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Munich’s drinktec to focus on control technology

Munich’s drinktec to focus on control technology

Process automation and IT will be recurring themes running throughout drinktec 2009 . In the past, manufacturing and bottling plants were manually controlled by operating personnel. This task has long since been carried out by PLCs, but this is just the beginning — the foundation of a worldwide trend will effectively be continued at drinktec 2009 from 14 to 19 September at the Munich trade fair centre: where modern automation technology throughout the entire value-added chain of drinks and liquid foods will be introduced.

The entire topic range of process control, control technology and IT will therefore be recurring themes running throughout all the halls. Process automation will be a focal point in halls A 3 and A 4.

‘View and optimise the big picture in real time’ — this is pretty much the creed of modern automation philosophy. This approach has far reaching consequences: the publicised transparency links the entire automation pyramid from field level through to company management: process control systems ensure that the processes in the brewery or bottling hall run so that they are reproducible. The system operators can check if everything is running according to plan via the MES (Manufacturing Execution System). The MES also passes on specific data to the top of pyramid, the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). Here, software such as SAP carries out planning and sales tasks e.g. for the purchasing of raw materials or personnel planning.

The smooth interaction of completely different systems, in both a vertical and horizontal direction, is also a part of the publicised transparency. This poses a great challenge for developers because the programs must first master their actual task. In other words, they have to control and depict the discontinuous, recipe-controlled processes of drinks manufacturing. Secondly, the programs must be able to come into contact with each other and thirdly, they must also be able to talk the same language in the process — despite the Babylonian language diversity in the digital world.

In order to bring machines and systems, automation and communications systems under the same roof, industry, research and users have agreed on the “Weihenstephan Standard” in which standards are set based on comprehensive empirical data which control the linking-up of machines and units to an operational data collection system. The standard also defines the minimum functions systems of this kind must have. Another important part of the standard is the definition of terms such as lot, bottling order and bottling item. The definition of these terms prevents interface problems between the different systems of individual business sectors from the start.

As well as the traditional areas of production and the bottling hall, the storage and dispatch processes are increasingly coming under the spotlight during continuous automation. For this reason, a number of well-known suppliers will exhibit the corresponding IT components such as warehouse management or stacking control systems at drinktec 2009.

An efficient storage system is based on the exact evaluation of the current situation and development of different alternatives for future storage operations. Ideally, special simulation programs are used here, with which it is possible to determine the appropriate storage system even before starting work.

If the solution is a manual storage system, this is carried out mostly as block storage in the drinks industry and the system is provided with stackers, which can, for example, call up and process current orders via a stacking control system and stacking terminals. The linking-up of the stacker information systems to the warehouse management system means that the information flow is then also quicker and more effective.

If the basic conditions support the fully-automated processing of the internal stream of goods, then the high rack warehouse is a suitable solution. The removal of products and storage takes place here via special handling devices and rack feeders which, controlled by the material flow computer and the warehouse management system, move into the respective storage position.

Of course, these modern high rack or block storage systems act on the continuous documentation and data backup of the upstream levels so that the pallets can be traced back right through to the raw, auxiliary and operating materials that were used.

In the opinion of IT experts, too many companies waste time and profit en route to the end customer. This is remedied with the help of IT systems which allow efficient coordination of the deliveries, including transport planning and route optimisation.

However, transparent operation does not stop at the factory gate: the exhibitors at drinktec 2009 will also present mobile solutions. WLAN, handheld devices or PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) support access to IT modules no matter where you are. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides secure data exchange and access to different customer locations as well as between the customer and machine manufacturer.

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