PackML Application

I really hate a lot of things about my cell phone. I’ve learned not to use YouTube on the phone because if I do, Google will hound me like a fat boy after a cheeseburger. They’ll send me 50 requests a day to login. It’s really irritating.

I know people that hate clutter. One of them is my oddball neighbor. He painted the outline of each of his tools on the walls of his garage and washes his garage floor weekly. I doubt he’s a fun guy to live with. Then there’s the people that leave the cap off the toothpaste, who put the toilet paper roll on in the wrong direction (whatever that is) and other pet peeves that would fill an encyclopedia. (By the way, Millennials, an encyclopedia is the Google of the old days.)

In manufacturing, specifically the packaging area, the frustration is integrating each of the machine components. You have a labeler from Larry’s Labelers, a capping machine from Carl’s House of Capping machines, a palletizer from Palletizers -R-Us and so on. None of them work together. It’s frustrating and costly to the end users like P&G and Nestlé. Each of these components has a different PLC, a different HMI, different terminology and a different communication interface.

It used to be the end user considered themselves lucky if all their devices supported Ethernet and they didn’t have to deal with any serial components. Nowadays, most everything is Ethernet so we’re largely past that. But what Ethernet? Some components might use EtherNet/IP, PROFINET IO or Modbus TCP. Even if they all use the same protocol, the application layer interface is different. The machine speed might be in Reg 40200 in the capping machine and 40150 in the bottling machine. It’s an integer in the first and an encoded decimal in the second. There is no consistency. Packaging companies still face a costly, difficult, and lengthy project to get everything working together correctly.

But now with OPC UA and PackML, that’s about to change. OPC UA standardizes the communication infrastructure for packaging machines. Everything from the wire up to the application layer is embedded in the OPC UA architecture. That includes device discovery mechanisms, connection, encoding, security, timing, and everything else needed to move messages around the machine. If you’re new to OPC UA, it’s time to get familiar with this technology. A good place to begin is “OPC UA – Unified Architecture: The Everyman’s Guide to the Most Important Information Technology in Industrial Automation.” It provides a deep dive into a lot of the technology behind OPC UA.

On top of that infrastructure, PackML provides a standard mechanism for representing machine data. There’s a standard state machine model that represents the machine state as one of seventeen states. The state model is used by HMIs to graphically illustrate the state of the machine. There’s a set of PackTags that provide a standardized set of tags for moving machine data into and out of the machine. There are some standard modes for standard machine operations like startup, troubleshooting and diagnostics.

Together, OPC UA and PackML provide a standardized, consistent mechanism for establishing and presenting a machine to operations staff. Benefits of this include:

  • Faster machine integration
  • Increasing uptime from more rapid troubleshooting
  • Reduced training costs from the more uniform machine interface
  • Lowered validation costs

I’m hopeful this will end a lot of frustration packaging companies have faced over the years.

Now that packing machinery has been addressed, can they figure out how to keep my cell phone from asking me to log in every five minutes?