Secondary tobacco machines produce cigarettes and pack them ready for shipping as required by the product specification which consists of a complex bill of materials. Secondary tobacco machines produce different brands, i.e. product specifications, in production lots or batches.

A given secondary tobacco machine ordinarily produces different brands, sometimes within the same day: flexibility is a necessary requirement. Switching from brand to brand on the same machine, called brand change, sometimes requires mechanical adjustments which take several hours of highly skilled technicians’ time and is followed by a production ramp up to tune the machine to the required efficiency for the new brand.

Brands differ because of the different materials, tobacco and non-tobacco making up the shipping goods. Thus brand integrity, i.e. making sure that the finished product is made of the specified materials, is of paramount importance.

Modern secondary machines (maker, packer, filter maker, wrapper, overwrapper, case packer) are high production volume machines provided with state-of-the-art motion controls and organized in a group called workcentre to perform the full secondary production process. Within one workcentre, secondary machines are regularly provided by different OEMs and work together because highly modular in their mechanical design. Within a workcentre older generation machines are often found due to the machines’ long life-cycle. Each machine has its own HMI (sometimes more than one) and control system which sometimes is proprietary (older generations) or legacy.

Other systems (MES, MOM, SCADA, etc.) are required to exchange information with the machines primarily in the areas of production specification, performance and quality.

In most tobacco factories, the information exchange with such a varied landscape of machine is not harmonized in terms of (a) information content, (b) communication mechanism and (c) data format and structures. As a consequence, interoperability and flexibility is very limited making development efforts for integration is huge.

The TMC Working group have set out for the present companion specification to be a significant step in the direction of specifying how to have an interoperable shop floor equipment for cigarette manufacturing.