By Steven A. Eisenbrown
Senior Vice President
Automation Control and Information Group
Edited by Rick Seibt
Mayfield Heights, Ohio
Variety, as the adage goes, is the spice of life. However, in the high-speed packaging industry, it's a spice known to cause mildto-severe heartburn and an occasional case of indigestion. That's because today's fiercely competitive marketplace drives companies to offer an exhaustive breadth of products to meet broad consumer needs.
From a packaging perspective, equipment must be flexible enough to keep up with frequent line changes and scalable enough to handle the introduction of new products. At the same time, packaging operations must run ever faster, more accurately, and with less downtime. Simply put, packaging cannot be the bottleneck that slows the movement of products from the plant floor to the consumer.
As a result, packaging OEMs and end users must be agile and responsive to survive. Increasingly they're partnering with global automation suppliers to boost engineering productivity, reduce commissioning time, and take advantage of the latest technology.
That's what the Rockwell Automation Integrated Architecture delivers. We offer a complete, integrated system that focuses on the most effective way of doing control, communications, and visualization. The system permits sequential, process, drive, or motion control in any combination and results in greater performance and flexibility for OEMs and lower integration costs for manufacturers, along with a simpler, more efficient way to share information.
Benefits span the entire design and manufacturing landscape. Perhaps the most exciting aspect for packaging-equipment builders is our recent success with motion control. We've been in the motion business for more than 25 years, but now we've tightly integrated motion into the Logix Architecture. We've made the motion algorithms just another element of the overall control capability, along with uniform software and SERCOS interfaces between the controllers, servo drives, and feedback devices.
Traditional packaging systems, on the other hand, need a dedicated controller for logic and I/O, and a second for motion control — with separate application programs for each. These controllers must be linked and information is not available in real time. Naturally, this makes synchronizing motion and sequential control difficult. Coordination can get far enough out of sync to impact machine performance.
By tying motion and machine control into a single, multitasking controller platform we've helped OEMs reduce design time by more than 25% through less programming and better reuse of existing products, not to mention higher system performance, faster application development, easier maintenance, and lower overall cost.
Another advantage to Integrated Architecture is that the controllers, servo drives, all the Logix products are built with the mindset of being scalable and flexible. We can offer the full functionality that the customer is looking for, whether controlling a single machine on the factory floor or monitoring an entire production line halfway around the world. OEMs can select the requisite components and smoothly and seamlessly assemble them into a complete system thanks to a common software environment and open networks. This leads to more-efficient, reusable designs, lower costs, faster installation, and solutions tailored exactly to the customer's needs.
As requirements change over time we can expand features or functions. Scalability lets users add value to their investment, rather than needing to start over from scratch. Allen-Bradley PLCs and controls have always been known for providing our customers with a migration and upgrade path. The latest-generation architecture only makes that simpler, providing a safe environment for many years to come.
And we've developed a common set of visualization tools, so people can get familiar with these systems and don't have to be retrained time and time again with every upgrade. We call this ViewAnyWare. Common visualization software that can be used on a wide range of Allen-Bradley operator interface and industrial computers, tightly integrated with the Logix control system. The result is a significant reduction in design time once again, as users only need to put data into the system once and then easily reuse it.
Rockwell Automation's Encompass Program also continues to provide an invaluable extension of our architecture and our value offering. We recognize we can't do everything ourselves. Our Encompass partners provide communications links, software interfaces, and a wide variety of hardware that adds value to and extends the capabilities of our architecture. It grows every year and is one of the strongest competitive advantages we have, because it gives a much more powerful offering to our customers.
We've spent ten years developing the Integrated Architecture, the visualization tools, infrastructure, links and communications so it pieces together seamlessly to ensure maximum benefits through design, installation, operation and maintenance for OEMs and users alike. We're not nearly done yet. We'll continue to enhance the solutions for our customers with the best available technology, capabilities, and support.