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Wider deployment of IP Video in UK manufacturing

ip-video-manufacturingUK Manufacturing is slowly moving its process control systems from a range of proprietary transmission protocols to IP-based systems transmitting data across Ethernet infrastructures. This move opens up the potential for IP Video to be added to the mix of process and safety monitoring and control equipment on UK production lines.

Ethernet becoming ubiquitous on the factory floor

When you investigate the world of manufacturing today what hits you straight away is the range and sophistication of equipment used to monitor and control modern production lines.  Often at the heart of any industrial automation system is the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), connected with an array of automation and safety components such as Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), drives, servos, inverters, sensors, cameras, safety controllers and many more control devices.

But the move to IP-based systems also creates a point of entry for IP cameras to be considered in manufacturers’ process control and safety control upgrade programmes. What makes life easier for IP video is that cameras have already been widely deployed in the past in machine vision systems for visual checking of precision manufacturing processes for example. The idea of using cameras or ‘vision sensors’ as they are often called in manufacturing is far from a new one and the new breed of IP cameras and Video Management Systems are starting to be deployed in significant numbers on the factory floor as part of new vision-based systems.

Use in meat packing

In food processing world, for example, IP video cameras are already being used on the production line to ensure the cuts of meat are of the correct weight and shape to fit into designated packaging in one Canadian meat packing plant. This was achieved by citing IP cameras directly over the meat cutting stations.

Assisting meat export 

Through a little research it is possible to visualise opportunities for IP video in food manufacture. Take the fact that there is rising demand for premium quality Scottish and Irish beef in the Middle East where Halal meat consumption dominates. There would be of value in providing visual evidence that proper procedures for slaughtering cattle, in line with Islamic law, are being followed. This reassurance may well make the difference between winning a major export contract or not.

Supporting food safety & hygiene regulatory compliance

Last year’s British Retail Consortium’s Global Standards for Food Safety- Issue 6 also demanded more stringent monitoring of food processing areas. The standards document demands that sensitive or restricted areas should be defined, clearly marked, monitored and controlled. Identified security arrangements should be implemented and reviewed regularly. Lots of ‘in-line’ checks could be carried out via IP cameras. For example the effectiveness of container cleaning equipment needs to be recorded and checked during each production.

As the meat market becomes an increasingly global one it also becomes more competitive. The need to reduce processing costs while adhering to more stringent and prescriptive food safety rules, has led to greater automation in slaughterhouses and meat processing operations.  Automated checking via IP video is one solution.

Ensuring compliance with specific security regulations

An airline catering company used Axis cameras and Milestone video management software (Axis news item) to help monitor food preparation and the packing of other provisions, prior to delivery onto aircraft at Gatwick Airport – in line with stringent Department for Transport security regulations.

Ensuring quality control and solving production lines problems faster

Food processors need to meet tightening safety and hygiene standards on the production line itself. At the same time they are seeking greater efficiencies by automating more. As part of this drive for efficiency they are naturally introducing more IP cameras to monitor production lines remotely. NW Systems Group has provided a number of IP camera systems on food production lines to major UK food manufacturers including Mars, Arla Foods, CSM and Ginsters.

At these factories, IP cameras are being used to oversee production lines and processes and monitor quality control. Using video analytics they can be configured to identify certain problems, such as costly stoppages. But cameras cannot be introduced onto production lines without a clear focus on camera housing. Housings need to be of the highest specification to withstand high pressure water and chemical jet wash-downs which are routine in food manufacturing.

To withstand these wash downs, all cameras need to be encased in high quality, metal powder injection moulded, detergent-resistant and stainless steel housing to SUS316L standard. Mechanical ‘trouble spots’ on the casing such as threads, indents and gaps need to be reduced to a minimum with a view to eliminating the build up of bacteria whilst ensuring effective wash-down. This high specification housing serves to protect the camera from corrosion.

Ideally the housing used needs to have gained certification for use in food processing environments by an independent testing body.  Several companies now produce IP69K-rated, ‘hermetically sealed’ housings for cameras. This industrial-protection standard defines the very toughest measure which guarantees against water ingress. The result is customers can be confident that their products will not be contaminated by any cameras we fit onto production lines.

Supporting traceability 

The emphasis on food traceability from its source to the consumer’s table creates clear opportunities for video to be introduced at various key points in the supply chain to reassure all parties of the provenance and appropriate handling of produce. The recent horse meat scandal highlights the value of providing video evidence at key stages of the supply chain.

Improving efficiency in car plants 

Turning back to other manufacturing plants IP video systems have been implemented in the likes of the famous Nissan automotive plant in Sunderland. Nissan’s maintenance team at this plant log in to Milestone XProtect VMS on their own PCs and use the video footage to determine why a line had stopped or a fault has developed, even providing advice remotely when they were working at other sites. This ready access to live and recorded video has saved vital time and prevented costly stoppages at Nissan’s plant. Because of the ease of access it’s possible for Nissan managers to diagnose process inefficiencies and make changes to increase productivity more quickly than would have been possible beforehand. In this way IP video has become a vital tool for Nissan.

NW Systems Group has also seen demand for use of cameras in a robotic spray plant where cameras are monitoring the correct operation of robotic arms to investigate why damages and stoppages occur.

Providing Health & Safety Monitoring on the factory floor

IP video cameras are also in use on Kia Motors production line in Slovakia for security and health and safety monitoring . NW Systems recently completed an installation in a road sign factory in Winsford, Cheshire for Bam Nuttall Highway Services for the same purpose. At this site video recordings of good and poor practise are used as part of in-house Health & Safety training exercises.

To sum up

There is no end to the number of applications for IP video in manufacturing. The fact that the manufacturing world is moving towards IP-based systems, networked over new Ethernet infrastructures and manufacturers are attuned to using ‘vision sensors’ or machine vision equipment on the production line,  makes IP video conversations that much easier. And clearly there are many potential applications for IP video in manufacturing already out there for:

  • Food hygiene, food safety and food traceability requirements
  • Food processing quality control and production line management
  • Enabling iterative process improvements in complex manufacturing (e.g. at a car plant)
  • Health & Safety Monitoring & Training
  • Securing of goods in manufacturing and storage in logistical channels post-production
  • Pharmaceutical traceability requirements
  • Pharmaceutical R&D laboratories
  • Reducing damage or theft of goods in transit

NW Systems is well placed to help UK manufacturers get the most from investment in IP video now that the time is right to make that investment.

Published on November 29th, 2013 by Frank Crouwel

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