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Digitalization of label printing on pallets

Kazakhstan Petrochemical Industries Inc.
Project manager on the customer side
Ilyas Kassanov
IT Project Manager
Year of project completion
Project timeline
June, 2023 - October, 2023
Project scope
2500 man-hours
1. The project of Digitalization of label printing on pallets to implement and complete in a very short time.
2. Automation of a process previously performed manually.
3. Use of already installed printer equipment and barcode scanners after their modernization.
4. Integration of a CoLOS label printing system with an existing Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), Systems Applications and Products (SAP), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for data flow.
Project Results
· Eliminate manual printing of labels and gluing onto pallets and switch to automated printing.
· Acceleration of process of accepting products from packaging due to faster labeling on the pallets.
· Minimization the risks of an incorrectly affixed label, which could lead to errors when sending finished products to customers.
· Integration of the printing system with existing enterprise management systems – PLC, SAP, MES, WMS.
· Preparation for the introduction of robotic movement of pallets with finished products throughout the warehouse.
· Total project budget was around 89 million tenge (187.368,42 USD). Reducing the project budget by 12 million tenge (25.263,15 USD) by optimizing costs.
· Pre-calculated economic effect from automating the printing of labels on pallets per month is 3.999.685 tenge (8.420,39 USD) including VAT.

The uniqueness of the project

Implementation of the project in the shortest possible time, during the plant turnaround.

Preparation and implementation of solutions that were not taken into account within the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract.

Work on the project was carried out in Kazakhstan (Pavlodar, Atyrau), Turkey and France. Regular discussion of project details on conference calls and planning of work taking into account the difference in time zones.
Used software
CoLOS by Markem-Imaje;
OPC server;
Programmable Logic Controller (PLC);
Warehouse Management System (WMS);
Manufacturing Execution System (MES).

Difficulty of implementation
As a part of the EPC contract label printing was done manually, therefore, IT cabling systems and/or IT connections in a huge warehouse (the size of 6.5 football fields) were absent.
When concluding an agreement with the service provider, it turned out that the only official representative in Kazakhstan had blocked accounts and this circumstance limited approval from the compliance service.

The project had to be completed in a short time, during the plant turnaround.

When transferring barcode scanners, there were problems with determining the installation location to achieve 100% scanning results.

Project Description
“Kazakhstan Petrochemical Industries Inc.” LLP the first integrated gas chemical complex in the Republic of Kazakhstan, located near to Atyrau. The company produces, packages and sells finished products (polypropylene) for shipment to recipients. Production of 500.000 tons of polypropylene per year. Warehouse space around 46.000 m2. Production started on November 8, 2022.
The general contractor for the construction of the plant is China National Chemical Engineering Co. Ltd. which implemented the process of printing labels on pallets through the local distributor Vesnet LLP using Markem-Imaje (France) equipment in manual mode.
The project affected the line for packing polypropylene granules into bags and onto pallets in a finished product warehouse. Initially, two labeling machines are equipped with a manipulator for printing on the wide side of the pallet. This leads to great inconvenience when searching for pallet markings in the warehouse. The label is manually applied on the front side.

Project of digitalization of the label printing process has divided into five stages:

1. Supply and installation of network equipment, laying a cable network to connect printers to the enterprise infrastructure, installation of platforms for labeling machines;

a. Server equipment provision and configuration;

b. Network equipment and connections configuration;

c. Workstations provision and configuration;

2. Supply of manipulators, modernization of installed printers: manipulators replacement for printing labels on the narrow side of the pallet;

3. Setting up printer management via CoLOS;

a. Linking CoLOS to PLC using OPC server;

b. Linking CoLOS to corporate network;

4. Bar code scanner location for 100% label scanning results;

5. Integration with the existing ERP system SAP S/4HANA, WMS and MES systems.

Technical specification was prepared, which indicated the sequence of all actions necessary for the project and indicated the parts and materials required for purchase. This specification was later used for the tender.
Equipment supplier Markem-Imaje confirmed a) the ability to connect installed printers to an industrial network, b) the ability to upgrade printers by replacing manipulators, and c) the ability to use installed barcode scanners. Markem-Imaje also recommended their partner in Kazakhstan Vesnet LLP to carry out this turnkey project. The supplier provided supervision during equipment installation and software configuration.
After long discussions about the details of the project and receiving approval from various authorities, the contract was signed. Completing the project on time required the urgent delivery of printer handles from France and the purchase of appropriate software and equipment. In parallel, preparatory work began on laying cable infrastructure and preparing server and network equipment.
The cable system made it possible to connect PLC equipment and Markem-Imaje printer equipment to one network. A CoLOS server has been configured to manage the printer hardware. An OPC server was installed to interface with the PLC.
For further interfacing of the systems, approval was received from the information security to connect the server located on the industrial network to the corporate network to connect to the ERP system.
As a result, seven printers (five inkjet and two label printers) were connected to the CoLOS system and automatic printing on pallets was configured. The CoLOS system was connected to the existing PLC equipment via a configured OPC server. The optimal location was found and barcode scanners were installed with 100% label scanning results. Software for system management was installed on the workstations, and the interface was Russified for the operator’s convenience.
To understand the integration process with SAP, WMS, MES systems, have prepared a diagram indicating the details of the transferred data. The teams managing these systems were involved in this process.

Project geography
The project team was geographically diverse, with a facility near Atyrau and team members in Atyrau, Pavlodar (Kazakhstan), as well as Turkey and France.
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