Digitalization Digest: Improving Manufacturing Processes with Effective Production Tracking

A company that specializes in the manufacture of very large open-die forgings as well as open-die forged products such as discs, rings, sleeves, and shafts from high quality, clean steel contracted Process and Data Automation (PDA) to install systems to determine equipment efficiencies at two of their plants, the first a steel mill and the second a forge. These new systems were connected to the SLCs using third-party hardware modules, to allow effective tracking of the performance of each of the machines, e.g., the mills, lathes, and saws, in the two plants. Of particular interest to the company was the ability to track the occurrence of downtime and to establish the reasons for the stoppages. 

 

With this information, the company hoped to be able to correct any issues that may develop with their manufacturing processes. Presently the company is unable to obtain tangible information from either the reporting or data collection systems operating in the plants to assess maintenance issues or typical production aspects.

 

With the Ignition project as the OEE system, the larger accomplishment in undertaking and completing the project was the aggregation of relevant production data from the vastly different systems. Success depended upon PDA’s ability to find a relatable way to access the relevant information from each of the different sources in a way that was useful to the end-user.

 

The first OEE system was installed and commissioned successfully at the steel mill, leading to the request for a second similar system to be installed at the forge, and presently a third system is being considered. The project was organized into three phases, i.e., Hardware, Visualization Software, and Reporting & OEE. The installation required extensive upfront investigations to collect data automatically from eight machines, including four sawmills with CompactLogix Processors, three mills with Siemens 840D PL/SL CNC controls and a lathe with Siemens 840D CNC controls. PDA planned to utilize Inductive Automation’s Ignition software, which is very versatile and expandable, for the overall data visualization, providing live Data Screens displayed on the TV monitors in production and on the operator’s station at each machine. The connection of Ignition to different technologies with different platforms was involved and it was necessary to (a) identify where the relevant data existed within the machine, (b) extract that data, and (c) aggregate it into a user-friendly form. The development of this capability was entirely a consequence of the skills of the PDA engineers.

 

The variety of machines to be monitored did pose a challenge to the installation of the OEE system. The type of connection to a particular machine to obtain the relevant data had to be determined individually and, in some cases, a degree of creativity was required. 

Several of the Siemen’s lathes, basically CNC machines, did contain a server that provided PDA with a connection port. But the older lathes did not contain this server and it was necessary to upgrade the machine to support OPC-UA, which allowed data to be accessed. (OPC-UA denotes an industrial protocol that allows information to be shared between different machines or devices using a standardized protocol. In general terms it is a method of connecting to multiple things that support the universal protocol). The company completed these upgrades as required.

 

The newly installed OEE system allows the company to track the performance of the machines in terms of uptime as well as recording downtime and provides an overall efficiency number. Once the versatile software is implemented it allows a determination of the lifetimes of the different saws, saw blades, drill bits, etc. together with knowledge of the source of the items and the operating conditions so that selection of items to be purchased is facilitated. The primary purpose of the OEE system, however, is to track uptime and identify reasons for stoppages in production, allowing corrective action to be taken.

 

The OEE system in the steel mill also provided the capability to track performance based on the load on a saw blade. The power consumption of the machine indicates that the blade is cutting a piece of steel and not running idle. Further, with knowledge of the lifetime of a blade as a function of operating conditions, it is possible to predict a likely blade break in operation, which, when it does occur, can ruin an entire run. The ability to change out saw blades has led to improved rates of production.

 

Future considerations for the company already include installation of a third OEE system based on Ignition. Discussions with personnel from the forge allowed PDA to describe the versatility and expandable nature of the Ignition software. It was pointed out that the system was, in fact, an entire SCADA system. 

However, in its current capacity at the steel mill and at the forge, it serves as just an OEE system. A future project will be based on monitoring the electric, gas, and water utilities as well as the waste output from the buildings on one site.      

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Digitalization Digest: Upgrade to a Food & Beverage Plant

The next entry in our Digitalization Digest, articles and thoughts regarding manufacturing plant digitalization, focuses on a project for an international manufacturer of private label food and beverages across North America and Italy for retail grocery, food service, and industrial customers.

Limited production capacity, due in part to an obsolescent network within the plant, had become a major problem. Process and Data Automation (PDA) commissioned and tested the production equipment, as well as evaluated and programmed the control network which included PLC and HMI work. During the evaluation step, it was established that the existing pumps in the plant and their VFD controls were unable to meet production needs and should be replaced. In addition, the existing controls operated on DeviceNet, a system that the plant had already decided to phase out, represented a further limitation.

PDA recommended the installation of an Ethernet control system with retention and careful use of the existing legacy PLC processor. Upon further discussion and evaluation, it was then determined that network evaluation, together with a segregation strategy, was essential to ensure that the increased traffic from the new equipment would not interfere with other operations in the plant. PDA provided the engineering and hardware for the PLC programming to integrate two new SPXFlow Universal TS series pumps and replace two Powerflex 40 drives with Powerflex 525 drives.

During the project, problems associated with merging new technologies with the aging infrastructure were successfully overcome by being able to provide the plant with a more modular system, as well as the capability to meet the production demands.  Also, by using the approach of retaining functional legacy equipment, the overall cost of the project was significantly reduced.

Overall, the changes to the plant simply represented an upgrade to the existing processing system and replacement of the older controls that had operated at a lower feed rate. The new equipment provided enhanced diagnostic capabilities that allow both tracking and recovery of data. PDA discussed with the client the need for future improvements in the plant, including:

  • Upgrading the obsolete PLCs
  • Line Diagnostics/OEE
  • Network migration (DeviceNet to Ethernet) for the remaining legacy equipment

PDA is a full-service, CSIA Certified industrial control systems integration firm. The Controls Engineering group specializes in physical automation system design, programming, and commissioning. PDA also features a dedicated Digitalization Group (DSG) that connects automated equipment and systems to the business system environment including protected recipe systems, data collection and reporting, and data historian implementation. DSG can provide the systems you need to set your systems up for proper operation and then provide the tools you need to make sure you execute as planned.

Read More | Posted In: Digitalization Digest, News