The Packaging Machinery workgroup of the Open Modular Architecture Controls (OMAC) user group released version 1.1 of the Guidelines for Packaging Machinery Automation. “The document is a ‘work in process’ and should be downloaded and reviewed by all packaging machinery manufacturers,” said Maria Ferrante, director of technical services for the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI). “The documents give a picture of where some users, technology providers and machinery manufacturers feel the industry is going,” Ferrante said.

The next publication of the NFPA-79 Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery is expected to allow the use of PCs for machine control in addition to PLC machine control. In the future, machinery will have an Ethernet connection to upload production data and machine state into high-level business systems, Ferrante stated. “Packaging machines may exchange machine state information by communication rather than hardwire. In addition you will be able to purchase code daters, digital servo drives, etc. which will be set up by the machine PC using ‘plug and play’ interfaces.”

Many packaging machines operating in Europe are now PC controlled rather than PLC controlled. The manufacturers of safety devices and systems are responding with dedicated systems that will allow a machine to have safety systems that talk with a PC but operate independently so the equipment is not dependent on MS Windows for safety.

Version 1.1 of the guidelines is available at The Pack ML (machine language) group has also developed a simulator to demonstrate how common machine state information can be used to identify line operations and bottlenecks (available at

A PMMI conference will address this topic on July 15-17, 2002 in Rosemont, IL. For information, visit