Unilever has taken a step towards Industry 4.0 with Linkx Packaging Systems to create the foundations for a smart factory.
The Trafford based factory, which is the manufacturer of the nation’s favourite tea, PG Tips, has advanced to factory packaging automation over the years and continues to look for innovation within the packaging industry.
The project, dubbed the ‘Andon’ project, was undertaken to obtain and log data from all the machines on the production floor. This collection of data is then to be used to analyse the efficiencies, machine and material statuses.
The task for Linkx was to harvest all this data from the existing machines and collate it into a common data block. This is sent to an MES so it can be read by a third party and presented in a graphical format to indicate the status.
The system uses one central Siemens S7-1515 PLC to communicate to an ET200 node per line. Any machine with Ethernet connectivity was connected directly to the Siemens PLC and data was harvested over the communication network. Legacy machines utilised hard-wired digital signals and wired them back to the ET200 node.
The benefits of this controls project falls directly into the smart-factory arena. It allows operators to look at an overview status of all machines and materials on the production line meaning they can pre-empt any issues or requirements of the line.
The system has been fully installed and integrated with Cimlogic, who provided Unilever with the ‘front end’ technology including screens and monitors attached to every machine to display the status in real-time.