Automation and Standards Bring New Life to an Old Machine

Rockwell Automation logoImage via Wikipedia
Curt G. Joa Inc., Sheboygan Falls, Wis., is a builder of web converting machinery for manufacturers of disposable diapers and other household and medical paper products. Recently, a diaper manufacturer approached Curt G. Joa Inc. to help upgrade a converting machine that was outdated and increasingly expensive to fix.  
"Fifteen years ago, when this converting system was made, it was considered top-of-the-line," says Kevin Zeinemann, electrical engineering manager at Joa. "But at that time, plant-floor information was not a priority as it is today, when executives look for production data to help them make business decisions."

The old diaper machine employed several third-party systems, including a different human-machine interface (HMI), drive system and input/output (I/O) system, none of which communicated effectively with each other or with plantwide information systems. When the time came to add a new piece of end-of-line packaging equipment, the old system no longer had the functionality or the flexibility to accommodate the new addition.

To ease the transition to the new control platform, engineers at Joa standardized on Allen-Bradley/Rockwell for the new motion control, I/O and HMI products. The new devices, which were capable of interfacing with the existing equipment, were added in stages in order to meet the customer's objective of minimal disruption to production. They also standardized in terms of programming, using Rockwell's Power Programming tool and methodology, designed to allow users to leverage pre-engineered, ISA88-based modules of code across multiple machines and applications. This reportedly helped them reduce design and engineering costs by an average of 45 percent.

Modular programming
"That's the intent behind new modular programming guidelines recently incorporated into the (International Society of Automation's) ISA88 standard," says Dan Seger, principal engineer, Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee. "The guidelines provide programmers with a broadly recognized and predictable machine state model and standardized data model to help ensure they speak the same language and use the same terminology consistently during machine design.

"With the ability to reuse definitions, structures and lines of code, programmers can better leverage prior work," Seger continues. He notes that this is particularly important as machine builders continue to assume more responsibility for designing "information-enabled" machines that are pre-configured and accurately coded with the operating and performance data that end-users need.

The people at Joa seem to agree. "Our partnership with Rockwell helped us to innovate without risking the flexibility our customers need or slowing our design process," says Zeinemann.

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