Automated vision solution makes reprogramming easy

08 July 2014

GlaxoSmithKline has been able to automate traceability on its production lines and in the process has greatly reduced the risk of human error. 

GlaxoSmithKline's site in Evreux, France employs 2,000 people and produces 130 million boxes of inhaled forms each year. Up to 85% of its production is exported to 130 countries with AFSSAPS, MCA and FDA approval. 

This high production volume entails a highly complex traceability system. One of the inhaled forms produced by GSK is a multidose powder inhaler that delivers a metered dose of medication. The marking of each inhaler is checked using a three-camera XG vision system from Keyence. 

The first camera uses optical character recognition (OCR) to check an in-house code. The second checks the placement and diameter of the label, inspecting for tears and making sure that the legal notices printed on it are legible. The label is printed on a white background at a rate of 110 to 150 strokes per minute. The third camera is used to check a special label with a black background used for the Japanese market.

"We were looking for a vision system that did not require any direct operator intervention and thus would eliminate the risk of incorrect adjustments," explains Christophe Fourcin of GlaxoSmithKline. "Operators simply enter the code of the product to be inspected into the PLC controlling the vision system. That way they don't have to deal with the complex matter of programming the 30 or so sizes used.

"The very nature of the detection performed means that we have to routinely make changes to the vision system. That's one of the reasons why we chose Keyence's XG vision system. We wanted to have a tool that was ours and that we could modify as needed. With competing brands, reprogramming takes time and money. We have to wait for the estimate and then wait again for the new programming to be done. With the XG, we are in control and can even contact Keyence for assistance," said Fourcin.

"It was easy to set up. Keyence's engineer provided us with the programming template so that we could go on from there. I make the necessary changes myself, which I learned how to do during a one-day training session provided by Keyence. The language is intuitive and the programming tools are easy," said Fourcin.

"The vision system integrated very easily with the PLC. We also noticed that detection is stable over time and does not cause any false rejects. Determining the right inspection settings is very easy with the XG Series," said Fourcin.

The XG vision system is now part of GlaxoSmithKline's full process control system. "Our aim is to reduce human intervention to a minimum to increase the reliability of our processes. The next step is to control the PLC remotely with a takt time solution. Once that is done, detection with the Keyence system will be fully automated and centralised," concluded Fourcin. 

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