Regarding servodrive technology in machines, the world has two big players: Siemens and Rockwell Automation. In the past KHS packaging machines from Kleve were mostly equipped with a hybrid system, in which the programmable logic controller (PLC) and visualization were either from Siemens or Rockwell and Indramat motors from Bosch Rexroth were used as standard for the servotechnology.
In the course of further technical development and standardization KHS then decided to opt for PLCs and Simotion D from Siemens for the future, especially as the series of Bosch Rexroth Indramat servodrives had been discontinued and replaced by a new product range. Siemens technology is not accepted everywhere in the world, however, explains Karl-Heinz Klumpe, packaging product manager for KHS in Kleve. “We’ve always said that we can’t manage with this alone. We thus had to develop an equivalent, purely American system specially for the North American market, which is dominated by Rockwell Automation, in order to continue to be 100% competitive here as well and satisfy the demands of our customers.”
It’s a known fact that Americans like to buy American technology best – not least since the US military megadeal on the procurement of tanker aircraft a few years ago when European aircraft manufacturer Airbus lost to American rival Boeing in a spectacular bidders’ war. It’s understandable that not only American politicians but also US companies prefer to buy inland products – all of them united by the worry over local jobs.
There’s another aspect to this, too. The growing trend towards standardization not only affects customers but also KHS, as Klumpe emphasizes. “Lots of big companies are now running standardization programs to cut costs by producing systems in number and to reduce warehousing. Just imagine that every system provider would work with its own control system and drive technology. And of course a customer specification can be implemented for each individual machine should the necessity arise. In the long term, however, it’s more economical to offer the two systems which have the greatest acceptance worldwide straight off.”
This is just what KHS has done on its own initiative, states Christopher Stuhlmann, head of the Packaging Technology Product Center in Kleve. “For us it was important to close this niche – which we had to date only exploited in individual cases at the customer’s request – by producing a standard. We can now service practically any request worldwide with our systems because we supply two respectively universal systems with components from the two leading manufacturers.” This means that in practice servodrives of the latest Rockwell Kinetix 5700 generation and the Siemens Simotion D series are used which both have an availability of well over ten years and thus provide a long-term perspective.
“About half of our customers will demand the Rockwell system from us in the future.”
A great amount of time and personal effort have gone into this new system, Karl-Heinz Klumpe tells us. “No less than four electrical design engineers and software developers spent about a year working on this development. We had to transfer the KHS ClearLine HMI to the Rockwell system and make it compatible. In doing so we were confronted with another software and a different programming environment. It’s like imagining you’ve just programmed an extensive app for the iOS operating system and now have to adapt this for Android. In both cases we’re dealing with two completely different development environments.” From KHS’ point of view there is no alternative. “About half of our customers will demand this of us in the future – if they’re not already doing so.”
Incidentally, the Rockwell setup is by no means limited to KHS packaging machines. A similar model for filling machines has existed since 2008 – firstly, because most of the plant engineering for the American market is built at the KHS production site in Waukesha in Wisconsin, USA, and secondly, because there was a market demand for this very early on. The packaging and filling technology is united on one front, however: there is little difference in the functional aspects of the two control systems, as both Klumpe and his colleague Ingolf Betz, head of Electrical Engineering/Commissioning at the Filling Technology Product Center, point out.