OMAC standards yield operational savings

Orlando, FL—The Open Modular Architecture Controls (OMAC) Users Group’s guidelines and initiatives deliver significant economic benefits, including more than 50% savings in some cases, according to end-users at OMAC’s meeting here on Feb. 3-4.



Orlando, FL— The Open Modular Architecture Controls ( OMAC ) Users Group’s guidelines and initiatives deliver significant economic benefits, including more than 50% savings in some cases, according to end-users at OMAC’s meeting here on Feb. 3-4. These savings involve software security, machine tool efficiencies, and easier to program, faster, more flexible packaging equipment.


Bottom-line security benefits to corporations from good software security, best practices, and patch management to reduce shutdowns from viruses and worms total $5-20 million year for large corporations and $1-5 million for smaller companies, according to an estimate from Ashok Nangia, chair of OMAC’s Microsoft Manufacturing User Group (MS MUG). The group has more than 120 member users, and has advocated for eliminating reboot when Microsoft patches are applied; making patches reversible; promoting designed-for-Windows XP certification; increasing security built into Windows-based products; and advocating lifecycle extension (Microsoft recently extended support for NT from seven to 10 years), says Nangia, whose for-pay job is with 3M .


Imagine using CAD/CAM data to create code directly for machine tools. Another demonstration of that technology, from the OMAC Machine Tool Group, showed how STEP-NC initiative can move designs immediately from “Picture to Part.” Wayne Hixson, manager, advanced manufacturing and information systems, material, and process technology, Boeing Commercial Airlines, says that Boeing expects these efforts will potentially reduce the cost of product design, and provide a common workflow platform needed to “design anywhere, build anywhere, and support anywhere.” In addition, such standardization, using AP-238 data conversion, would allow greater efficiencies in pushing excess job capacity to other machines and maintain high part quality, without huge investments in writing new code. Those involved in demonstrations include GE Fanuc , MDSI, NIST, Siemens , Step Tools , and UGS PLM Solutions. A separate effort seeks to extract data for HMI use in standard ways from CNC programs. Such data-point mapping also could help in running simulations, offering better comparisons on which machine tools would be better at running certain jobs. Hixson cited Step Tools Inc.’s numbers that suggest, based on demonstrations, tool path planning time might be reduced by 35%; paper drawings on the shop floor might be reduced 75%; and machine time for smaller jobs (under 50 pieces), could fall by 50% by using STEP-NC.


Paul Greene, drug product automation director, Pfizer , says using standards from OMAC saves significant costs at the manufacturing level, and ensures information sharing for the good of the company. With the diversity of 80 facilities and global acquisitions, “it would take 10 years to standardize, and by the time we finished, hundreds of millions of dollars later, it would be obsolete.” Original equipment manufacturers and system integrators should “embrace industry standards, and not let potential short-term gains of a non-standard approach harm their future revenue stream,” Greene advises. Standard data models and data sets for various pieces of machinery help; PackML and PackTags for packaging equipment represent “a huge step forward,” he says. Non-standard data formats require manual extraction of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) information or “significant PLC programming effort at present, so we support OMAC and ISA, and expect new equipment to be delivered in line with those standards.” OMAC standards provide a “product independent framework. End-users should involve themselves in development of standards, such as OMAC initiatives,” Greene recommends.


Unilever served as a machine test bed for the PackML State Model guidelines, according to Andrew McDonald, Unilever’s global automation and control manager. Companies are still working through hard numbers on these and other tests. Even so, he estimates that in general, Unilever and other end-users could reduce overall engineering costs of packaging line integration by 50%. In engineering, savings would result from standardization of the interface between individual packaging machines and the line control system, reducing costs for the OEM and accelerating control systems development by 20-30%. It also could reduce engineering costs for the line control system by 15-25%. For acceptance testing, installation, commissioning and start-up, it would eliminate the time to create test documents for interface testing, saving 15%. Standard state model and tag descriptions mean that technicians can fault-find on machines from various suppliers with limited training. In operation and maintenance, a standard interface and program structure will eliminate losses in fault-finding, training costs will fall, and access to a wider pool of technical resources will increase.


Garth Basson, manufacturing system manager, SAB Miller , demonstrated the value of standards by having the audience clap to his instructions, then he gave additional directions in Afrikaans, unintelligible to almost all present. After the confusion quieted, he added, “That’s how I feel like we’re managing packing machinery without standards.” SAB Miller, the second largest brewer globally by volume, has more than 120 breweries; in South Africa, seven with 28 packaging lines, he says. “There’s no such thing as a silver bullet. We don’t expect to reap the benefits of a standard instantly, but we’ve asked all new machinery to include the PackML state machine. We believe PackTags can add huge value,” Basson said. In a technology demonstration, SAB Miller worked with Krones to prototype part of a beer line using PackML State Diagram, mode definition document, and the PackTags standard. Six machines plus conveyors, and 10 PLCs were involved. “We will retrofit to divisions, as well. There’s huge benefit in reducing the integration effort, end-user costs… operational and capital. It also reduces vendor costs, and increases implementation speeds. Ongoing effort and commitment by vendors and end-users alike are required to continue to move this initiative forward and turn a good start into success.”


The cooperative effort, Make2Pack, involving World Batch Forum , OMAC and ISA SP88, aims to streamline the production of products through packaging, as the name implies, by combining conventions from both making and packing used in the ISA S88 Parts 1,2, and 3, and the current PackML model. David Chappell, section manager with Procter & Gamble , said some packaging companies already are using S88 modularization techniques, and have reduced design, construction, and start-up costs by up to 50%. “Many, if not most, companies put a tag translation layer on top of their monolithic code to support the PackML state model. These companies find it’s easier for them to maintain their internal tried-and-true custom approaches to writing code. On the process side, about 80% of the time, companies do break down code into modular components as recommended by S88 standards. Most code used in packaging automation is not modular. Our hope is that as code is re-written companies with their internal monolithic approaches will recognize the benefits and adopt these common modular approaches, ” Chappell says. “S88 has taught us that blending procedural functions with control functions is a bad thing. People doing the programming can be more efficient with these two distinctly different functions separated. Intermixing them is a disadvantage because you can’t change one without affecting the other, usually inadvertently.” He adds that separating procedural instructions and control code will allow a change in procedure, without having to rewrite any control code. In work for an OEM that he could not name, Jim Jensen, engineer and senior technology evangelist for Elau Inc. , said programming for shrink-wrapping machines took two weeks using PackML modular conventions, and about six months without.


Future areas for OMAC might include a Linux Manufacturing Working Group and additional process-side initiatives. To get involved in these new areas, or in any of the existing efforts mentioned, please contact the appropriate OMAC committee.


For more STEP-NC AP-238 coverage from Control Engineering , see “STEP-NC prototype demos; ARC, OMAC meetings” at .


For more about the OMAC/ISA merger, see “OMAC members OK merger; ISA Executive Board votes Feb. 24” at .


Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Mark T. Hoske, editor-in-chief


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