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B&R: Firms turning to automation as production process complexity grows

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Krones. A control and drive system from B&R allows this palletizer to react to changes in the production process – flexibly and fully automatically
Photo: Krones. A control and drive system from B&R allows this palletizer to react to changes in the production process – flexibly and fully automatically

Related tags Packaging machinery manufacturers Packaging machinery association Robot

Food and beverage companies are increasingly turning to automation technology as they transition to Industry 4.0, according to B&R Automation.

With the fourth industrial revolution, the complexity of production processes is growing rapidly, the firm told FoodProductionDaily.  

INDUSTRIE 4.0 is one of 10 “Future Projects” identified by the German government as part of the High-Tech Strategy Action Plan 2020.

Human and robot cooperation

Cooperation between humans and robots in the food and beverage industry was the focal point of B&R's exhibit at Anuga FoodTec in Cologne last month.

The SafeROBOTICS function eliminates the need for a safety cage and allows robots and human operators to work hand in hand.

It includes the monitoring of workspace boundaries and orientation of the tool mounting flange as well as the speed of a robot's joints and tool center point (TCP).

Driving trends

Enrico Paolucci, global account manager – Food, Beverage and Tobacco, said everybody talks about what are the driving trends for the future of factory installation and Industry 4.0 is one of them.

“Industry asks for flexible, connected and smart factory solutions. In the market there are two trends, one is the request of quick and customised products from manufacturers. The other is sustainable production, raw materials are getting lower and the cost is growing," ​he said.

“They want the possibility to add options, a scalable system without jeopardising what they have. If the market changes they can then respond in a quick way.”

Automation should answer five points: total cost of ownership (TCO), time to market (TTM), total productive maintenance (TPM), overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and return on investment (ROI).

B&R Automation works with companies including Ulma, G. Mondini, GEA, KHS, Ilapak, Graphic Packaging, Aetna Group, Sidel, Krones, Coesia Group, SIG Combibloc, Serac Group and Gebo Cermex.

The firm is a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP), the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), the Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau (VDMA), the Processing and Packaging Machinery Association (PPMA) and the Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC).

Global perspective

Maurizio Tarozzi, global technology manager - Packaging Solutions, said it sees different challenges in packaging depending on where in the world it is.

“In Europe or the USA the requirement level of automation within the packaging line is very high. They look for top line integration of machines and automatic handling of packaging products up to delivery," ​he said.

“Track and trace and robotics have to be open and connect with technology used already like an ERP or MES system.

“In the emerging countries there is a networking of lines and less demand, the end of line solution is not always requested. For the big multinationals who have different lines in Africa or Europe they still buy the same equipment.”

B&R said packaging lines must synergize all the benefits of motion control, robotics, safety, image processing and IT connectivity.

Primary packaging machines require the most speed, flexibility and connectivity of the entire line.

Labor savings, ergonomics and flexibility are driving the growing use of palletizers and robots for end of line packaging.  

B&R has a partnership with vision inspection firm, Cognex, with one example being the In-Sight 7000 vision system integrated in the B&R Automation architecture via POWERLINK.

The firm said developments such as PackML improve OEE calculation, while protocols like POWERLINK, OPCUA, openSAFETY and Weihenstephan contribute to performance and compliance to standards such as ISA-88 Part 5 and FDA CFR 21 Part 11.

It described integrated automation as one piece of software for the complete line (HMI, control, motion, robotics, safety, communication MES/ERP and third party systems) and one hardware platform for process and packaging covering all automation requirements.

B&R said future developments could include interaction between robotics, motion control and product flow being vision-guided and self-learning, safety of human-machine and human-robot interactions will be completely certified and self-diagnostics and predictive maintenance will continue to increase machine and plant uptime. 

Related topics Processing & packaging

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