China's growing domestic market has resulted in a two-digit growth of food & beverage processing and packaging equipment and has drawn many companies around the world to explore this huge developing market, including TCP Pioneer Company, a liquid food and beverage manufacturing/packing facility provider headquartered in northern Taiwan with its products sold to several top beverage brands in China. Over the years, China's food/drinks packaging industry has evolved from that of comparatively straightforward mechanization carried out by hand and electric or pneumatic systems to a higher degree of automation based on information collection and processing and the need for automation products like PLCs combined with the use of HMIs is soaring.
Addressing China's market needs, about three years ago, a customer started to upgrade their products from those of more traditional mechanical types to the use of PLCs matched with Advantech's HMI product (WebOP), a touch panel display through which the operators at beverage plants can easily manipulate the machines and increase productivity and efficiency.
Their were specific requirements for the upgrading of the system and it was essential that they were met. Since time was of the essence, it was essential that the workers could quickly become familiar with the new system to avoid delays in production, therefore a user-friendly and easy-to-learn user interface was required and since they were to be installed in an environment that has high levels of cleanliness, the devices need to have a high level of water protection so they cleaned without water damaging the components.
Food and beverage production lines have many components that may change at any time and the new system needed to be easy to configure and have a high-degree of expandability. To ensure maximum up-time and continued revenue, it was also required that the new models were extremely reliable and in the event of an issue, good after-sales support was required. Finally, because as with any industry, the margins are tight, they required a high price-to-performance ratio.
The customer sells turnkey solutions to liquid food and drink makers, which usually involve two parts at each production line: upstream material process and downstream bottling and packing. The PLC plus WebOP system is used to control and monitor machine procedures throughout the line, for example, when and how much sugar to add; the monitoring of the bottle sterilization process; the gauging of the filling of the bottles and the inspection of packaging. Warnings and alarms for failed products or abnormal events are also provided.
The PLC connects to and controls a number of field devices including the frequency transformer, motor starter, push-buttons, light indicators, and solenoid value. At the other end, the PLC is also connected to the Advantech WebOP via serial communications. The WebOP is used to write programs into the PLC and set parameters for automatic procedures. The PLC receives signals from both WebOP and field devices, activate automatic operations, data collection, and the displaying of data on the WebOP screen. Advantech WebOP is compatible with over 300 kinds of PLC and can also connect with PAC. This is to say, if a customer decided to upgrade from a PLC to a PAC, Advantech's PAC APAX range used would make the conversion to PAC simple. For end-users, WebOP is extremely easy to use and maintain. With just a few simple touches , setting the parameters and view is easy. Considering the harsh environment of the workplace, the WebOP screen is IP66 certified and therefore provides a high degree of water and dust proofing. Some of our users even wash the surface of WebOP and dry it with fans at the end of their work day.