Global plastic-film production benefits from consistent data approach
Supervisory-control case-example illustrates confluence of IT-based industrial automation, materials science and 21st century food industry
|The data historian is another key element of today’s industrial-automation world.|
A trip to a grocery store, stop at a fast-food chain or even 20 minutes of TV is about all it takes to convince you we live in a time when food innovation and experimentation runs rampant, both in its tastes and flavors and in how it comes to us.
What makes this frantic search for catchy flavor combinations and form factors even possible is IT-based automation advances in the flexible production of mass quantities of food products.
Packaging advances — including those based on recent materials science break-throughs — lend serious support to these product-differentiation efforts. Food-culture diversification means processed foods must be kept safe and fresh for long times. Rigorously specified plastic “films” allow consumers to examine food products, while needed “barrier functions” get done better than ever before.
Here too IT-based industrial automation advances are a key ingredient for improving alarm, critical-task and data management of complex industrial processes.
Many different plastics
Food-packaging-film characteristics keep oxygen or water from damaging food quality.
Toray Group is a Japanese-based multi-national corporation with significant presence in the United States, Europe and Asia. Its industrial products involve technologies in “organic synthetic chemistry, polymer chemistry and bio-chemistry.” New York-based Toray Industries supplies resin, carbon fibers, fluorofibers and plastic to industrial users.
Toray Industries developed and manufactures polyethyleneterephtalate (Lumirror PET) and polypropylene (Torayfan OPP) high-barrier metalized film. Applications include in renewable energies, imaging, building decor and food packaging. OPP film, for example, is used to make such things as potato-chip bags.
Toray is the main producer worldwide of PET films and market leader for high-barrier OPP films. Besides the United States, production plants are in Japan, South Korea, China and Malaysia.
In Saint-Maurice-de-Beynost, France, Toray Film Europe recently brought on line an OPP film production facility having an annual capacity of 20,000 tons, or the equivalent of 2,000 potato chip bags a minute.
“It’s critical that our processes guarantee that products we deliver meet specifications prescribed by our customers,” says Jean-Luc Vianne, IT Project Manager for Toray Films Europe. The installation included a SCADA system that is already a kind of template for the capabilities Toray Films wants for its global production efforts.
What is SCADA?
Supervisory-control systems — acronymized as “SCADA” for “supervisory control and data acquisition systems,” — first appeared on the industrial scene more than 20 years ago.
Combined with the basic tool of the automation industry, the programmable logic controller, or PLC, PC-based SCADA software allowed individual engineers to cost-effectively automate supervision and monitoring, although not necessarily direct control, of processes for which they were responsible. Previously, the costs involved meant only the highest-margin processes could receive this kind of attention.
Moreover, in two short decades, supervisory control evolved into an entire approach to plant automation, involving system platforms that allow application integration, sophisticated data management, analytics and advanced process control.
The data historian is another key element of today’s industrial-automation world. Historians are a database application, optimized for serial data, which logs or historicizes time-based process data.
The GE Intelligent Platforms Proficy solution has deep roots and advanced capabilities in industrial SCADA. Toray Films uses Proficy to monitor and report on each phase of its manufacturing process.
From raw-material off-loading to cut-film shipment takes several days. During each phase of manufacture, including melting, minor changes in viscosity, thickness, temperature or output could cause a fluctuation in film quality. Loss of a film batch is a significant expense. Close monitoring allows immediate adjustments.
“If any manufacturing process begins trending in the wrong direction we quickly make a correction and bring that back into alignment,” says Vianne.
IT-based industrial automation benefits at Toray Films Europe included:
• Automatic recording of key plant processes.
• Quality and process control monitoring simplified, with additional data points available.
• Users confirm screen data.
• Anticipation of issues or challenges and pro-active addressing of same.
In today’s world, Toray, and many other of the world’s goods producers, station productive capacity in multiple geographic regions. In theory, sound management is attained by comparing the different locations’ inputs, outputs and bottom line. In practice, doing so can be complex. Executives want to run the same type software at many different installations because it helps make comparisons easier, as well as to enjoy the economies of scale that having a limited number of software vendors offers.
It’s also the case that implementing software applications costs more than the software licenses. Software suppliers and industrial users strive to establish the first implementation instance as the blueprint for those that follow, thereby reducing costs.
Toray Plastics America was first to implement Proficy software, working with systems integration partner, Manevco and GE Intelligent Platforms, over the course of 18 months, bearing in mind the need to port to multiple global locations, each with its own unique automation systems and machine types.
It’s estimated incorporating the same solution in France reduced its implementation costs by as much as 70%. To do so meant changes in natural language, i.e., from English to French, and to production equipment and the SAP enterprise-system interfaces.
“The production system inputs come from existing controllers and HMI,” says Barry Lynch, global industry manager, CPG, GE Intelligent Platforms. “The raw process data is collected and analyzed in GE Proficy Historian. Data pulled from the historian and other legacy databases are put in context using GE Proficy plant applications quality, efficiency and genealogy modules.”
Proficy S-95 compliant equipment- and production-event models enable knowing the “what, when, where and who” of the production process and this is Toray’s “single version of the truth.”
“The configuration used in the initial U.S. implementation was exported and used as a template for additional sites,” says Lynch. “Key process steps were the same and the historian allowed normalization of the different control system outputs through its wealth of drivers and interfaces.”
The full plant implementation in France therefore only took five months from start to finish. Lynch believes that the system delivers critical requirements for today’s harried operators.
“First, the ability to filter, prioritize and manage real-time alarms so as not to overwhelm the recipient. Second, allowing the operator to manage critical tasks whether in the control room or on the production floor. And finally, consistent viewing and managing of data needed to complete daily tasks. These are core pillars of the real-time operation intelligence systems we deploy as part of the Proficy platform.”
Based on its portability and other factors, Toray Films is expanding the GE Proficy solution use to a total of five plants.