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By adopting OMAC PackML, the Italian multinational has automated the whole production process in compliance with the international packaging standard, simplifying integration in the production chain.

The IMA Group integrates OMAC PackML and invests in the future of machine connection and control.


IMA, an Italian multinational and a leader in the design and production of automatic machines for processing and packaging pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, foodstuffs, tea, coffee and tobacco, is heading decisively towards the optimisation of its products and processes by adopting Smart Factory logic. IMA Active, the Group’s business unit that manufactures machines for the production of solid pharmaceuticals, has in fact decided to integrate PackML (Packaging Machinery Language), the OMAC industrial packaging standard, into its solutions. Siemens know-how, with specific insight into dedicated software language and solutions, was decisive to quickly implement the solution. «In just 5 months – says Marco Minardi, HW SW Technical Department Manager at IMA Active – thanks to the applications and know-how in the packaging sector provided by Siemens whose automation technology represents the element on which our machine  architecture is based – we managed to supply our customers with a capsule filling machine complete with a full update of the PackML compliant automation. The synergy with Siemens, who made available software libraries and the specific know-how of the Packaging Knowledge Centre and a dedicated team, the Pack Team (based in Bologna), once again represented the key for effectively and quickly implementing a project which for us is of strategic importance for the near future».


With PackML, IMA automates the whole production process in compliance with sector standards

IMA Active’s decision to use these solutions is coherent with the Group’s objective to manufacture connected, intelligent machines based on industrial logic for single vertical markets. With PackML, IMA Active can uniform the procedures through which information is acquired on-board the machine, making the same accessible in the production environment, so operators and technicians can use the same programming methodology with a uniform look and feel. PackML therefore offers a well-defined model to describe machine conditions and share information with users and other systems, guaranteeing functional interoperability and the uniformity of the communications’ interface in the production plant, sharing information with MES and ERP company application systems.
The transparency and traceability of information, in compliance with pharmaceutical sector requirements, can also be extended to all stages of the process, producing encoded data and information, that can be understood, interpreted and validated in a univocal way. In fact, with PackML, IMA Active promotes the streamlined integration of its solutions in the production process in compliance with current international standards, simplifying integration in the production chain. IMA Active has invested in professional competence, skills, and know-how with the aim of extracting and organising the information required in a systematic way.


PackML solves the problems concerning incompatibility between proprietary systems

The decision to produce PackML-based machines represents a unique advantage as it solves problems related to incompatibility between proprietary systems and lock-in risk. The confluence towards an industrial packaging standard in fact translates into the availability of homogeneous information in production sites where there are machines that belong to various suppliers. Last but not least, it meets the requirements of the pharmaceutical sector, which is subject to very strict standards and regulations: all the information necessary to prepare the documentation on pharmaceutical products and production processes is in fact univocal, consistent and homogeneous.



Figure 1: Zanasi capsule closing.


Fully digital and fully compliant production cycle

The use of the OMAC PackML industrial standard is closely linked to the decision taken to set up machines ready to be integrated in an optimal way into highly digitalised environments. This is a major step forward as we can now offer customers a fully digital and fully compliant production cycle. Integrating a universally recognised solution like PackML means the machines can interact in heterogeneous production environments, simplifying complex and tedious integration procedures, for which solutions would otherwise need to be found for the purpose of interoperable machine languages for different types of machines.

Transparency in communication and compatibility with sector requirements

«With PackML we provide customers with considerable added value as it means being able to process data transversally using interface documentation that’s compatible with pharmaceutical sector requirements», explains Minardi. «Having a communication standard that meets these requirements makes all the processes managed by our machines more efficient and transparent. The machines can communicate their state without limitations and provide information on the process used». End-to-end tracing is enabled for all product and process information. If there are problems with the final product for example you can establish if and to what extent the problem is caused by a processing error, or if the operation wasn’t performed correctly.


Univocal interpretation of the information

Being able to use just one presentation frame gives all those involved in process management a univocal interpretation of the information provided. Integration costs are reduced considerably and customers can operate in a known information framework without the risk of misinterpretation. One major advantage is the possibility of conceiving integration development in industrial terms, in other words using a well-structured language that makes prefabricated software blocks available to be quickly implemented on-board the machine. This improves time to market. Furthermore, PackML offers considerable value in terms of protection of investments, especially in virtue of the fact that machines like those manufactured by Ima have an average life cycle of 20-30 years.


Horizontal and vertical connectivity

PackML identifies a development procedure and approach that means the machine can go into production sooner, guaranteeing effective integration also in complex environments. In this way all the operators can adopt the same data exchange model, the same machine states and operational flows. This creates all the preconditions for the horizontal connectivity of all the machines involved in the production processes, also at a vertical level, as the machine information can be sent to higher application levels, offering integration and interfacing with MES and ERP in a 2-way logic system: the data can in fact be sent from the shop floor to the core company application and vice versa. The goal? To make information on the process and quality of production more consistent in compliance with sector standards and regulations. Communication that’s complex but is simplified with PackML to save time and reduce error. 


Freeing up resources to build better machines

Thanks to PackML, IMA Active can define a consolidated system architecture that’s acknowledged by all third parties without creating any restrictions or lock-in in relation to the manufacturer. In fact, the whole production process is automated in compliance with international standards, simplifying integration in the production chain. «Optimisation and reducing complexity by using a unified interface model means we can concentrate our efforts more on plant engineering», says Minardi. «Using PackML means focusing resources to optimise and improve machine control strategies, reducing the time required to develop the code, which becomes more reliable and modular». Two types of information are generated: operational information on machine status, and information that identifies the status and quality of production. The latter enables flows throughout the whole value chain so the product can be put on the market quickly without the need for further analysis and controls, as both the product and the processes are documented by design.


The IMA Active Zanasi, a PackML-based capsule filler

The Zanasi is a ground-breaking automatic capsule filler. Much-appreciated for its simple configuration and reliability, it offers the greatest versatility in term of combined dosing in the same capsule. The Zanasi can dose powder, pellets, tablets, minitablets and liquids into hard gelatine capsules, depending on the machine configuration and the dosing units installed. Furthermore, it guarantees excellent results in terms of dosing precision. The machine can manage capsules of various sizes: from 000 to 5 and the production area is completely separated from the mechanical parts to reduce the chances of powder contamination and make the machine fast to clean. The work area is easily accessible, and size-changes are simple and fast. The Zanasi is very popular with operators due to its compact dimensions that reduce the amount of space required in the production area. Expert operators are not required, thanks to the ergonomic interface and simple controls. The automated system can be connected to external systems and made compliant with modern Pharma 4.0 production requirements. Various models of the machine are available: respectively these can reach speeds of 6,000, 12,000, 25,000 and 40,000 capsules/hour.

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