Your manufacturing goals for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are likely similar to your goals today—make production more efficient, cut costs and stay competitive. The challenge is charting the most effective path from today’s systems and best practices to tomorrow’s.

As innovations in machine interconnectivity and big data drive us closer to the promise offered by smart factories and the IIoT, the risk of being left behind is significant. So, what steps can you take today that will better position your packaging operations for tomorrow?

A crucial step is to begin implementing PackML, also known as ISA-TR88.00.02. Here are five reasons why PackML should be part of your IIoT plan.

1. Interoperability

PackML ensures functional interoperability and a consistent look and feel across your plant floor by providing standard data definition and consistent naming known as PackTags. This allows machines and devices from multiple vendors across multiple control platforms to exchange common information and specific data about its condition. PackML simplifies machine-to-machine integration and makes troubleshooting, training and startup easier, but more important to fulfilling the promise offered by the IIoT, it is critical to communicating to enterprise systems or the cloud.

The new PackML/OPC UA Companion Specification developed by the Organization of Machine Automation & Controls (OMAC) and OPC Foundation brings together the common data definition of PackML and OPC UA’s communication protocol to allow data exchange horizontally across a line, as well as vertically, to enterprise systems. This means a substantial boost in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) today and implementation of a crucial building block for the IIoT tomorrow.

According to McKinsey Global Institute, interoperability between systems will be required to unleash 40 percent of the total IIoT economic value on average and up to 60 percent in some settings.

2. Productivity and OEE

Employing even a few machines or inspection devices with PackML can provide crucial data for monitoring OEE across the entire line. A PackML-enabled machine provides data that reflects certain machine states upstream and downstream. For example, Suspended and starved reflect upstream conditions. Suspended and blocked reflect downstream states. By monitoring time in those states, you have metrics on availability. You also have metrics on productivity and quality, if the machine is an inspection device.

As machines are counting packages, each successive part of the line is an evaluation of upstream operations with metrics on production output, product used and packaging material used. A PackML-ready machine can communicate to your SCADA, MES or ERP level systems without being a unique IP address, aiding in cyber-security management of sensitive data.

As you add PackML-ready machines, improved machine-to-machine communication and broader diagnostic data lead to increasingly valuable IIoT analytics and process optimization. Troubleshooting is easier. OEE calculations are better.

3. Key Performance Indicators across the Enterprise and in the Cloud

The promise of big data and analytics are one of the most valuable aspects of the IIoT’s evolution. Machine and controls data that has typically only been used for system operation also contains a wealth of useful information for running your business more effectively. When made available to your business systems, this information can drive new efficiencies and substantial cost savings—such as predictive maintenance, reduced energy use, improved asset utilization and line optimization. Having PackML-enabled data in the cloud allows you to further benchmark machines and develop predictive models or proactive support services.

4. Competitive Advantage

PackML already has been quietly implemented by many of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies. Those companies are a step ahead in building the infrastructure necessary for IIoT. If you aren’t looking seriously at PackML today, you should be. Regardless of your organization’s size and industry segment, PackML provides a means to simplify and optimize manufacturing operations, achieve faster startups and establish consistency now. It will also allow you to compete more effectively as the IIoT becomes more prevalent.

5. Collaboration and Support

In addition to being an OMAC guideline, PackML is aligned with other leading best practices and standards, such as OPC UA, PLCopen and Weihenstephan. PackML is part of the first universal User Requirements Specification known as PackSpec—a comprehensive template for technical specification of packaging and processing machinery. PackSpec has also been used for an operational specification authored by PMMI’s OpX Leadership Network. And, OMAC is currently developing an OEE and stack light standard based on PackML states and continues to develop best practices in machine automation.

Cooperation among leading standards organizations provides a beneficial environment for end users, OEMs and technology providers to collaborate and share best practices that optimize operations.

The IIoT is a journey. Your business processes, equipment and control systems will—and should—evolve. Implementing PackML and participating in organizations will provide real operational benefits today and provide a solid foundation to build on over time.

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