Here at Software Toolbox, we strive to be the “One Responsible Partner” for our clients - a motto we see as soon as we enter the door every morning. That extends beyond just our amazing sales and support teams. It also means being the One Responsible Partner for our Earth.
With Earth Day coming up, our team has decided to take this month to focus on the different ways our products help users achieve their own environmental sustainability goals and the conservation of natural resources in general. In this first blog post, we will take a look at how OmniServer helped a food and beverage user improve efficiency and reduce waste in a “sweet” way.
Waste Reduction as a Component of Efficiency
The field of automation in manufacturing industries such as consumer packaged goods, food & beverage, automotive and so on has always been driven by the need for efficiency. In 2020 alone, 6% of manufacturing facilities in the United States initiated over 2,600 source reduction activities to reduce waste and toxic chemical use. While this is obviously good for profitability (lower input costs resulting in the same output is always a good thing for the bottomline), responsible manufacturers around the world often also have altruistic motives.
Such initiatives are also great for our world, because when we operate efficiently, we are most likely operating sustainably as well. Operating at a high level using fewer precious resources and reducing waste positively impacts your organization’s environmental stewardship. Automation allows for improvements in sustainability because it facilitates the means to constantly push for the most efficient way to achieve your goals. This can be as simple as making it possible to pinpoint inefficiencies more easily so that manual action can be taken to adjust the process or as complex as a system identifying those inefficiencies and automatically adjusting the process to account for them.
How Does Omniserver Contribute to Operational Efficiency?
There is a real-world example that we use internally when training new team members on Omniserver. While this has been somewhat genericized, it is based on multiple customer experiences and use cases that we have seen with this product over the years in actual practice across manufacturing industries and types of products.
In this particular example, an ice cream producer has a filling line for their ice cream containers. They are able to spot-check the weight of some containers manually, but this is an inefficient way to ensure that the containers are not being overfilled since there are typically going to be multiple containers that get over or under filled before that spot check is performed.
For those of us who receive the overfilled ice cream container, this is exciting (when is free ice cream ever a bad thing when you’re the consumer, right?)! However, it means the company is using more resources than they expected, increasing costs and consumption of raw materials. Down the line, this could increase waste, as they might then purchase more resources than what is actually needed. Keep in mind that the dairy industry accounts for about 2% of the United State’s greenhouse gas emissions. Incremental costs from small amounts of waste add up over time - both in monetary costs and environmental.
This is where Omniserver comes in with this particular real-world scenario. Omniserver allows for users to connect to non-standard devices and pass that information to process and business systems via OPC DA, OPC UA, or SuiteLink.
And when we say "non-standard" devices, we're referring to all sorts of devices or instruments or sensors that don't support an off-the-shelf communications protocol or driver such as Modbus. But they do have a documented protocol - OmniServer allows us to, without custom code, configure a communications driver based on that documentation to communicate with the devices. Such devices include barcode scanners, weigh scales, RFID readers, sensors, intercom systems and many more.
In this scenario, a scale was added to the end of the ice cream filling line allowing for each and every ice cream container to be automatically weighed as it comes through. That weight information can either be monitored in real-time by a person who now knows the exact weight of every container immediately and can adjust the machinery accordingly. Or the overall system can be programmed to use that information to automatically adjust the amount the filler is dispensing into each container. Either method results in significantly fewer over-filled containers, avoiding unnecessary waste!
Where can I get more information on Omniserver?
If you're new to non-standard device connectivity, perhaps you have a device with a protocol manual but you’re not really sure how to get started. As always, we're happy to help with a complimentary review of your protocol documentation and our library of detailed how-to video tutorials for OmniServer available here.
Please feel free to contact our support team with any questions and remember to subscribe to our blog for more quick and easy OmniServer tutorials and tips. And, if you haven't already, make sure to download the latest free trial version of OmniServer to get started connecting your own non-standard devices.