Changing the face of shop-floor automation with vision inspection technology

Written by

Omron Industrial Automation is a leading manufacturer of technologically advanced industrial automation products and application expertise.

Dave Shepherd, CI Manager, Adams Foods & Olympus Automation’s Alan Francis explain how secure pack verification and OEE monitoring helps their business make decisions based on accurate data

The fifth report from the seminars at the Total Processing & Packaging Exhibition 


The opening of a new £30million cheese packing facility with 26 production lines prompted Adams Foods to source a vision inspection system in 2011-2012 that would guarantee correct packaging and date code accuracy for major retailers in a bid to enhance the future reputation of the company and avoid large fines from retailers for mislabelled products.

An Olympus Automation PDX end of line system was installed to continuously scan EVERY pack via 2D barcodes and  verify date codes. Payback was further improved by using the same shop-floor touch screens to capture and report real-time OEE data, as well as accurately measure every second of production. It also monitors and displays  giveaway levels from checkweighers.

Dave said key requirements were ease of use and secure process. Every product is scanned with timed quality checks, and the line automatically stops if there is a wrong film/pack, lid or case, or printer fault.

The benefits derived from the Olympus inspection system include access to real time information, accuracy, visibility, operator involvement and less distraction so the business can focus on further improvement and investment.

It automatically records stop and start date and time allowing the operator to select the reason for stoppage from a series of graphics via a drop down  menu and add comments if required.

Downtime information is provided by web based reports for any asset or data range. It also provides lost time detail.

What do we need to know to improve?

When choosing a new automation system, Alan said it is important for businesses to understand what they need to know to improve.  He pointed out that those processing and packaging companies still using manual systems will only ever be able to measure the last event, but it is essential to measure NOW so adjustments can be made in real time.

Who needs it?

Operators, Team Leaders and Senior Management all require access to different levels of data presented via different kinds of mobile technologies.

Problems occur  when people  at all levels have too much information. They should only get the data relevant to their job function, for example, an operator wants access to line stoppage information and then diagnostics.

Dave said it was too early to talk about the cost savings as a result of the investment but that results from a trial line had been positive especially in relation to OEE and product ‘giveaway’.

Karl Walker, Omron Product Specialist in Pick & Place and Handling

“As well as reading the label, it is vital to know that it has been applied to the right product for the right retailer. In fact, we implemented a similar vision inspection system at supplier of fresh potatoes Greenvale Foods with the difference being that we integrated it with the company’s ERP system to fully eliminate the risk of packaging and labelling errors.

Adam Foods also spoke at length about employee ‘buy in’ being essential to successful implementation and integration of the new system. Omron believes that key to this is the way in which real time information is presented to staff. As the only window to the process, we always seek ways to improve ergonomics of the HMI, ensuring it is intuitive and easy to use.

The Adams Foods inspection system is not integrated with a PLC so when a line stops the operator has to manually choose from a list of reasons. Our PLCs are designed to know everything about the process allowing us to centralise information even from other manufacturer’s equipment. 

Data obtained from the PLC can be analysed and processed for use as part of preventative maintenance programmes. The PLC can ‘push’ information out to the right person, in the right format and at the right time so a solution can be found.”

Continuous Improvement Programmes rely on accurate data from control systems.”

Written by
Omron Europe

Omron Industrial Automation is a leading manufacturer of technologically advanced industrial automation products and application expertise. From its European headquarters in Hoofddorp, near Amsterdam in the Netherlands, she operates locally in every European country and is dedicated to providing unrivaled automation products and customized expert solutions for any industry.

The product portfolio includes state of the art Factory Automation services & Know-How, Sensors and Safety, Mechatronics and Drives, Industrial Components and Vision Systems.