Procter & Gamble Completes Visible Assets’ SmartParts Trials

Charlie Menchaca
Managing Editor
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SmartParts strategically places four RuBee volumetric antennas on the package machine to accurately read tags on the change-parts tooling.

Procter & Gamble carried out trials for Visible Assets’ SmartParts, a machine-to-machine factory automation product.

SmartParts contains automated tool detection and ID product for high-speed packaging machines. During the P&G trials, SmartParts consistently identified change-parts (tools) after change-over on packaging machines with 100% read accuracy.

Packaging machines widely used in the health care and consumer goods industry often have five to 20 change-parts that enable high volume production for different products. These parts must be correctly installed during the machine change-over before a production run is activated.

SmartParts includes PLC integrated software, Bluefin kernel with TCP/IP, EIP and CIP enabled protocols, in a four channel auto-tuning Sidewinder II with a NEMA case and four antennas. It also has a variety of form factor options for tags.

If a machine operator makes a change-over mistake and places the wrong part or tool on a machine, it can lead to costly problems. This includes machine damage or expensive flawed product runs that must be rejected upon final product quality control.

SmartParts is RuBee technology and has no RF. Since it uses magnetic signals, it is not blocked by steel, liquids or humans and has no multipath reflections.

“Packaging machinery is increasingly complex,” said Jason Debruler, senior P&G engineer and project lead. “More machines include servo drives, integrated robotics, vision systems, machine fault/performance analysis, and communications for integration with line and production management systems with many optional change-parts. Most important for P&G is ‘machine-readiness’ at start-up on our production lines, with all change-parts correctly installed and identified. 
“Over the last four years, we have tested many other wireless technologies (e.g. RFID, LEB, ZigBee, Vision) as a change-parts start-up audit solution without much success," Debruler said. "Over the last year of testing with RuBee SmartParts on our packaging machines, we are confident that this technology will enable us to completely digitize our change-part verification to advance our machine reliability and eliminate issues due to the wrong change-parts. SmartParts is now a P&G-wide approved product.”