Packaging Integration – A Case Study

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed (I’m sure this will come back to haunt me) is how much different the same woman can look in different situations. See her in the grocery store, at a bar and in a negligee and you would be hard pressed to believe it’s the same person.

It’s because of all the packaging options that are available to women. There’s makeup. There’s clothes. There’s shoes. There’s accessories. All of it takes the same core and presents it in entirely different ways with entirely different results.

Packaging is real important.  Nowhere more so than the food industry. Same rules apply. Take color and size and material and everything else and you make an entirely different presentation on the end user.

That’s the message I got this AM at a major food industry manufacturer.

And it’s a great cause of their frustration.

Here’s why. They have hundreds of different food items. And the packaging for each is different. Sometimes extremely different. And each set of packaging requires a different process and different equipment. Ultrasonic welders, heat guns, glue machines; the list is endless.

So how does a major, international food company manage this mess? Their choice is Modbus TCP and EtherNet/IP. Why? Well it actually has to do with the relative unsophistication of their vendor community.

Modbus TCP is really easy to implement. Even unsophisticated vendors can pretty easily get that working if they have little networking experience.

EtherNet/IP is a little different. It is more complex to implement, more difficult to organize and more expensive. You don’t need a lot of expertise, just an EtherNet/IP stack and vendor support that can walk you through the process.

What they really want from these devices is status, performance and diagnostic information in a structured way. And a way to get their vendors to implement it. These protocols meet that goal.

In a perfect world, OPC UA or Web Services would make more sense. Both of these allow the distribution of data across a plant floor or across the world.

Web Services is particularly interesting. I’ll talk about that in my next blog.