Avoiding Contamination in Packaging Lines

Having spent my career to date on the process manufacturing side of automation, it’s great to be at PACK EXPO, a conference for people involved in packaging products. A stroll down a supermarket aisle, electronics retailer or other consumer business shows how varied this packaging can be.

The exhibition hall floor is filled with automated machines performing functions such as bottle filling and sealing; pouch form, fill and seal; blister packaging; and palletizing and wrapping.

For food & beverage, pharmaceutical, personal care and other manufacturers, contamination is a challenge that must addressed to make sure the packaged products survive the journey from manufacturer to consumer across the supply chain. Regulations such as the Food Safety Modernization Act require packagers to adhere to new regulations for labeling and ensure their machinery, tools and structures comply with new standards that safeguard against contamination. Continue Reading

See You at Emerson Exchange or Pack Expo

As we enter the fall season, it’s busy times! I hope we see you in Minneapolis October 2-6 for the Emerson Exchange conference. You can see an overview of the agenda, session catalog and scheduler.

If you haven’t already registered, visit here and check out the justification letter if you need it.

As with past events, the conference Twitter hashtag will be #EmrEx so use it and follow it all week. You’ll see a lot of news flowing in the Emerson Exchange 365 community, so if you’re not already a member, join today and follow the groups in your areas of interest.

I’ll be in Las Vegas early next week at PACK EXPO sharing news on the packaging side of automation. The hashtag for this conference is #PACKEXPO. It should be a fun filled next few weeks!

Hope to see you at one or the other conference or out in Emerson Exchange 365, LinkedIn or Twitter!

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3 Ways to Improve Packaging Line Flexibility for Increased Production

You only have to walk down a supermarket isle to appreciate the diversity in the packaged goods we purchase. What was once a choice of glass jars or cans for many products now includes re-sealable bags, individual packaged servings, packaging made with recyclable feedstock, etc.

Consumers, with their busy on-the-go lives, are creating this demand for convenience. Manufacturers providing these packaged products are challenged to respond to these market demands and handle more product SKUs. Their production lines are incurring greater losses during production runs and product failures on the shelf are more amplified.

Regulations for machine and product safety are also increasing, which raises the difficulty in meeting these regulations without impacting overall productivity.

Emerson's Derek Thomas


I caught up with Emerson’s Derek Thomas about these packaging challenges. Derek has experience in the consumer products industry facing these challenges and as a supplier to the industry.

Derek noted that this growth in package diversity has increased the complexity of packaging lines causing stress on production levels, quality and safety. They are seeking ways to accommodate this increasing variety of products while limiting their losses and improving safe operations.

He explained that automation technology plays a role in increasing line flexibility. By taking a scalable, modular approach to equipment design, changes can be more easily made without impacting throughput or quality. Continue Reading

Optimizing Terminal Product Movement Operations

As liquid hydrocarbons flow through the supply chain, managing their movements, particularly from storage tanks to other destinations, requires tracking to make sure the volumes, qualities and ownership transfers are properly verified and recorded. Beyond the commercial side of the operation, getting the right flows from the right tanks to the right transports or other storage tanks must be accomplished. Optimizing these movements and logistics improves the overall performance for terminals.

Emerson's Dan Myers


In the continuing Bulk Liquids Storage Terminals webinar series, Emerson’s Dan Myers will discuss the challenges terminal operators often face in lacking visibility into the health and operational status of pumps, valves, and manifolds and ways to address these challenges with technologies and work practices. The webinar, Optimize Product Movement and Logistics, will take place tomorrow, September 21 and 1pm CDT.

Leaks can quickly escalate into spills, fires, and other hazardous conditions. Lineup problems can result in contamination, downgrades, reworks, delays, demurrage charges, and ultimately dissatisfied customers. Lineup problems can result in contamination, downgrades, reworks, delays, demurrage charges, and ultimately dissatisfied terminal customers.

Dan will review the basic concepts of product movement, common elements, common errors and solutions in automating the valve lineups and monitoring the pumps.

For example, the work process for transferring a product from a source tank to a destination tank manifold may involve the following major steps: Continue Reading

Looking Beyond PID Tuning Parameters for Control Performance Issues

Emerson's Mark Coughran


When a variability problem emerges in a production process, the first suspect is often to look at the tuning of PID [proportional-integral-derivative] loops. While adjustments can be easily made in most automation systems, this is often not the source of the problem.

ISA Intech: Know when to look outside the PID tuningIn an ISA Intech article, Know when to look outside the PID tuning, Emerson’s Mark Coughran provides 10 actual examples from his and his fellow Control Performance Consultants' experiences where the problems were outside the loop tuning parameters.

Mark opens noting that PID loop tuning skills are important and a good starting spot:

However, a proper loop tuning exercise—including measuring the process dynamics—should be the first step when approaching most loop performance problems. Many loop problems can be solved readily by tuning, and testing for the process response often reveals loop behavior that can help locate problems outside the controller.

The ten real-world examples Mark cites include: control valve response, valve positioner assembly, transmitter failure, signal communication, extra filter in logic, low cutoff in logic, master loop parameters for cascade, lessons learned.

I’ll share one example and invite you to read the article for the others. Continue Reading