Keeping Tabs on Coca-Cola Production

Given the volume of product flowing out of Coca-Cola Canners Wadeville plant in South Africa, manual labeling of shrink-wrapped pallets of finished cans was an increasing problem. As the fourth-largest canning plant in the world with output of 24 million cases annually, the sheer scale of the operation demanded an automated system that could tighten control and traceability.

06/01/2008


Given the volume of product flowing out of Coca-Cola Canners Wadeville plant in South Africa, manual labeling of shrink-wrapped pallets of finished cans was an increasing problem. As the fourth-largest canning plant in the world with output of 24 million cases annually, the sheer scale of the operation demanded an automated system that could tighten control and traceability.

Considering that one of the canning lines at Wadeville is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere with a capacity of 2,000 cans per minute, keeping track of inventory is certainly critical.

Now, through the use of specialized on-line printers linked to the larger production control system, four of the plant's seven production lines have the ability to barcode label shrink-wrapped cans and entire pallets (90 cases of 24 cans) in real time, prior to entering the warehouse.

“By extending the reach of the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system into the packaging lines, the case and pallet labeling printers have, in effect, become part of our production plant,” says Glen Riffel, plant manager. “This approach not only makes use of our existing assets but also gives us a great deal more control than we previously had. It also gives us an accurate measurement of our production performance and stock status.”

Labeling the cases and pallets required specialized printers that were supplied by Pyrotechnical Marketing (Pyrotec), who chose system integrator Ram-Tec Systems (Pty) Ltd. to implement the total installation. Ram-Tec integrated existing and new elements in such a way as to meet Coca-Cola's operational and business objectives.

From database to HMI

The new control system is based on Wonderware's InTouch HMI (human machine interface) running on the company's touch panel computers. All software applications used in the plant are accessible through these computers. The specialized Markem CimJet labeling systems were supplied by Pyrotec. The new system uses an existing inkjet printer to label the shrink-wrapped cases of 24 cans before they are palletized.

The printed information provided by linking the software and labeling systems includes the pallet number, plant ID, line number, shift code, batch number, and product expiration date. The CimJet prints a label that duplicates that information and adds the product code and description as well as a 36-character barcode. It then attaches this label onto a pallet of 90 cases. After the label is applied to the pallets, a barcode scanner verifies that the information is correct and that the barcode can be read reliably.

A custom-developed Visual Basic software module queries the system's Oracle database for the table of products and creates a local copy at 6:00 a.m. every day. By communicating directly with the company's database, the system has eliminated a great deal of manual entry and, therefore, the risk of errors appearing on the labels. By completing the loop between business and production processes, the system also forms the basis for more extensive MES functions.

The Oracle database also automatically generates reports that are made available to all team leaders, allowing them to track the performance of their plant as often as a report is generated. They are able to see if they are meeting required targets by checking how many pallets have been processed. Remedial action can be taken if necessary.

Another key benefit is the ability to detect missing or stolen pallets by reconciling those already in the warehouse with those being processed. Since user activity is also logged, mistakes or dishonest practices can be traced back to specific operators.

“We think that this extension of process control to the packaging lines is fairly unique,” says Alberto Pontiggia, MES business development manager for Ram-Tec Systems. “But extending it as we have makes a lot of sense, because this is a key function in the overall supply chain and the start of logistics processes.”



Author Information
Denis du Buisson is a marketing ddb@iafrica.com . Carla Sanderson is marketing manager for Wonderware South Africa.




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