We often are called in to evaluate a plant’s layout usually with the customer wanting us to justify automated box labeling system.
We can extend multiple lines a short distance install control logic to regulate or “traffic cop” our conveyor system, then automatically load the packed boxes onto our final single conveyor.
That conveyor then feeds our box indexer, barcode product ID scanner, in-motion conveyor scale, labeling conveyor, printer applicator(s), verification barcode scanner, and reject device(s) or sortation system(s).
Every plant is different and it can get really challenging at times doing the engineering layouts.
It is not uncommon to return from an evaluation with a recommendation to actually use multiple manual box labeling stations and palletizing at multiple locations with mule traffic remaining intact.
The simple fact is that since no two plants are the same, we must adapt our solutions to fit the plants.
Sometimes it is just not possible to automate every location mechanically, however that does not mean that you can not automate the data collection!
Luckily the years of experience have taught us to standardize the components, such as the controllers, mechanical designs, and scale equipment.
We use either an inexpensive weight indicator based controller or an embedded Microsoft® Windows 7 touch screen controller.
Both are able to interface via Ethernet to SQL databases for virtually seamless office automation ease.
Often well meaning, yet uniformed IT departments get involved because of the fear of rouge PC equipment (meaning our equipment!) potentially be allowed on the companies network.
It can be a struggle with some groups who do not understand the unique abilities of embedded Microsoft® Windows 7 equipment.
Frequently, managers have stunned looks when you demo the controller by deleting required windows files, or purposely loading a virus, then yanking the power plug out of the wall.
When you plug the unit back in, it not only boots up extremely quickly but somehow automatically restores the required files and loses the virus.
It can certainly open the eyes of the IT groups and the PLC promoters as reliability quickly becomes a non-issue.
The days of customers not having choices due to what accounting or networking system that they purchased from a previous vendor are quickly coming to an end as well.
Oh sure, we occasionally run into the plant that is being held hostage by their accounting system vendor who foolishly attempts to build or specify on floor equipment, but thankfully those days are getting fewer and farther between as customers start to realize the power of servers, networks, and databases such as MySQL.
Our philosophy is simple: Supply standard industry available components in the design of our customized solutions.
This allows our customers to better maintain the equipment they purchase either on their own or with the help of our programming and service departments.
I am always amazed to see competitors’ uniquely-designed and highly customized components in their systems that are obviously designed by the intended purpose to force a customer to purchase expensive single-source components at obscene prices.
In today’s highly connected world, it is just not a good business model in our minds.