Measurement makes efficient sense

Upgrading equipment to reach new levels of efficiency carries its fair share of risk. However, analysing to potential effect on the bottom line, this risk can be minimised, believes Optima Control Solutions

Staying in control

DRIVES AND controls are fundamental to the converting industry. Companies naturally rely on their machine control systems for production efficiency, but equally critical is the ability to analyse machine activity and thereby manage where improvements are needed.

Technological advances have meant that system reliability and accuracy have improved to the point where they can often be taken for granted and the drive and control equipment’s ability to meet health and safety regulations and to provide wide ranging functionality is generally regarded as a given.

Upgrading machines is a complicated business and, not surprisingly, is seen to carry a high degree of risk. Taking a key production machine out of service, completely changing the control system for a new, bespoke set up with modern technology, often including mechanical modifications, then putting it back into production within a fixed downtime period is an extremely cost sensitive process.

Control systems need to be user friendly so that the people that run and maintain the machines can do so efficiently and profitably. Engineers must think beyond the design and commissioning stage and consider the long and critical period of machine ownership, so that converting companies can optimise their machines productivity, availability and profitability.

Many companies now aim to analyse their machine control and functionality in the context of improving production efficiencies, targeting faster operating speeds, quicker changeovers, higher production standards and improved energy consumption – all cost factors which can help converting companies become more competitive.

For companies aiming to develop their control systems and gain a commercial advantage it is vital that they can clearly identify where operational efficiencies can be made and can access the high level technical expertise to implement them.

One control system integrator, Optima Control Solutions, believes that suppliers of machine control systems to both OEMs and manufacturing end users must measure a projects success by analysing the effect on the customer’s operating efficiency.

Managing director Michael Hill explains “When considering a control system upgrade, OEE might not be as obligatory as safety improvements, nor as unavoidable as the fundamental need to keep the machine running. However, the intelligent integration of modern drive and control technology has a significant impact on the production efficiency of a machine.”

Optima has recently completed the integration of a Siemens PLC and HMI, Parker SSD drives, ABB tension control, Pilz safety equipment and Sick optics into an analogue based Jagenburg Vari-Dur 120 slitter rewinder for Tullis Russell in Glenrothes, Scotland.

Intelligent, networked drives and high performance tension measurement equipment now operate the complex load-sharing algorithms that provide reliable and improved winding performance, while automatic sequencing of the machine operation has improved its operational repeatability. The upgrade has transformed the machine’s performance resulting in a five percent improvement in its OEE and an associated 25 percent increase in productivity.

Mr Hill adds: “We have noticed a significant change in the production management methods employed by some big name UK manufacturers. In traditionally progressive sectors, such as pharmaceuticals, automotive and large-scale food and beverage companies, there has been significant investment in production efficiency monitoring systems.

“These companies see process and production efficiency as key areas for improving profitability opportunities. They set the production benchmarks for smaller scale manufacturers. As globalisation increases the need to remain competitive follows. Production inefficiency isn’t difficult to address – once you identify the causes.”

However, it’s not just control system upgrades that can drive greater efficiency through improved productivity and reduced overheads. Identifying where processes can be improved to meet these objectives requires accurate business intelligence from the coal face of any manufacturing process, the production plant and machinery, which is arguably the part of the system that is often least well understood by the business managers.

Although of benefit to the same industrial sectors, accurate business intelligence is vital in understanding the influences affecting OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency) and in enabling productivity growth without unnecessary cost. The recognition of this was the inspiration behind the formation of InfoServe365, the sister company of Optima Control Solutions and brainchild of Mr Hill and joint managing director Adrian West.

Infoserve365’s latest offering is AssetManager, an out-of-the-box business information technology which can give manufacturers a far broader picture of their operations and the effect they are having on the bottom line.

“Regardless of industry, most companies do not need a bespoke production monitoring and analysis system,” says Mr Hill “and, to be honest, the information they provide is not always that easily interpreted. What the business manager needs is something straightforward that they can hook in to wherever they are which gives them powerful real time reports on plant activity. They don’t really care about the nuts and bolts, just the bottom line.”

AssetManager is a tool that automatically benchmarks a machine’s operational efficiency and provides business management with live and historic OEE reports. A simple touch screen interface is employed, easily wired up to new or existing operating machinery. The system uses Internet connectivity avoiding the need to install an expensive on-site server infrastructure.

Global, 24/7 access from any Internet connected PC presents registered customer’s with vital technical data. To users, invaluable business intelligence such as productivity and downtime reporting, real time status and aggregated trend analyses are available.

Providing management and engineering staff with powerful information and unprecedented views of plant activity through historical and real time analysis reports makes it much easier to pinpoint where system improvements can be made, such as faster operating speeds and changeovers, higher production standards and better energy consumption – all factors which improve product quality and help companies become much more competitive.


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