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IDSnet integration drives automated line

Coca-Cola Amatil’s Northmead plant will have the first highly automated, very repeatable processing line that’s virtually free from human intervention — from cans unloaded on the dock, to end-product stored in a high-bay warehouse.

Earlier this year, Matthews Intelligent Identification worked with Coca-Cola Amatil’s Northmead, NSW, plant to integrate coding equipment across its small PET bottle line. The resulting streamlined production offers major cost and output benefits in a plant that runs 24/7.

Northmead plant’s manufacturing manager, Cameron Tully, says besides the financial benefit, two other valuable gains have been peace of mind and noise avoidance.

“What it means is that when we are running, we are getting it right first time. It avoids the likelihood of product re-work, or even product write-off, just because of the wrong code being applied. That is a major contributor in achieving manufacturing lean practice.

“So there’s peace of mind there, but the other thing is that it has taken away a lot of ‘noise’ — or problems —  on that line. That too, has been very beneficial. We see some real advantages in the integrated system.”

Using iDSnet, Matthews integrated some 8 Linx coders, which it had supplied earlier, linking them all back to a central PC control.

Peter Evans, CCA’s site electrical engineer at Northmead, says the integration has achieved many goals.

“Since the integration, we’ve had no instances of re-work. Previously, if an encoder or trigger pulse failed, someone on the floor would have to physically see there was no code on product before we caught it.

“Complicating that, was operators individually adjusting all machines. The wrong code could potentially be entered into one machine, and if the codes on the carton and bottle were different, the pack would have to be pulled to bits, with all those bottles re-packed.”

The IDSnet integration sees a single operator, from the central PC, selecting which products will be run just by pushing one button. Information sent to the coders includes ink colour, and downloads to all the machines on that line.

“So in the case of Coke Zero, which needs a white code on the black lid, it tells only the white machines to run.

“The software can also do a check between two coders to make sure they are running the same code. It also does check counts between the sensor and the print signal.”

The savings were immediate in potential human error and production uptime.

Another goal of integration was to minimise machine downtime.

“If there’s a fault with a coder,” Peter says, “it will send a message through to that central control PC that a jet’s not running for example.” 

The software allows CCA to drill down on the health of each machine to detail previously unobtainable. For instance, each encoder and sensor, on individual machines, can be checked for operability. Monitoring depth also means operators can see what a single jet is doing from the control room, right down to how the ink is reacting on the machine.

Simplified maintenance is another benefit.

“Each coder also automatically generates an e-mail via the central PC on run hours, alerting our maintenance planner that it is due in so many hours time. Our planner then organises with Matthews to do the service. From a maintenance perspective, because we run 24/7, it’s a big plus.”

The IDSnet integration that has streamlined CCA’s small PET bottle line production activities will soon be extended to Northmead’s large PET bottle line and a new can line, including integrating fillers, right through to encompassing SSCC palletising labels.

Cameron Tully says, “We are putting the Matthews system on our new can line. This will be the first Coca-Cola plant in the southern hemisphere, probably one of the first in the world, where product processing will not be touched by any human intervention. It will be highly automated, and very repeatable.”

It will work like this: when a truck pulls up, cans are automatically unloaded off the dock; the cans go right through the line, then the finished product will be picked up by an automatic guided vehicle (AGV), transported a few hundred metres to the end feed of an automated, high-bay warehouse, and stored. A truck delivering for a major customer, such as Woolworths or Coles, can then pull up, and be loaded with pallets of product.

“It will be a showpiece line for CCA and the Coke system,” Cameron says.

Cameron says CCA Northmead began looking at Matthews’ system in terms of coding.

“The ideal being that we hit one button in terms of code and all the relevant coders on the line are updated. It’s a good system, so we’ve looked at where else we can apply it.”

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