One food-industry manufacturer and contract packager is integrating human-machine-interface (HMI) software into machines to make them more modern and flexible. Recently, automation distributor RSA Inc., St. Charles, Ill., helped Crest Foods, Ashton, Ill., upgrade their horizontal-packager design, a servomotor-driven machine that takes streams of food through sequential mix, wrap, and seal stations. Central to the upgrade is Interact Xpress HMI software from Parker Hannifin, Cleveland. The software commands and accepts input from all types of hardware and gives HMIs on older machines the same menus and options as newer equipment. Crest estimates that machines with Xpress boost productivity by 10%.
The software installs on Windows XP or 2000 PCs and comes preloaded on Parker’s XPR2 PowerStation HMIs. Crest Foods puts the HMIs into two types of machines: vertical cartoners and horizontal packagers. The horizontal packagers wrap and seal anything from soup to cookie mix to seasoning pouches to instant potatoes. The cartoners package cake mix, desserts, and skillet dinners.
Crest’s legacy packagers are based on PLCs and Rockwell SLC, CompactLogix, and ControlLogix controllers and platforms. Ethernet connections link the HMIs to devices (via drivers and Web-publishing features) and legacy platforms (via serial communications), so Crest can upgrade even older machines to function like new ones. The software accepts and coordinates input from multiple browser-based client stations for distributed control and remote support when operators must check on a machine or even reprogram it remotely. The HMI also has a subsystem for diagnosing servo issues, which engineers can program to display customized diagnostic messages and context-sensitive setup menus that give more information to operators and maintenance people.
Crest plans to build 50 machines equipped with the software over the next few years as they cycle through scheduled rebuilds.