Line Management System (LMS) – Cost and production optimisation based on effective order handling

Altered market conditions have in recent years led to fresh challenges for our clients. The ongoing trend towards order-referenced production with a high diversity of products, frequent product change-overs reflected in smaller batch sizes, and progressively shorter delivery times, are intensifying the pressure on many companies. A situation exacerbated by increasingly exacting requirements for the operators, who have to master numerous organisational and quality-relevant processes entailed by frequent changeovers in conjunction with  multiplicity of product-related raw materials and supplies.

All in all, the thrust for continuous improvement in cost-effectiveness, e.g. by reducing change-over times, upgrading line efficiency levels, or avoiding downtimes, is demanding appropriate entrepreneurial action from numerous firms.

But how can these challenges be effectively met and mastered?

Krones has developed, and successfully launched on the market, a tool that helps its clients to maximise the potential for optimisation involved. It’s called the Line Management System (LMS).

LMS: what’s behind the name?

Behind every production order, there’s what is called a parts list, which contains batch-specific information like target quantity, product ID, and also the machine program required for each piece of equipment involved.

Traditionally, the operator is tasked with ensuring that this information is manually selected directly at the machine. Given the sheer multiplicity of settings involved, due to the ever-increasing complexity of the machines concerned, incorrect parameterisation was not uncommon and concomitant loss of production ensued. In extreme cases, this even went so far that for a whole shift the wrong label was printed. That’s an extreme example, admittedly. But it is in fact enough if the material feed is not halted in time and bottles that aren’t needed first have to be time-consumingly taken out of the line before the next order can be started.

Using the LMS prevents this kind of scenario completely.

This is because the individual machine operator benefits from comprehensive operator prompting, now that the equipment is parameterised automatically, current and pending order data are visualised, and the requisite plausibility checks are performed with the system’s support.

The advantages are manifest:

  • Increased machine availability thanks to minimised non-productive times
  • Reduction in avoidable material costs thanks to
  • measured-to-the-precise-bottle production, including automatic target quantity adjustment with rejects all factored in
  • tank-matched filling: the number of bottles fed into the line is only the precise quantity required for emptying a product tank
  • Reduced order change-over times thanks to parallel order processing and batch grouping
  • Automated route control in the case of variable production lines
  • Faultless pallet handling when used in palletising centres
  • Faultless labelling, thanks to integration of highly disparate printing systems
  • Logging and tracking back to each individual batch
  • Compliance with quality standards, using effective target-actual comparisons and material validation

Combination with materials management

This last point, particularly, an effective material requesting and validation capability, is a major focus when using the LMS.

The materials required, such as closures, labels, carton blanks, etc. are proposed by the system for the specific order concerned, and can as needed be requested by the operator directly at the HMI of the machine consuming the material involved.

The order is then, depending on the client’s project concerned, either passed on to an existing warehouse management system, or visualised in the warehouse on large-text displays.  Once it has been transferred from the warehouse to the line, the material is then validated using a scanner. This is the only way to ensure that the consumables used are the right ones for the order involved, and that no incorrect raw materials and supplies get as far as the production process.

Conversely, of course, material disposal, i.e. removing materials not required, can be triggered directly from the line itself.

Change-over times shortened by more than 50 % thanks to “on-the-fly batch changes”  

In numerous projects up and running at clients’ facilities, Krones has proved that the above advantages and features are not just theoretical in nature. Here, the “batch change on the fly” feature has been singled out to exemplify the system’s performative capabilities. Once an “on-the-fly batch change” has been implemented, an order change-over need no longer inevitably render it necessary to empty the entire production line. And why indeed should it, when, for example, only the type of label or the pack size is being altered, but other parameters remain unchanged? Instead, all that’s needed is a small gap between two product sequences in order to allow automated change-over of the parameters at the right point in time at the machines involved and to logically separate the two orders concerned. This means a scenario in which two orders are active simultaneously on one and the same line is now common practice. With a direct effect on both time and costs, as a quote from one of the biggest water bottlers in the USA goes to show:

“Since the installation of KRONES LMS in one of our high-speed bottling lines, we’ve been able to reduce the critical machine downtime during film and label changes by 2/3”


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