Sometimes a technology becomes "type cast" in industrial environments, suggesting that it can only be used for specific purposes. Industrial video is one example, generally considered useful for industrial surveillance, but it has many capabilities to assist in actual process control applications when used creatively.
Nitta Gelatin USA Inc. has taken advantage of the newest video camera and control technology to improve its processing and quality control procedures. The video control system, which resides on dedicated workstations, allows remote monitoring of manufacturing processes and viewing of alarm-activated live video, in addition to traditional video surveillance of the facility's periphery. The networked system can be controlled and monitored from a command center in the facility or even from the company's regional headquarters in Canada.
In traditional video process monitoring applications, camera images are provided to image processing software which compares images to pre-defined parameters. If there is an aberration in the data or tolerances are not within prescribed specifications, the software program normally alerts an operator or may even shut down the production line.
The procedure in place at the Nitta plant in Fayetteville, NC, goes beyond typical deployments in terms of its functionality. Most significantly, the cameras deployed are not board-type or typical industrial cameras commonly used in process monitoring applications. They are IP-based Panasonic i-Pro video surveillance cameras. The images can be viewed by management in real time while simultaneously being routed to the process automation software application. When an alarm mode on the camera is activated due to any process aberrations, the camera control software automatically "pushes" video to the control room over the network.
The system was designed and installed by Cross Automation of Belmont, NC, a Panasonic Security Systems authorized dealer with support from CBX Electronics, Altamonte Springs, FL. The design was based on the customer's request to be able to view and monitor live images both locally and from the company's headquarters in Toronto, Canada. Mike Godsey, technology manager, e-data solutions at Cross Automation, explains that the parameters of their initial request were not so unusual but finding the right camera and control package was more of a challenge.
"Nitta headquarters asked us to install a few different cameras that they had been evaluating for the project, but none of them proved to be adequate for the job," observes Godsey. "Either the picture quality was not there or the feature set was not sufficient or the price was just too prohibitive. We proposed testing Panasonic i-Pro video surveillance cameras, and they turned out to be just what the customer needed.
"There are a lot of critical areas to monitor within the plant. The majority of control processes are centralized in one control room, and senior level operators need to see everything that's going on in the facility in order to keep the manufacturing process running efficiently. The i-Pro cameras exceeded their requirements in terms of quality, performance and price."
Godsey further explained that in addition to a camera, the project design also required a camera control package that would automatically push video to the control room for live monitoring if an alarm was activated, whether from a process monitoring camera or from a surveillance camera. They selected Panasonic's WV-ASM100 management and control software because it accommodates alarm-based push video and its intuitive operation.
"One of the most critical features of the system is its ability to isolate alarms and bring up a dedicated view of the problem while everything else is going on," adds Godsey. "The alarm notification feature in the WV-ASM100 software provides this capability, which is an absolute requirement for this application."
Before the Cross Automation team became involved in the project, Winn Jenkins, plant control technician at Nitta, had arranged for installation of a 1GB IP backbone at the plant, knowing that he wanted eventually to implement IP video process automation. The dedicated network runs throughout the facility using unshielded twisted pair (UTP) wire and segmented into two 48-4 power over Ethernet (PoE) switches.
According to Jenkins, the plant network is linked via a VPN to the plant's headquarters in Toronto, which allows management to view all the cameras remotely. "Management can securely access our video system and monitor activities remotely anywhere broadband Internet access is available," he notes.
Video from the cameras is recorded on Panasonic WJ-ND300 network video recorders (NVR) in MPEG-4 mode and at a full 30 frames per second. According to Jenkins, if anything happens during any of the manufacturing processes, it's a simple procedure for the control room operator or the Toronto office to call up the recorded video to review the footage. "The ability to retrieve and view recorded video on demand has added tremendously to the plant's efficiency," he says.
"The cameras employ progressive scan technology and the pictures on our plasma displays are incredibly sharp. It's almost like high definition," Jenkins adds. "We can probably see better detail on the monitors than if we were standing on the shop floor and viewing the situation live. The ability to view the entire manufacturing process clearly, plus capabilities like alarm trending and graphs provided by Cross Automation's data visualization system configuration, has dramatically improved operations."
The Nitta plant, which opened in 2006, manufactures approximately 3,000 tons of porcine gelatin per year for use primarily in the pharmaceutical industry. Sixteen employees, working eight-hour shifts in teams of four, control the entire operation which runs 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
The integrated IP video surveillance system also employs Panasonic i-Pro WV-NS202 IP video surveillance dome cameras for security. The dome systems are installed on the outside of the building and are viewable from the control room, on the network, or via VPN. The cameras feature motion detection to push video when activated, incorporate 22x zoom lenses and a minimum illumination of only 0.7 lux for high performance in low light. According to Jenkins, the cameras are also integrated with the WV-ASM100 management and control software and are programmed on a tour schedule based on parameters he established, including the use of built-in motion detection.
"We have multiple alarm zones set up as well as tracking with automatic pan, tilt and zoom," says Jenkins. "If there is an incident or any activity in any of the zones, the cameras will automatically pick it up and track it. It will also push the video to a dedicated display in our control room. So if a vehicle pulls up outside or a person walks onto the grounds, video of the activity automatically pops into view to alert our staff."
Convergence is not a new concept to Cross Automation, who has used its e-data solution team, to support integrating information technology and traditional factory automation solutions for several years.
"We have been very pleased with how responsive Panasonic has been to our needs, both from a sales and technical perspective," says Godsey. "The company has an excellent support structure which benefits us and our customers directly. The integrated system at Nitta is a perfect example of how video surveillance technologies have far reaching applications beyond just security."
Latimer Schneider is a freelance writer for Panasonic.