Speaking of packaging in my last post, I attended sessions of the OMAC organization for the 13th consecutive year in Orlando during the ARC Forum. Originally a users group dedicated to finding ways to make control open in manufacturing, it found what turned out to be a temporary home with ISA, which turned into an organization of users and suppliers. Then, ISA turned it loose. Now looking for a home, it is also looking for purpose.

The search for an open PLC was derailed by technology–going from open backplanes to open communications. (In a non-OMAC side note, this trend is exemplified by Opto 22’s deciding to work with Rockwell Automation controllers — not a business relationship — by connecting its I/O products to existing Allen-Bradley controllers using EtherNet/IP.) Another group dubbed MS-MUG — the Microsoft Manufacturers Users Group — had a little success creating some papers for manufacturers working with Microsoft Windows and other software.

There exists an active, but small, group led by Boeing engineers called the Machine Tool working group. It is working with a standard called STEP-NC to standardize communications from CAD to CAM to CNC (not an area of my expertise, so I can’t explain further right now). The group has conducted some trials and made discoveries, but it has a way to go, yet.

Perhaps the group with the biggest impact was the Packaging Working Group. It developed a state model of packaging machines based on ISA88 called PackML and PackTags, a common description of how a packaging machine works. At this year’s meetings, Procter & Gamble’s Rob Aleksa described the growth in adoption of the standard. The spread is impressive–but it too needs further develoment. And, in my opinion, extension to the process machines that are upstream of them.

Keith Campbell is a retired engineer from Hershey, retired director of the Packaging Working group and currently a blogger under the umbrella of Packaging World magazine. He posted two items from Orlando last week. One describing Aleksa’s talk and the other speculating on where OPW should land–his analysis is with the PMMI I described in the last post. Interesting thoughts.

I am planning a longer interview with Sid Vanketesh from Boeing, the current OMAC leader. Stay tuned.

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