Oystar Jones Puts the PLC in Packaging Equipment

Feb. 23, 2010
Soap Box Has Longevity With Machine Builder: Packaging Machine Builder Integrates PLCs and Servo Motion
By Mike Bacidore, Managing Editor

Oystar Jones ( in northern Kentucky was founded in 1905 by Dr. Ruel Anderson Jones as a manufacturer of a novelty item called "advertising soap." The success of his soap business led Jones to develop a machine in 1912 that would mechanically carton bars of soap, resulting in a tenfold increase in productivity. Since the manufacture of the first Oystar Jones packaging machine in 1912, Jones has continually attempted to push forward through the industrial and technological explosion of the 20th century to achieve new packaging milestones and innovations, always with the goal of increasing production efficiencies.

The machines and systems Oystar Jones builds today are a bit more sophisticated than the one Jones developed in 1912. "As a packaging machine OEM, our machines integrate PLCs, servo motion, discrete I/O, analog I/O, variable frequency drives and operator touchscreens," explains Jason Barter, electrical applications and development engineer. "We also have robotic applications."


An Oystar Jones employee checks a packaging system before it's released to the customer.

Oystar Jones uses PLC-based controls on the machines it builds. "And we typically use a mix of hardwired and digital networking," he says. "This usually depends on the vintage of upstream and downstream equipment we are interfacing with. In some applications, we use both. We have not used wireless networking for machine interconnections."

For safety, Barter explains that Oystar Jones uses Rockwell Automation's Allen-Bradley GuardMaster MSR-series safety relays, but he predicts safety PLCs will start becoming more prominent. "As safety standards become more stringent, safety PLCs will become more practical, and a savings will likely be found in hardware cost, wiring labor and troubleshooting."

With annual sales exceeding $80 million, Oystar Jones is a global engineering, manufacturing and integration company focused on machinery and systems primarily for the foods, beverage and consumer products markets. It has 293 employees and has more than 8,000 machines and 300 systems installed worldwide.

R.A. Jones is part of the Oystar Group, one of the world's largest suppliers of packaging machinery, with more than 15 independent mid-sized companies, $550 million in yearly sales and 2,600 employees. "We focus on packaging solutions and productivity," explains Lisa Pitzer, Oystar Jones' marketing manager. "We have one of the most complete ranges of packaging capabilities in the industry. Member companies are flexible, medium-sized businesses that operate independently but cooperate fully to leverage the strong technical and manufacturing resources of the group."

Jones offers a comprehensive range of engineering and total packaging line services that include automatic and semi-automatic cartoners with a full range of speeds, medium- and high-speed horizontal form-fill-seal machines, can and bottle multi-packers and tray-packers, robotics and automation for feeding and loading of packaging materials, product transfer, palletizing and depalletizing products.

Oystar Jones is staffed with 55 electrical and mechanical engineers, 47 service technicians and 12 system engineers/project managers.

"Jones has the most comprehensive customer support in the industry, from installation and training to ongoing machine documentation, express service, equipment conversions and updates, rebuilds and preventive maintenance," says Lisa Pitzer, marketing manager. "For training, our PMMI-certified instructors offer general equipment orientation, informal, formal, hands-on standard materials training, multimedia, refresher and virtual training."

Jones also carries and extensive spare-parts inventory to support customers, explains Pitzer. "Our customer service representatives are on-hand to assist and answer questions about identification, pricing and shipping," she says. "Our goal is to ship parts orders on time, complete and correct (OTCC) 100% of the time."