Direct network links help to manage data proliferation

Software aids traceability in today's complex retail business climate
Software aids traceability in today's complex retail business climate

Related tags Enterprise resource planning Programmable logic controller Rfid

With the growing amount of data being generated for - and on - packaging lines, particularly around printers, readers, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), cameras and other peripherals, food and drink companies are realising the value of a direct link into enterprise resource planning (ERP) networks, system supplier Zetes has said.

In the past, companies could more easily understand the importance of a manufacturing execution system than the packaging line equivalent.

But according to business group head Pascal Longchambon, a ‘packaging execution suite’ (PES) such as the company’s ZetesAtlas software is essential in today’s retail business climate, where traceability and verifiable product identification are taken for granted.

He explained: “Internally, a PES eliminates errors and time-wasting when setting up devices. Externally, it builds the foundations for regulatory compliance, track-and-trace and authentication.”​ The link between the ERP and the line allows the efficient identification of every product. And critically, a PES has “half its brain”​ on data, the other half on events, he added.

The suppliers of coding and other equipment may offer integrated controls, but these could not be defined as a PES, according to Longchambon. “A PES takes in-depth control of identification stations, made up of printers, readers, but also input/output controllers [or PLCs]," he stated. "Moreover, a complete line is always generated by several manufacturers, and manageable only by a truly agnostic PES​.”

Massively reduced

A single machine interface means that manual interventions, and with them potential errors, are massively reduced, said Zetes.

Newer types of data carrier, such as 2D codes and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, brought new challenges with them. “More data and more technology mean more risks without a PES,​” Longchambon argued.

So what might be the payback time for a system of this sort? “Return on investment depends on line architecture, the number of identification points, product cost, final customer requests and penalties, product health risk, and so on,​” he said.

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