Upgrade Machine Control for a Strong Software Foundation

Upgrade Machine Control for a Strong Software Foundation

Upgrade Machine Control for a Strong Software Foundation

In a typical distribution center (DC), operators can expect their machine control software to provide 10 years of effective service. But over the past decade, the distribution and fulfillment (D&F) industry has changed dramatically. E-commerce order volumes and customer service level expectations have risen exponentially; in response, many operations have introduced more automated processes and systems to keep pace. As a result, many programmable logic controls (PLCs) and machine control software are in the sunsetting phase of their lifecycles — which presents obstacles for operators seeking to transition to greater degrees of warehouse automation.

Establishing a robust software platform is essential for achieving both short- and long-term success. Machine control — which refers to a software and control system that automates and oversees the functioning of material handling equipment (MHE) — serves as the foundational layer upon which more advanced automation software can be added.

Not only does machine control help to integrate MHE — such as conveyors, sorters, or automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) — but it also enables communications and provides decision points among various system components.

Facing obsolescence? Know your limitations

Machine control typically consists of a controller that processes commands, an electrical panel that routes the commands to the equipment, and a user interface (UI) for human interaction. DC operators are responsible for staying current on any machine control software updates and upgrades throughout the lifecycle to mitigate the risk of a control system failure. But as machine control platforms age, this process can become more difficult.

Not only will operating an outdated machine control system make securing service and replacement parts more complicated, but it also will prevent businesses from taking advantage of the latest breakthroughs in data storage and processing speeds.

And since previous machine control systems are primarily Windows server-based, upgrades and replacements may be more costly to acquire and maintain. Enabling future compatibility with MHE and automation systems, as well as integration with more advanced warehouse execution system (WES) and warehouse management system (WMS) software, will require upgrading to a more modern and robust machine control platform.

Introducing Momentum MC4

To support the next generation of warehouse automation hardware and software, Honeywell Intelligrated has developed Momentum MC4. This modern machine control solution is designed to replace our ICW and BOSS machine control offerings and leverage the capabilities of our next-generation Momentum software platform. MC4 gives our customers a flexible and stable foundation upon which they can construct best-fit software solutions — allowing them to safely add Momentum WES and WMS capabilities or integrate with other equipment and software providers.

Within the Momentum platform, MC4 can help businesses to create tailored software solutions composed of only the specific capabilities that their operations need — without introducing unnecessary system complexities or destabilizing their critical software infrastructures. MC4 leverages a lightweight middleware layer called machine control business logic (MCBL) that facilitates connections with additional layers of automation software. MCBL provides instructions to MC4 to enable more advanced capabilities and perform basic equipment control functions such as: label printing, simple routing, alarms and events, data tracking, host system communications and business intelligence (BI) functions such as history, reporting and visual status monitoring.

On their own, MC4 and MCBL provide a robust set of capabilities that can serve the needs of many D&F operations. But to help businesses achieve their next levels of automation execution and fulfillment control, MC4 enables seamless integration with the more advanced functionality within the Momentum software suite.

To avoid control system obsolescence and learn about the many benefits of upgrading to a modern machine control platform, read our recent On The Move article.

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