The Domino Effect

domino-effectBosch Rexroth servos and motion control were recently involved in a project that provides an excellent example of how one apparently minor change can lead to major changes.

The change was a fairly simple one: a pharmaceuticals package changed from a polystyrene outer packaging layer to a cardboard one. The product was destined for Walmart, which is getting pretty serious with suppliers about sustainability, and this change was one that would help the manufacturer improve their Sustainability Index significantly.

However, a machine that can insert a blister pack into a polystyrene case can’t necessarily insert a blister pack into a cardboard case. A machine that can pack polystyrene cases into a carton can’t necessarily do the same job successfully with cardboard. And a machine that can palletize the cartons can do the same job whether the cases are plastic or paper, but it can’t necessarily mesh with the new machines needed to get the medications into the new packaging.

Enter MWV packaging with a new machine that can get those packages filled and onto the pallets at the rate of 300 blister packs per minute.  Rexroth provided the new machine with a new system that gets the motions under control — with just 1,400 feet of cable and no cabinets, rather than the 31,500 feet of cable that would have been required with legacy motion control systems like the ones we usually work with. The machine has 70 servos and just 5 human operators, so there have been changes for the workers as well as the machinery.

The new rig was widely admired at The Automation Conference earlier this week, and we admire it, too. It also provides a good example of why, when your legacy motion control system stops working, it’s not always a good idea to replace it with something new. Sometimes doing so has lots of unintended consequences.

It’s one thing to come up with an entirely new system throughout the factory because that allows your company to meet an important goal. It’s another to do so as a byproduct of a decision that seemed good at the time. Before you make one of those decisions, give us a call. We can probably get your legacy Rexroth Indramat machinery back on course.

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