Ajay Rana, Siemens Industry representative for industry development in packaging, spoke with FoodProductionDaily about the technology food firms and packaging operations are demanding in conveyors and other material handling equipment.
What types of features are customers in the food processing and packaging field looking for in their conveyors?
Customers are looking for decentralized solutions. Decentralized solution results in substantial savings on cables/wirings.
High density of the drive is also a major deciding factor for conveyors; high density means the drive should be able to fit in very small space and has most of the features of a standard drive. Also having the ability to communicate in a decentralized solution and to regenerate energy is a good feature to have.
Simple commissioning preferably with the use of any software and easy to replace are other factors worth consideration.
Cost–effectiveness is a major factor in looking for a conveyor system. This could be related to cost effective motor, drive, starter, less maintenance and electronic components, too.
How important is automation in today’s manufacturing environment?
Automation is a critical component in any manufacturing industry. Automation combined with trained personnel is responsible for faster, efficient and cost effective production.
With automation getting more and more reliable, the days of mechanical systems are numbered. Having automation means faster change of product, faster change a recipe of a product, homing etc.
Mechanical systems still form a critical part of the machine but the percentage of automation in current machines is on the rise and mechanical system is declining.
Simotion (Motion Controller, Siemens) is the one of the platforms which is best in class when it comes to reliability, performance and cost effectiveness.
Why is flexibility an advantage for food and packaging users, as well as machine builders?
Flexibility is a term food and packaging machine users use to specify how much leverage one has while running various products which differ in size, weight and shapes. Being able to change the recipe without changing mechanical parts adds to efficiency, more productivity; less change of mechanical components means less wear and tear and less part replacement.
Also, flexibility can also be associated with how the machine design can be easily modified without changing machine structure. This part is modularity of the machine; a more modular machine means it is easier to retrofit and is easier to troubleshoot, too.
Sinamics drives and Simotion motion controllers provide an excellent solution in terms of modularity and flexibility. Siemens covers all power ranges ranging from 0.12 Kw till 1200 KW in drives portfolio, while Simotion is a Motion Controller using one software platform to program from single axis to 128 Axis. They are available in two form factors which makes it easier when space is a constraint.
How has this technology evolved in recent years?
The key market trends in packaging in recent years are modularity and flexibility; sustainability and “green” behavior; remote connectivity and support; safety and hygienic design; and line integration and standards.
Sustainability is an aspect where people are getting more aware of the environment and using best practices to save on energy cost. Regenerative energy from the drives and motors can be used to back feed into the system resulting in energy savings; the power is used either to run other components in the line or fed back to the grid.
People are using more and more integrated safety which is software based along with hardware based hardwired safety.
Hygienic design gets a special consideration in the primary packaging industry, where machine components are in direct contact with the food/beverage. Having a washdown motor, hygienic design definitely adds value to overall product and keeps machine downtime minimal.
These days, IP69K is catching lots of attention; IP69K is a norm used for applications where high pressure and high temperature washdown is used to sanitize equipment. This norm will be the new trend for food processing industry in the coming years. This is a definite improvement over older IP ratings.
Another important aspect is remote connectivity. Having all the bells and whistles is one thing but once there is an issue with a machine, having the capability to troubleshoot the issue and isolate the issue is huge.
This is where remote connectivity comes into the picture. If one is able to identify and isolate the issue remotely and get the part on order and if needed, a local support is also available at the same time.
All of these factors combined together can be done on parallel basis and hence save precious time on machine downtime. We believe Siemens is very well positioned in the market to respond via our global network operations.
Using standard Line integration and global standards like OMAC/Pack ML standard gives the machine builder the flexibility to pick up the control supplier by himself. The global standard also lends a sense of harmonization across the whole plant, if implemented correctly.
What technological advantages might your company provide in this arena not found in similar or competitive products?
Siemens’ presence worldwide and a wide range of products and applications benefit the packaging industry. Siemens is one of the few who could claim to have solutions for everything whether on machine level or on MES level.
Common DC bus bar in Sinamics is a feature which helps in regenerative energy. Siemens’ new gear motor, Simogear, is about 2% more efficient than the competitors.
Siemens can offer machine safety products that include network safety, safety integrated and more.
Simotion is for motion control. It is productive, cost effective with an integrated drive based system that can control up to 128 servo axes. It also has an integrated Web Server for diagnostic purposes. This web server can be customized to suit builder or end-user needs.