provides in-depth market analyses and industry trends, including market research, industry surveys and forecasts through its extensive Business Intelligence program. Paula Feldman is Director of Business Intelligence at the organisation, which also offers comprehensive programs and services to members.

A recent market research example is the Machinery Communications - Trends and Challenges white paper already mentioned in this article. The main aim of this publication, which canvassed PMMI's member company base, as well as some end-users of packaging machines, was to examine the benefits of machine communications technology, including M2M and industrial Ethernet, for the packaging sector. Over sixty US and Canadian industry professionals took part - considered representative.

The Organisation for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC - is the global organisation for those involved in automation and manufacturing, and it supports the machine automation and operational needs of manufacturing.

OMAC has about 500 members from end-user companies, OEMs, and technology providers and integrator companies. These include companies having a vested interest in developing and implementing open control technologies for manufacturing applications.

1OEE is a hierarchy of metrics that can be used to evaluate how effective a manufacturing operation is. The results allow comparisons between manufacturing units in differing industries. OEE, when used in continuous improvement programmes for packaging lines, has been shown to identify the root causes of inefficiencies.

A packaging example

As can be imagined, food giant Nestlé packages a vast number of products. The company's automation strategy has historically been process control-based, yet packaging engineering group engineers were never directly involved in automating packaging machinery. This approach is changing, and a dedicated engineering group now takes care of Nestlé's packaging environment.

Nestlé's preferred suppliers for packaging automation control are Rockwell Automation, B&R, Siemens and ELAU, but this means that implementation of standards and open technologies is essential. To this end, Nestlé is committed to using PackML, which is helping the company's central packaging automation engineering team to provide a clear specification for packaging machine equipment. This specification will also provide a common setup for horizontal M2M communication. The goal is to exchange all necessary information for easy packaging line integration, based on one global standard.

Using PackML guarantees a common engineering approach independent of the machine builder and/or control provider. The first implementation step is based on the existing libraries for the PackML implementation of preferred suppliers; this is already providing significant benefits.

Nestlé will also work on a more detailed specification document, which will be tested on real equipment and translated into standard, ready to use, libraries.

Working with different technology providers, also raises the issue of a common safety technology standard. Nestlé supports openSafety, which provides one single communication standard for safety application across of all technology suppliers.

This work will allow Nestlé to write a single detailed specification on how to provide a packaging machine that can be easily integrated into a complete packaging line and the company's entire environment.
Source: Industrial Ethernet Book Issue 67 / 43
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