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 Co.Ltd, 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 packing 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 Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC) combined with the use of Human-machine Interface (HMI) is soaring.
Addressing China’s market needs, about three years ago, our customer started to upgrade their products from those of more traditional mechanical types to the use of PLCs matched with Advantech’s human-machine interface (HMI) product - WebOP- a touch panel display through which the operators at beverage plants can easily manipulate the machines and increase productivity and efficiency.
The result is that our customer is selling their equipment units for twice the price of their original products; and their customers are dramatically reducing their use of manual labor and saving huge costs.
Our clients’ customer had many specific requirements for the upgrading of their system and it was essential that they met these. Since time was of the essence it was essential that 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 proof, so they could be cleaned without water damaging their 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 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. And finally, because as with any industry, the margins are tight, they required a high price-to-performance ratio.
Our customer sells turnkey solutions to liquid food and drinks 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 packing. 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, pushbuttons, light indicators and solenoid valve. 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, which is available in three sizes, helps to minimize the usual travails an engineer has to make when programming a traditional PLC. With WebOP, the writing of programs can be easily done with the graphical project-oriented WebOP Designer.
Advantech WebOP is compatible with over 300 kinds of PLC, and can also connect with Programmable Automation Controllers (PAC). That is to say, if our customers decided to upgrade their PLCs to PACs—for example, to replace their original third-party PLC with Advantech’s APAX range then the WebOPs will still be usable.
For end-users, WebOP is extremely easy to use and maintain. With just a few simple touches workers can set parameters and view the operating status and work records. Considering the harsh environment of these workplaces, 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 shift.
Advantech WebOP is a most cost-efficient choice for realizing automation with multiple I/O ports and a user-friendly interface. It provides a versatile connection with PLCs and PACs, and has two Ethernet ports so that if end-users want to streamline their business and manufacturing management by connecting the system to a PC-based corporate information network such as ERP or MES, that too can be done. WebOP provides great flexibility, compatibility, reliability, and expandability.
Another reason why this customer finds Advantech partnership a must is Advantech’s strong after-sale support. When the company was shifting their manufacturing base and market focus to mainland China, they get technical support from both Advantech’s Taiwan headquarters and branch offices on the mainland. For customers who purchase large amounts of products, Advantech will assign a task force to assist them throughout the process of their application development, helping them to write programs if needed.