I remember the first day I walked into a manufacturing facility. I had watched almost every episode of “How It’s Made”, yet it all seemed new and exciting. Seeing coordinated robots, palletizers, converters & other equipment just put a smile on my face. In early 2014, I embarked on a technical journey which has become a base for my career, drove a lot of my interests and allowed me to work with multiple technologies. I believe that it’s always important to take a step back and look at how we’ve grown, what have we learned and how has this journey shaped us. This post is dedicated to exploring some of the technical challenges, learnings as well as personal experiences I had as a Process Control & Automation Engineer.
My first manufacturing job was with Procter & Gamble. The facility I joined, had a highly automated process for manufacturing and packaging fem-care products. Almost everything was designed in house. In other words, the engineering team actually had to lead design initiatives of nearly all equipment. This practice was not extremely common even among other P&G facilities. The company preferred to outsource as much as possible and purchase ready to run equipment.
The beauty of the plant weren’t only the engineering aspects. It was the first north american IWS phase 4 site. For those who aren’t familiar with this manufacturing designation, it’s essentially the highest level of readiness within one of the leading manufacturing standards. All of the leadership pillars have been established, owners were leading different areas and the best manufacturing practices were followed.
Our lines ran with only a single operator. The entire process has been automated and driven to a point of having nearly no unplanned downtime. This continuous process was made possible through the use of the Allen Bradley control system relying on over 6 PLCs and close to 90 Servo Motors. Needless to say, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience working with this platform. P&G allowed me to work with old and new technologies which are utilized by manufacturing facilities all over the world.
Although PLC programming in RSLogix 5000 has been my bread and butter since day 1, I also got a chance to dive into different networks such as ControlNet, DeviceNet, EtherNet and more. I worked with several different flavors of drives and servos including the Kinetix series over Sercos, 1394 drives, PowerFlex and a few others. The final piece of the puzzle were the vision systems which were primarily on Cognex as well as the older version: DVT. I had quite a few projects working with vision systems and linking them back to the controls.
My goal is to take a deeper dive into the technologies I’ve had a chance to use within the last four years and to explore their applications, use, my personal thought about them and more.
Stay tuned for the next post on the cutting edge manufacturing tools.