Automation World’s and Packaging World’s sixth annual Packaging Automation Forum was yesterday. We had the best speaker lineup from top to bottom of the six. We learned about preparing packaging automation lines to accomodate personalized packaging trends at major retailers, how companies are optimizing manufacturing lines, how standards make for more effective packaging lines, the latest about safety standards and implementing them in a company and reporting metrics to optimize manufacturing.

Jim Whalen, manufacturing line optimization program leader for Rich Products, speaking about his experiences noted, “You can get a lot of payback–if you do it right.” But many don’t. He also advised to get the experts out of the way and get the people involved.

Bryan Griffen (pictured above), head of electrical and automation engineering at Nestle, spoke about the difficulties of having single specified automation suppliers and how trying to source additional OEM suppliers often caused comments such as “we can use your specified automation platform, but we don’t know it, so it will cost you twice as much, take twice as long to deliver, and we can’t guarantee it will work.” Eventually, Nestle realized it would have to find a way to have several platforms in a plant–but they would have to work together and they would have to be able to be maintained.

The fact that packaging machines employ a lot of high-speed motion control that Nestle engineers didn’t want technicians to tinker with, meant that trouble shooting within a machine was minimized. The problem of interoperability is being solved with the adoption of PackML from OMAC and Ethernet–although they are somewhat discouraged by the many flavors of Ethernet and are trying to find one solution there.

Ed Michel, from Frito Lay, discussed his experience with implementing CMMS tools to improve equipment reliability. A couple of summary quotes: “Without a well-defined process, the best people and technology will be less effective. It boils down to not just reporting the score, but changing the score” and “When you focus conversations on performance, teams will work to drive performance.”

A panel of safety experts (shown above, Roberta Nelson Shea of Safety Compliance Services, Fred Hayes from PMMI, and Dave Herrington of Kraft Foods) brought the audience the latest standards status updates, gave hints about proper risk assessment and discussed implementing a safety culture.

Finally, Don Enstrom from private label bottler Cliffstar, took the audience along his jouney to gaining a competitive advantage by bulding a common approach to performance measurement.

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