Codimag improves productivity by limiting service costs

Press technology, motion control and automation combine with remote-monitoring solution to keep label-printing machines in production

By Benoit Demol, Codimag

The word “label” conjures up many images. They can be utilitarian—for instance, the white background with simple block letters identifying the contents of a file folder in your office. They might be a red warning on a yellow background identifying a potential safety hazard. But sometimes they make take on a completely different meaning.

For the artisans producing fine wines and small-batch craft brews, the label drives consumer demand. In these situations, the label is viewed not only as a representation of the brand, but as an extension of the artistry involved in making the contents (Figure 1). The contents of each bottle are carefully matched to original artwork conveyed on the label. A visit to any wine dealer will demonstrate hundreds of examples of this special elegance. And it takes a special mix of dedication and science to reproduce this unique art form.

For the creation of such beauty, mere printing isn’t enough. Based in Bondoufle on the outskirts of Paris, Codimag has devoted the past four decades to developing the finest label-printing machines in the world, using a combination of our own Aniflo press technology and complex motion and automation control. More than two-thirds of the machines we produce are shipped overseas. We have placed more than 400 machines on all continents, with recent machines installed in South America, China and the United States.

While speed is typically a measure of press productivity, the Codimag system has quick setup, too (Figure 2). For example, at Labelexpo Europe 2017, we impressed visitors with our ability to register immediately and achieve color without time-consuming adjustments. The Aniflo system can get new a job up and running in less than 10 minutes. And increased uptime means more money to customers.

Being there without being there

In 2011, Codimag installed the eWon Cosy, the industrial VPN remote-access gateway with a 108-by-99-by-42-mm footprint, to its first machine in Brazil. Because of the distance associated with this project, we decided we could provide better and more cost-effective service to our customer by integrating the device to the automation side of our press. This allowed us to understand all of the issues with the press without booking a flight and heading to South America. The customer enjoyed more productivity and uptime; we found ourselves making fewer trips.

“The gateway fits within the automation panel and can communicate with Ethernet, USB, and serial devices, such as PLCs, HMIs or IP cameras for on-site assistance,” explains Marie-Luce Bodineau, eWon Cosy product manager at HMS Industrial Networks.

It makes an outbound connection using user datagram protocol (UDP) or hyper text transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) to eWon’s cloud-based VPN servers via the Talk2M service. “With the Talk2M client software, eCatcher, users can create free Talk2M accounts and start connecting to their devices from anywhere in the world via a PC, tablet or smart phone,” says Bodineau. “Talk2M acts as a secure broker and completes the encrypted VPN tunnel between the remote user and the equipment connected to the gateway. As the VPN tunnels are initiated by the gateways and establish only outbound/outgoing connections, the customer’s IT departments do not need to make any changes on the corporate firewall for incoming connections.”
The experience in Brazil impressed us enough to add eWon’s remote gateways to every machine sent to the field. We’ve discovered that even if the press is only 200 km, or 125 miles, away, it still improves the customer’s productivity to have instant access to the automation controls.

The machine uses a B&R control system with an Ethernet connection. “We can directly connect to LAN switch of the machine and provide proper segregation from the factory network,” says Bodineau. “The remote user can only access the devices connected to the LAN.”

To connect to the Talk2M VPN service, the Cosy needs an outbound Internet connection. “Talk2M VPN protocols are based on OpenSSL and OpenVPN. OpenVPN is intended to use UDP on port 1194 by default,” explains Bodineau. “However, we also use TCP 443, so, for the VPN, eCatcher and eWon Cosy, we can use both ports for tunneling. The product has multiple WAN connectivity options, such as Ethernet, Wi-Fi and 3G/4G. The Cosy is powered by 12-24 Vdc.”

Remote access provides us with an economic advantage, too.

Each of the new presses comes with a warranty period. During the warranty period the maker is responsible for the travel expenses of the engineers and technicians sent to the customer site. Our customers are expert printers, but they lack in-depth automation training. Very few have in-house expertise to deal with advanced motion control systems like ours. But, they are good at troubleshooting the mechanical side of the equipment. In troubleshooting situations, we can couple these two facts to eliminate trips by working jointly with our customer’s team.

We learned that gathering detailed information remotely allows the Codimag support team to solve the issue 80% of the time without the expense associated with a trip. What’s more, when a trip is necessary, the engineer knows what parts will be needed to make the repair before leaving the office. This makes the trip shorter by eliminating the waiting time required for parts to be air freighted to the customer location. The net result is speedier return to productive service and less burden on the Codimag small and efficient engineering team.

Related white paper: The essentials of remote machine access

Pull it together

Applying eWon products on every machine has been a win-win situation for Codimag and its customers, who get improved productivity and more cost-effective operation. Codimag eliminates 80% of its customer visits. The ROI is incredibly positive and increases after a single avoided visit. Further, when visits are required, both benefit from Codimag’s ability to assess the failure ahead of the trip.

Unplanned trips are expensive. Even short trips can exceed $1,000 when you consider the costs of airfare, rental car, hotel rooms, meals and other incidental costs. Intercontinental travel can cost four times as much. Being able to schedule trips three or four weeks in advance yields a better price on travel.

When the machine breaks, the customer needs it fixed as soon as humanly possible. Unplanned trips mean engineers are forced to make unscheduled travel and are pulled away from their current workloads. Because it’s difficult to get real work done while traveling, new projects are delayed and new designs postponed. Further, these traveling engineers are forced to miss their children’s soccer games and family gatherings, and sometimes they miss out on holidays. Companies like ours with small teams find themselves scrambling to find new and qualified professionals just in case they have field issues.

Remote access of equipment in the field has long been the dream of automation professionals. Until now, issues with speed, reliability of connection, and security put this dream just out of reach. But eWon’s solution uses the Internet and a fully secure-sockets-layer (SSL)-based VPN tunnel for all traffic. The information is exchanged using 2,048-bit SSL certificate encryption, allowing only authenticated users to connect.

VPN sessions are end-to-end encrypted using SSL/transport layer security (TLS) protocol. “Communications between the remote user and the eWon are fully encrypted using the SSL/TLS protocol, thereby ensuring data authenticity, integrity and confidentiality,” explains Bodineau. “Indeed, all users and eWon units are authenticated using x509 SSL certificates and end-to-end traffic is encrypted using strong symmetric and asymmetric algorithms that are part of the SSL/TLS protocol cipher suite.”

The included Talk2M utility uses a managed, hybrid, layered cybersecurity approach to protect its devices and network. But, most importantly, the system protects the customer’s internal network from malicious attacks on the industrial systems.

The devices are easy to use. Most engineers are able to get a system up and running the first time in less than 20 minutes. The customer prints more labels, and the engineering team is less distracted.

ALSO READ: What you need to know about VPN and cellular options for remote monitoring

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