Consumer goods industry benefits from integrated B&R Edge solutions

Automation and IoT for FMCG production lines

The PDA solution of Edge Controller helps factory managers to monitor process KPIs with intuitive dashboard and reports in real time
The PDA solution of Edge Controller helps factory managers to monitor process KPIs with intuitive dashboard and reports in real time

The FMCG industry continues to propel its growth by embracing the latest technologies. The industry is highly dynamic, with consumer demands changing rapidly and factories looking at adopting new production practices to meet these demands. The industry is highly competitive, with factories looking at continuous product and packaging innovations.

With personalization and make-to-order gaining momentum, production lines often come under pressure to operate and contribute to changing demands. Therefore, it becomes significant for factories to have reliable production processes that produce quality products with shorter time to market.

Re-shaping process requires understanding the process

As the industry prepares itself to re-shape production processes, it must evaluate and understand the exact capacity of production lines. The entities within the factory, such as inventory, design, manufacturing, quality, end-of-line, and logistics, need to align with each other and operate with transparency. Connectivity in lines with IT systems becomes essential to have seamless data exchange for supporting decision-making. Factory automation solutions are necessary to support factory operators in optimizing the process and improve productivity.

The demands of consumers are increasing and becoming more quality centered. The consumers pay attention to various factors such as green packaging of products, tailor-made merchandise, transparency, and convenience in delivery. These demands are not only evident in food products but also in fashion, beverages, households, and personal care.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness calculation

Therefore, factories are keen to devise and implement flexible manufacturing practices. To achieve a competitive level of production efficiency, factories need to monitor performance at the production level. One of the most followed methods to monitor performance is by calculating OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) of the production line. OEE is analyzed by measuring three critical components: machine or line availability, productivity, and product quality. These parameters give factory managers visibility of the number of products manufactured defect-free against the production line’s capacity. It has become one of the most critical KPIs for factories to assess line performance.

OEE calculations for the production line is implemented with ease using Edge Controller. Edge Controller is a powerful factory automation solution from B&R that enables factories to monitor, assess, and optimize the production process. It has several core components that provide an ideal foundation for data management. In addition to OEE measurement, PDA (Process Data Acquisition), an integral element of Edge Controller, supports factories in acquiring and archiving process data in real-time. It is easy to configure, design reports, and customize OEE calculations best suited for the process. The Edge Controller can also integrate energy monitoring and condition monitoring in the same system.

Health of production line is assessed in real time to prevent stoppage using ConMon, an integral component of Edge Controller
Health of production line is assessed in real time to prevent stoppage using ConMon, an integral component of Edge Controller

Due to the volatility of demand in the market, factories are under pressure to introduce new products with innovative and attractive packaging. For instance, skincare products might be introduced based on demography or data about the aging of consumers. The same brand must manufacture multiple models and varieties of products using the same production line. This can disrupt the production flow and the complete supply chain. Therefore, it is vital to have an integrated system that connects all supply chain elements and provides transparency using all available data.

Process data acquisition is built-in with ready to use modules that can integrate data from design, production, inventory, logistics, and service. Edge Controller provides the framework for a manufacturing execution system and offers critical performance data to optimize processes. With intuitive dashboards, graphs and reports can be generated, giving a clear overview of the production process and supply chain.

Efficient condition monitoring of the production line

Another key focus in factories manufacturing consumer goods is to reduce line stoppages. Any production line heats up while performing continuous operations and producing products in large volumes. Production lines typically have conveyors transporting products to the filling station, inspection, sorting, packaging, and distribution systems. The complete process involves mechanical linkages and motion components.

When lines are running for long hours, vibrations, heat, and wear and tear of moving parts increase continually. These ultimately lead to breakdowns bringing the entire production line to a standstill. Prevention of line stoppages has a significant effect on OEE and operational performance. Most production facilities have a preventive maintenance system in place for a long time. The maintenance activities are planned according to running hours and, in some cases, done only after a failure. Loss of production because of unplanned stoppages inevitably leads to additional costs. Efficient maintenance practice that can sense or anticipate failure in a production line well in advance helps to take corrective action to avoid stoppages.

B&R’s condition monitoring solution ConMon enables factory managers and operators in the prevention of line failures. The system analyzes vibration data from critical points in real-time, providing detailed reports and warnings. The measured data and reports help line managers identify abnormal patterns with the system predicting issues before they happen. ConMon, as a part of the Edge Controller, allows monitoring asset health, optimizing maintenance activity, and provides maintenance team real-time alerts to operational risks. The data is made available in reports as well as graphs for maintenance personnel to perform root cause analysis. It ultimately helps manufacturers lower maintenance costs, maximizes uptime, and improve production throughput. An effective maintenance strategy supported by intelligent condition-based monitoring ensures equipment reliability and increases line availability for mass production.

In addition to line maintenance, manufacturers are keen to identify the sources of significant energy consumption in factories. Production processes account for energy consumption in the form of electricity to natural gas, water, steam, boilers, chillers, and residual water. Finding a source of unnecessary energy consumption can be a substantial cost saving for any factory. With EnMon, B&R supports factories in implementing innovative energy monitoring solutions to keep continuous track of consumption in individual machines and lines. The EnMon system is an integral part of the Edge Controller. It offers excellent insights into the energy used at the facility and aids factories in devising practical energy-saving actions.

End to end shop floor interoperability

Seamless connectivity in a factory needs an effortless exchange of data. With the integration of IT systems with production, data generated in lines need to be shared in real-time with the enterprise to support decision-making. However, the challenge in production lines is the presence of machines from different vendors without interoperability. Openness can ensure that machines from different vendors communicate with each other and with the IT system seamlessly.

With open communication protocols such as OPC UA and MQTT, it becomes possible for production lines to connect and share data mutually with IT systems in a unified manner. OPC UA, a well-known open protocol, allows the exchange data independent of the equipment’s vendor. The protocol is platform-independent and features built-in security mechanisms.

OPC UA has been designed for scalability and supports a wide range of application domains, ranging from field level to enterprise management support. With seamless connectivity from Operational Technology (OT) to Information Technology (IT), across lines and supply chains, it enables factories to achieve a gainful business model.

The road for a smarter tomorrow

Factories manufacturing consumer goods are on a road of revolutionary change in the way they operate. Technology has been a significant disruptor in the sector, with factories looking to leverage the latest factory automation solutions to boost functioning across process chains and stay competitive. With data having a significant stake in decision-making, Edge Controller solutions from B&R enable factory operators to have easy access to operational data. This data can be analyzed and used to optimize the performance of the process and improve the production line’s health. B&R helps factory operators with scalable hardware and powerful software to become efficient, smarter, and serve rapidly changing consumer demands.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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