Attendees at this year’s Pack Expo are learning firsthand about techniques for faster machine integration. Packaging lines typically consist of many different pieces of equipment, and getting them all installed, configured, and operating in synch is a major headache, and cost, for the user. In fact, 20 to 70% of the cost of a new packaging line lies in integration time and expenses, says Mike Wagner, manager, Global Packaging Business at Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee. His company is taking steps to simplify and speed the line-integration process.
At the show, Pro Mach, based in Cincinnati, demonstrated a new line-integration technology called RAPID Line Integration from Rockwell Automation. RAPID uses the Packaging Machine Language (PackML) to enable easier linkage between machinery across an entire packaging operation. This lets plant managers monitor machines in a connected and standardized format, giving them visibility into the throughput of each machine and a centralized view of overall line performance.
“In many facilities, packaging machines, such as fillers, labelers, case erectors, case packers, wrappers and palletizers, are acquired from different OEMs,” says Wagner. “This approach traditionally makes communication between machines complex, requiring customized integration work and hard coding. Line-integration technologies like RAPID help reduce startup time and integration costs."
RAPID provides a flexible approach to integrating packaging machines and lines by allowing a single location to set up, control, and analyze the performance of an entire line. Pro Mach customers benefit from a configurable line-control solution that provides instantaneous overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) reports on a packaging line and actionable error reporting, while saving time during installation and startup.
“For many customers, installation and startup issues negatively impact time-to-market for new products,” said John Eklund, vice president of marketing at Pro Mach. “Whether it’s frozen packaged dinners, diapers, or new medication, being the first to market with a new product significantly impacts market share and profits over that product’s life. Line-integration solutions allow manufacturers to save time during startup, so they can meet production targets and focus on optimizing line performance.”
Unlike legacy systems that require operators to stop the line for each changeover, line-integration systems let operators make seamless changes – even those that impact the line’s mechanical or electrical makeup, such as changeover to a newly redesigned package.

RAPID also helps lower the total cost of deploying and operating equipment because it uses a platform that easily interfaces with performance-management systems. “RAPID can be implemented on new or existing lines that use varying control platforms,” Eklund says. “This allows us to standardize the integration process for our customers, which in turn saves them time and costs.”
“Our customers are facing a number of challenges as they try to meet growing consumer demands to accommodate ever-changing health, taste, and cost preferences, and remain profitable,” says Eklund. Tools like RAPID help manufacturers keep up with changing demands, he says. http://www.rockwellautomation.com