Innovation requires standardization

More efficient development of packaging machines: SN Maschinenbau GmbH benefits from a standardized automation and drive solution from Siemens.

What is important for the machines of SN Maschinenbau GmbH? "In the end, our customers are only interested in one thing: How many items per year they can produce with our machines," general manager Olaf Clemens says. His secret to achieving top ranking in this category: the right ideas and the right technology.

The packaging machines of SN Maschinenbau GmbH are characterized by three main features: They are especially easy to clean, can be especially quickly set up and support the user with a large number of intelligent functions. "With all these features, we manage to reduce set-up times considerably and achieve the quality required for the pouch packs more quickly. In the end, this means: more pouches per machine and year," Olaf Clemens explains. The users who choose the performance of the machines from the Wipperfürth-based manufacturer include almost all major companies in the consumer goods and food industries. SN Maschinenbau also provides solutions for the pharmaceutical sector. The strengths of the mid-size machine manufacturer include long experience in the packaging machine business and, in the words of Olaf Clemens: "we have a very high innovation level. We are able to develop ideas to market maturity very quickly and to a very high quality. That is what characterizes us and makes our machines so productive. I feel able to claim we truly are world class."

SN Deutsche Beutelpack-Technik

It all started with the Höller brothers, who built the first fully automatic machine, producing sixty bags per minute, in 1956. Today SN Maschinenbau GmbH is one of the major manufacturers of horizontal pouch-pack machines in the world. In Wipperfürth, around 40 kilometers northeast of Cologne, SN Maschinenbau GmbH produces horizontal forming, filling and sealing machines for products of the most varied types and consistencies on a surface of more than 7500 sqm. The numerous innovations of the company include ultra-clean and hygiene technology, high-volume outputs, a high level of machine automation and technologies for processing recyclable and environmentally friendly packaging materials, such as monomaterials.

Optimum support for the user

One trend that Olaf Clemens sees is the increasing complexity of the processes. On the way from the roll stock to perfectly sealed pouch packs, there are many parameters and single steps that influence the result, "and the more complex a product or process is, the more difficult operation often becomes. We would like to help with this and we have managed to provide operators with the necessary support with intelligent functions and the correct automation. The aim is for the machine to support operators so well that they do not need special knowledge to perform daily tasks, for example, to change products."

The general manager explained just how complex the path from the roll stock to the finished pouch is using the example of the FMH 80 hygienic design machine. The rotary machine with eight stations produces flat or stand-up pouches in which the seal width is an essential quality feature: "The sealing edge must always be exactly the same on both sides and exactly 6 millimeters wide. Our machines make the necessary settings automatically without users having to make the settings themselves. That is a typical example of how the machine reduces operators' workloads."

With the software standard in TIA Portal, we save at least 20 % of the engineering time.
Thomas Berger, Head of software development, SN Maschinenbau GmbH

Automation as a core component of the machine solution

The basis of these intelligent solutions for more productivity and user-friendliness is appropriate automation technology with appropriate function libraries and an integrated recipe management and software solutions for inspection of the materials. "In this way, we achieve high reproducibility and process certainty and can attain very high levels of efficiency of 98 %, even 99 %." The contribution made by automation is becoming more and more important, Clemens continues: "Ten years ago, a machine was still largely a mechanical system and the electronics were a secondary aspect. To be truly innovative now, it is no longer enough to optimize the mechanical system. Automation and software, the interaction between software and hardware and the software structure are decisive for future solutions. For that reason, we have made the decision to speed up software development and to expand and improve our offer."

Standardization as the key to more efficiency

Part of this decision was standardization of the automation technology, in particular, in the software, Thomas Berger, head of software development at SN Maschinenbau, explains: "We mainly use products and systems from Siemens. The core of the machine is the SIMATIC S7-1500 TF controller. We can integrate all machine functions with this." The S7-1500 CPU performs all control of motion control, logic and safety tasks. Both the control program and visualization can be configured via TIA Portal, enabling integrated working in the project.

A further advantage for the developer is the integrated block library for configuration in TIA Portal. It provides a simple way for Thomas Berger to reuse tested function blocks and modules to boost the quality of the project: "Standardization and flexibility are only seemingly a tradeoff. Each of our machines is an individual solution, but we mainly use basic functions and modules for them. Using the library, I can now manage these blocks very efficiently."

Based on the structured software, Thomas Berger can generate a new project with much less work then previously: "Above all, I don't want to have to concern myself with the basic functions. With tested blocks, I can be sure that it works and matches."

Of course, the developers at SN must maintain and update this software standard: "But we definitely save 20% of the engineering time," says Berger. And there are additional advantages: The high level of standardization not only supports the documentation of the projects but also servicing, as Olaf Clemens adds: "We have many hundreds of machines in use with our users. Due to the standardized project structure, we can now find errors more easily and better utilize our resources in the service department – even years later and even if another developer implemented the project. Faults are rectified faster, the machine is ready for production faster and that is what our users expect of us."

Working together with Siemens helps us to focus our development resources better and therefore to strengthen our competitive position strategically.
Olaf Clemens, Managing partner, SN Maschinenbau GmbH

More time for innovations

For Thomas Berger and his team, more efficiency means one thing above all: being able to spend more time on new topics. And engineers and experts at SN Maschinenbau have plenty of challenges to be getting on with, says Olaf Clemens: "Recyclable materials are a hot topic, which makes completely new demands of the process. In this area, we have to expand our offering and our know-how. Looking into the future, there may be an analysis tool that automatically recognizes the material used and its properties and automatically sets the machine accordingly. And there are ideas for new business models and data-based services. Yet another reason why working together with Siemens is so valuable: It helps us to focus our development resources better and therefore to strengthen our competitive position strategically."

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