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Jun 10, 2014

Integrating Your Data into Our Systems

Some of our most popular products, such as labeling systems, sortation systems, and in-motion weighing systems, need to gather information so that our customers can know production levels, yields, and the serial numbers associated with labeling performed over a particular span of time.

automatic labeling

These systems must be able to interact with our customers’ databases. From our years of experience, we have found the following guidelines to be very helpful in integrating with our customers’ data and databases:

• Standalone Systems
• Host Program
• Custom Reports

We design and program our systems to perform their functions as standalone systems. That means the industrial controller that we supply will be equipped to perform certain functions, and it will have a SQL database for real-time information collecting. These industrial controllers can house our customers’ databases for any information that might be needed to properly perform their functions.

automatic labeling_02

For example, the scale on a labeling system measures the weight of a product and sends that information to the system controller. The controller looks at the customer’s database and reads the tare weight associated with that product ID, calculates the net weight, and sends that information to the label printer.

If, on the other hand, the industrial controller on a labeling system does not have a copy of our customer’s database, but instead needs to access a remote database that might be controlled and updated on the fly, the entire process becomes slower and more complicated. If there are performance problems, troubleshooting becomes somewhat of a guessing game, and the responsibility for non-performance will be anything but clear.

automatic labeling system

With our standalone systems, you can make changes to your database directly on the industrial controller or with our optional host program, you can update your database remotely and then update the controller via your network.

Our systems collect data and store it in the SQL database. From there, it can be retrieved and processed into the number of reports that you want. Some of our customers are comfortable designing their own database queries, while others turn to our programming department to customize the reports they want.

With the vital role that information plays in today’s production environments, we can help you gather information and do so in a way that seamlessly integrates your data with our systems

SDS Industrial Controller

SDS Industrial Controller

May 28, 2014

Why isn’t my interface or washdown computer working?

This is a common question that we deal with. The washdown computers (HMIs) and industrial controllers that we sell are commonly used for all sorts of data entry and control functions, so we know how potentially dangerous it could be to have one stop working. Though it might seem like a complex question, there is often a simple answer to why your electronics aren’t working properly.

washdown computer

Communications

When people come asking why their washdown computer (HMI)  isn’t working, one of the most common responses they get is to check their cables, connections, and network between the interface and inputs. We find that most often, the washdown computers (HMIs/controllers) are working just fine. Things like cords can be broken or worn far faster in most cases. Before you scrap your interface, check to see that any wireless networks you have are running smoothly and try replacing input cables.

washdown computers

Moisture

It is no secret that water is easily capable of ruining expensive electronics. Washdown computers (HMIs) are no different. Their biggest enemy is water and washdown crews who wield it indiscriminately.

We make our washdown computers (HMIs) very sturdy and water resistant to an extent, but they still need to be washed with certain things in mind. They are almost always stored inside some sort of enclosure to provide moisture protection. Washdown operators push the limits of the enclosures occasionally as they can’t necessarily handle a power washer being directed intentionally at the sealant for an extended period. Enclosures are waterproof but not foolproof, so this can be a cause for moisture ingress to your washdown computers (HMIs) and controllers.

washdown computer

Outdated Hardware/Software

We are occasionally asked, “Why isn’t my washdown computer ( HMI) working like the other guys?” This is often because they are comparing their older, outdated washdown computer to someone else’s new interface or indicator. Washdown computers,  like any product, have a life expectancy, and at the very least, they need to be updated occasionally.

washdown computers

It makes sense that some of our more complex programs aren’t going to run as well on an washdown computer (HMI) or controller that hasn’t been upgraded recently. Some of these old washdown computers and controllers are still using old operating systems like MS-DOS.

Washdown computers need to be maintained just like any other machine in your plant. Make sure they are properly taken care of and updated, so you can avoid these issues.

SDS Industrial Controller

SDS Industrial Controller

Apr 29, 2014

Can I Use My Data With Your Automation Systems?

Well, maybe. But, from the outside, we clearly do a lot of work with weighing and automation, but what people don’t always recognize is the sheer amount of data handling that we do behind the scenes. Depending on how you want to integrate your data, we should be able to accommodate.

Industrial Computer

Every system we make is intended to be standalone; meaning that everything it does is handled internally from the beginning of the process to the end. This applies to how we prefer to handle data as well. Ideally, we receive complete product data from your databases, use it to perform our operation and then send it out to a database where the plant can then access it and update their information. This makes things like labeling and product inventory simple and easy to update.

The biggest problem we have with data handling is when plant managers have outside software companies handling all of their programming needs, because they tend to throw wrenches into the process. This stems from the fact that these software companies like to control every process.

stainless steel enclosure

With companies like this, the process often becomes harder to work through because they insist that their system and ours communicate back and forth to receive and send data within the process. An example of this happens with systems that use pre-identification scanners.

As happens often with labeling, when a product passes by for a pre-identification scan, these plants often request that we send that product code back to their system so it can retrieve label information and then send it back to us. This amount of heavy communication back and forth between multiple systems can greatly slow the process and makes it less secure from connection and networking issues.

carcass grading

Having control over every aspect of plant programming makes software companies feel secure because they don’t want to worry about the plant managers thinking that someone else has valuable programming skills. We aren’t in this to compare skills; we just simply believe that our systems work best in the way that we designed them to work.

So, to get the most out of a system of ours, all you need to do is give it the correct information at the front end so that it can work quickly and give you the best data at the back end. It’s far more simple and efficient this way.

SDS Industrial Controller

SDS Industrial Controller

Oct 14, 2013

The Future of Manual Box Labeling

Manual case labeling systems are very widely used in the industry today. There is also the thought of “let’s buy what we need today and worry about the future when it comes.”

This is a common misconception.

manual box labeling_02

When looking for a good manual case labeling system, take a moment to look into the future. Look at what your current needs are and what they could possibly be in a couple years.

  • Do you plan on growing the business?
  • How many boxes per minute could you need to do then?

These are some of the questions you should look at.

If your current case labeling needs are at a low volume, where you are splitting the duties of a person to do other jobs beside the case labeling, a manual unit should do just fine. We have systems available that can keep your cost down and still offer you a system that is user friendly and will meet your current needs.

The difference could be in the controller. You can use a smart indicator on the scale that will also hold your label formats and send all of the information to the printer for a hand applied label. We also have human machine interface (HMI) controllers that offer more options for your manual case labeling needs.

washdown computers

17-in SDS Touchscreen HMI

If you have many PLU’s and a bunch of different label formats you may need to go with the HMI. The HMI can offer you a touchscreen option with hot keys that speed up lines. The HMI’s can integrate scanners to speed up the labeling process. There is the ability to send raw data back to your server for inventory control purposes, and the list goes on.

manual_box_labeling

Now let’s look into the future: your business grows and you have a person case labeling full time with your manual system. You look at the cost of that person and decide to expand your current system into an auto case labeling system. Here is where a little planning before you bought your manual system can pay off.

If you had decided to go with a HMI, you can continue to use the HMI and upgrade to an auto print and apply system. You have saved the cost of a controller and your label information is already in the unit. So when looking at buying a manual box labeling system, stop and look into the future!

What could your future needs be?

See how we can give you options that offer savings down the road, if and when you need to upgrade to a faster unit!

Manual Box Labeling Brochure

Download our PDF Brochure

Apr 4, 2013

Using HMIs for Fast User Input

There are many ways that a plant attaches information to a certain product. They can use tracking systems, like Trolley Vision®, or barcode scanners to link certain information to a product as it passes by, but this information isn’t always automatic.

Sometimes it is necessary for a user to input certain info like product codes, grading selections, lot numbers, etc. The only way to link this information with the product and the various machine inputs, like scale data, is by using a Human Machine Interface or HMI.

washdown computer

SDS HMI Controller

An HMI is the combination of an industrial computer, stainless steel enclosure, and an intuitive software package. It is the most secure, protected way of allowing your employees to enter necessary information on the floor.

The stainless steel enclosure protects the HMI from dust, water, corrosion, and even temperature with the optional addition of heaters and cooling units.

The HMIs are built to be watertight, so that they are NEMA 4X rated when the enclosure is closed.

The industrial computer housed inside is a step above the average computer. It is composed of stronger high quality components to ensure the life of the HMI.

washdown computer

SDS HMI Panel

With all of the incoming data streams/strings that the HMI is responsible for handling, the industrial computer housed in the HMI is also often equipped with more serial ports than a standard PC.

Most scale and scanner outputs use serial ports to transmit data.

The software options available are completely customizable, so that you can run the necessary processes without many issues. Options for touchscreens allow users to more easily input data or make grading decisions.

Don’t leave your computer exposed on the plant floor or far away in an office.

Look into HMIs to improve your work flow today!

SDS Industrial Controller

Download our SDS Industrial Controller PDF

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