The Automation4Packaging workshop that was held recently in Delhi attracted more than 60 delegates. Beginning with a technical session featuring new launches in industrial automation technology, it was conducted by three of the foremost leaders in emerging sensing and safety technologies; pick and place systems. The session was initiated by Ravi Agarwal, Director, Pepperl + Fuchs (India) Pvt Ltd, who spoke on effective sensing technologies for packaging. Highlighting the challenges faced in packaging of food and non-food items by machine and other methods, he discussed the possible solutions for the same. According to him, choosing a right sensor in automation can define the quality and consistency of packaging. Samir Kanchan, Head - Application Centre, Schmersal India, shared an informative presentation on innovative solutions for enhancing operational safety. Segmenting the packaging process as product processing, handling, monitoring, primary packaging, secondary packaging and final packaging, he presented some of the old and new safety standards, compared them and also highlighted the new trends in the segment. The session was accompanied by live product demos, enabling participants to get a sense of the practical look and feel of what they learnt. The proceedings The dais was then taken over by Naresh Kantoor, CEO, Encon Systems International, who gave an insight into the cost-effective solutions for pick and place. The talk explored linear movements, end to end positioning, multi-positioning rotary actuators, gripping systems and multiple component handling. The next session focused on the effectiveness of packaging lines and the difference between world class operations and average class. Vilas Dholye, Operations Management Expert (formerly the Executive Vice President, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd), began with sharing the three general categories of losses - downtime loss, speed loss and quality loss, bringing a sense of practical understanding to opportunities for improving OEE in packaging operations. Using a case study approach, the participants were made aware of six key improvement areas to cover potentially huge losses – breakdowns, setup and adjustments, small stops, reduced speed, startup rejects, production rejects. Concluding the second session, P V Sivaram, MD, B&R Automation (a leading global automation supplier to the packaging industry known for ushering in open standards of connectivity and interoperability) introduced servo and other automation tools to improve machine throughput. Clarifying the relevance of automation tools, he explained how the unplanned shutdown could be reduced by condition monitoring, and condition-based-maintenance. Over and above making improvements on the OEE, the demand to reduce the energy consumption per production-piece and improve safety is also there. Participants were further shown the applications that demonstrated in-line quality control, flexible labelling and product tracking. Panel discussion The finale of the Automation4Packaging session was a lively interactive session with captains of the industry. The theme of the panel discussion was the role of automation manufacturers, OEMs and end users in evolving standards for machine inter-connectivity. The panelists were some of the eminent leaders from the industry including Sunil Jain, President, Rajoo Engineers Ltd; Sunil Kachru, Business Development Manager - Food & Non Food, KHS Machinery Pvt Ltd; P V Sivaram, MD, B&R Automation & Member, AIA Executive Council; Ravi Agarwal, Director, Pepperl & Fuchs (India) Pvt Ltd; Mahabaleshwara BL, Senior Manager, Controls & Automation, Nestle India Ltd and Bimal Kumar Lakhotia, National Head – Packaging Development & Commercialization, Coca Cola. The moderator, Anup Wadhwa, Director, AIA, began with the proposition that the packaging and processing machines could talk among themselves. The panelists were asked to examine whether they envisioned a ‘plug-n-pack’ scenario. While there was an agreement that the adoption of standards can deliver better business value from packaging machinery, a reality check revealed that the task of improving interoperability guidelines and standards is a role that has to be explored, understood and agreed by automation companies, OEMs and partners of integrated supply chains - in short, all stakeholders. Machine vendors/OEMs tend to specify equipment in terms of brands since this brings the economies arising from familiarity. Software and hardware costs are low and service support arrangements well covered. On the other hand, the buyers of packaging machines worry about good connectivity between their end of line processes and packaging area. So it is pretty obvious that buying choices and integration across multi-vendor equipment have to be seen in totality. As the world is making packaging operations more effective by simplifying customisation and integration, the ‘value debate’ laid the foundation of a serious exploration that can usher in a desirable and robust set of guidelines and standards in India. ?
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