“Gary, what are you hearing about PackML lately,” asked an acquaintance the other day. “I’m getting a lot of requests for it.” My friend is a software integrator working primarily in factory automation and MES.

Developed by a working group of engineers from companies that use packaging machines, companies that design and manufacture packaging machines, and suppliers of machine automation and control, PackML defines the various “states” of a machine and provides a common vocabulary of terms.

Companies that use such machines favored the development of PackML, because it would make user interfaces and machine operations standard. This makes operator training and machine operations easier and better. Nestle and P&G are examples of companies who have pushed hard for the development of the standard.

Thought models help not only the companies who use the machines, it should help the machine builders, too. By structuring not only the programming, but also the design of the machine, machine builders can both satisfy customers, perhaps with a unique capability, but also reduce future design cost and time-to-market.

PackML was developed by an organization composed of technology developers, machine builders and end user companies. The Organization for Machine Automation and Control (OMAC) Packaging Working Group developed the state model borrowing from the ISA88 standard (ISA88.05). The group itself has been quiet for the past few years, but according to my friend, companies are beginning to request it in the machines they procure.

Taking the thought process one step further, companies are beginning to look at their entire manufacturing enterprise by applying the ISA95 model to operations. Once companies understand operations and data movements, then they can begin applying information technology solutions from manufacturing execution systems (MES) suppliers.

If the machines are modeled, and operations are modeled, and data flows are defined, then connections can be made to automatically move real-time data from the machine into MES applications. These applications provide the contextualized information required to adequately manage manufacturing.

Machine builders who provide machines based on the state model that is understandable to their customers and at the same time provide pathways for information flow—such as built-in OPC servers—have a competitive advantage over their peers. Manufacturers who use these standards can benefit from using the information.

Research by LNS Research in collaboration with MESA has revealed that companies who use their MES applications have benefited from many annual performance improvements.

The recent report notes, “The average annual performance improvements listed below are each combinations of several different metrics and KPIs. The results shown are for manufacturers that indicated measuring each of the listed metrics. In some cases, such as in the financials category, up to 10 different variables were included in the calculation. This data shows improvements in those categories based on 2013 compared to 2012.”

Optimum asset performance

Add to the mix that all these standards aid interoperability of systems and data flow. When you can get data flowing from machines and processes into your management systems—MES, CMMS and EAM—then information about the state of the plant is at your fingertips.

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