Chutes -n- Loaders - A Newspaper Mailroom Distribution System
Chutes -n- Loaders is a highly configurable mailroom control and pressroom monitoring system. Tray loading and tripping, palletizer, inserter, and stacker controls are all available. Belt driven systems, including diverters are pacers can also be controlled. Ink Jet addressing and laser printing options are also available. It features a Windows based drag-n-drop interface minimizing operator keystrokes (a keyboard is not even required!).
The unique design on Chutes -n- Loaders allows it to be configured as:
a stand-alone system, controlling and monitoring the facility via its own data acquisition subsystem
a user interface only, exchanging data and operator requests between the existing computer system
a hybrid system consisting of a user interface and data acquisition system, keeping control at the existing computer system, while replacing the I/O equipment located in and around the mailroom.
Depending on the configuration selected, some or all of the following system components are installed:
The Drag-n-Drop Operator Interface Subsystem built into Chutes -n- Loaders is truly the easiest way imaginable to control and monitor the mailroom/pressroom operations. Based on over fifteen years of watching operators struggle with command line interfaces, or so called graphical interfaces, in which only half of the screen contained useful information, it was obvious a new approach needed to be developed. Chutes -n- Loaders achieves the two-prong goal of minimizing operator actions, yet keeping relevant information on-screen at all times. Consistent colors are used for system/device status. Right-clicking brings up dynamic menus pertinent to the chute, loader, or press being acted upon. Yet detailed device information, displayable in easily sorted grids are only a click or two away. This highly customizable display will not only return to its default state, it also remembers the particular operator's last views and sort criteria, making subsequent run setup automatic!
The Data Acquisition Subsystem (DAS) is performed via Allen-Bradley Programmable Language Controllers (PLCs) to allow easy maintenance and diagnostics. All field equipment is wired to the PLC, which is connected to the Chutes -n- Loaders host via standard Ethernet cable.
The Control Subsystem is responsible for processing the Operator Interface subsystem, communicating with the Data Acquisition subsystem, and controlling the production and distribution of newspapers at the facility. Written in Object Pascal, a time-proven language, built-in diagnostics and an emulation facility, allow for off-line testing as new components are added in and around the newspaper facility.
Configured as a stand-alone system, Chutes -n- Loaders is a complete turn-key mailroom/pressroom monitoring and control system. Plant equipment and sensors are connected to the DAS, allowing efficient control. Manifests are received in-house, or generated internal to Chutes -n- Loaders, and processed during production runs.
A User Interface Configuration requires a module to be installed onto the existing plant control system for the exchange of data. In this fashion, operators monitor and control the system from the ease built-in to Chutes -n- Loaders, while the business rules already in place at the facility are untouched.
The Hybrid Configuration still allows operators the easy interface, but replaces possibly ancient and unreliable I/O equipment with a modern DAS. Again, a custom module is installed that funnels the new I/O information into the existing plant control system.
XML data collection is provided to allow production analysis to be performed.
Production data is published to enable any networked PC to monitor the production run. Control is allowed by authorized users via Web Browsers.
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