Improving packaging line data collection

17 July 2018

Control Engineering UK finds out how Molson Coors has upgraded its packaging production system to benefit from improved data collection to allow it to fault find a single machine or across entire production areas.

The Burton on Trent, Molson Coors Brewing Company facility consists of multiple filling and packing lines for cans, bottles and kegs, with high speed canning lines capable of filling up to 2,000 units per minute.

The packaging business unit at the UK site has, traditionally, made use of a home grown, custom downtime data capture system. This had increased in size over a number of years on an ad-hoc basis and was no longer meeting the needs of the business. Visibility and the quality of efficiency data for the packaging operation was limited and could not provide data in the format used by other sites globally.

Further, packaging production orders, issued by the ageing ‘green screen’ MRP (Materials Resource Planning) system, were managed, fulfilled and reported on manually. This system was to be replaced by SAP, with the final stages of the SAP implementation taking place at the same time as the installation of a new Manufacturing Execution System (MES) by Astec.

Astec was challenged by Molson Coors to implement a system to help drive the continuous improvement program, with a focus on maintaining and improving the efficiency of the packaging lines. The system would need to be able to use many of the existing approaches for data collection and plant modelling which had already been proven in other sites. The solution needed to be low risk, and product based, so only globally available and supportable COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) software could be used.

Astec regularly utilises a network of partners across the globe who are often able to provide resources to accelerate project delivery. In this instance, one of GE’s North American solution providers were able to support the project, following their close involvement with Molson Coors’ MES development throughout Canada and the USA. With both system integrators working as one, a global reach was provided, mitigating the risks associated with projects influenced by people and sites in different territories.

The packaging lines comprised equipment of varying ages and configurations with a range of different PLCs. The KPIs delivered by the system needed to focus on enabling evaluation of the status of each machine within a packaging line correctly – to know whether it was working, and if not, why not.

In terms of efficiency, the approach was taken to automatically gain the reasons for machine stoppages from the existing automation system, working alongside all production personnel to gain additional, more granular causal insight. The main areas of focus included the filling machines, pasteurisers, case packers, conveyors and wrappers. The filler is the rate limiting machine on the line so, for the purposes of maintaining efficiency, it is essential that unfilled containers arrive at the maximum rate of the filling machine and that downstream activities such as shrink-wrap, labelling, cardboard packaging and palletising are able to operate at least as fast as the output from the filler.

Monitoring and control of delivery order dates, volumes and lead times was also essential to avoid unnecessary overstocking. At a throughput of 2,000 units per minute, operations are high pressure and complex. Astec was able to provide a system that could identify faults and quickly communicate these to operators for remedy and team leaders for improvement.

The new system was tailored to provide the appropriate information and KPIs. During the 18 month project, Molson Coors’ global operations expanded, with a significant increase in the number of European sites. This put even greater emphasis on the importance of aligning KPI measurement, ensuring that performance across all sites could be measured consistently.

As a UK Premier Solution Partner for GE Digital (formally GE Intelligent Platforms), Astec was able to implement the required solution using GE’s COTS production automation software. Molson Coors had familiarity with the GE Intelligent Platforms’ software stack and were already using the Historian and SCADA products on-site, with the MES product set being used in the company’s North American facilities.

The Historian feeds information into the Proficy Plant Applications MES software, which makes it available as contextualised data using the detailed plant model. The context rich data is then provided to the reporting system. Astec provided a suite of packaging reporting functions providing views on the business area, specific packaging lines and individual machines. The hardware for the new system came in the form of virtual servers and thin clients supported by Hewlett Packard.

Improved visibility
To minimise operator walking time, because some of the packaging lines are over 90m long, and to improve visibility, accelerate fault diagnosis and correction, Astec installed user interfaces at multiple locations along each line. This provided operators with a tool which allowed them to take ownership and raise efficiency.

Throughout the project Astec worked closely with to Molson Coors to design and implement intuitive ‘reason trees’ to allow for the efficient recording of downtime. This ensured efficiency KPIs were defined and monitored correctly and incorporated within management reports in the right way.

Molson Coors is now able to rapidly access efficiency data which allows it to fault find right down to the level of individual machines or across entire production areas, providing a framework for a full range of continuous improvement and efficiency drives. It also delivers the information needed by the new SAP system, including data and information required to understand capacity planning and forecasting.

Each filler is now followed by a measuring device which checks that each unit has been filled to the right level. Used as a vital compliance tool, this ensures the contents of the packages are as described and ensuring that product giveaway is kept to a minimum.

The system provides a single source of information for past production, the current production plan, product specifications and quality check points as well as efficiency metrics spanning products, machines, production areas and even teams. This enables comparisons to be made across teams, sites, product types and packaging lines, so issues that could potentially harm profitability can be identified.

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