Smart choices deliver leaner processes in Packaging, Food and Beverage industry

In all industries, there is a need for more flexible and individualized production as well as increased transparency and documentable processes. Overall equipment efficiency, zero downtime and the demand for shorter production runs have created the need for smart machines and ultimately the smart factory. Now more than ever, this is important in the Packaging, Food and Beverage (PFB) industry to ensure that the products and processes are clean, safe and efficient.

Take a look at how the Smart Factory can be implemented in Packaging, Food, and Beverage industries.

Updating Controls Architecture

  • Eliminates analog wiring and reduces costs by 15% to 20%
  • Simplifies troubleshooting
  • Enables visibility down to the sensor/device
  • Simplifies retrofits
  • Reduces terminations
  • Eliminates manual configuration of devices and sensors

Automating Guided Format Change and Change Parts

  • Eliminates changeover errors
  • Reduces planned downtime to perform change over
  • Reduces product waste from start-up after a change over
  • Consistent positioning every time
  • Ensures proper change parts are swapped out

Predictive Maintenance through IO-Link

  • Enhances diagnostics
  • Reduces unplanned downtime
  • Provides condition monitoring
  • Provides more accurate data
  • Reduces equipment slows and stops
  • Reduces product waste

Traceability

  • Delivers accurate data and reduced errors
  • Tracks raw materials and finished goods
  • Date and lot code accuracy for potential product recall
  • Allows robust tags to be embedded in totes, pallets, containers, and fixtures
  • Increases security with access control

Why is all of this important?

Converting a manufacturing process to a smart process will improve many aspects and cure pains that may have been encountered in the past. In the PFB industry, downtime can be very costly due to raw material having a short expiration date before it must be discarded. Therefore, overall equipment efficiency (OEE) is an integral part of any process within PFB. Simply put, OEE is the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive. Implementing improved controls architecture, automating change over processes, using networking devices that feature predictive maintenance, and incorporating RFID technology for traceability greatly improve OEE and reduce time spent troubleshooting to find a solution to a reoccurring problem.

Through IO-Link technology and smart devices connected to IO-Link, time spent searching for the root of a problem is greatly reduced thanks to continuous diagnostics and predictive maintenance. IO-Link systems alert operators to sensor malfunctions and when preventative maintenance is required.

Unlike preventative maintenance, which only captures 18% of machine failures and is based on a schedule, predictive maintenance relies on data to provide operators and controls personnel critical information on times when they may need to do maintenance in the future. This results in planned downtime which can be strategically scheduled around production runs, as opposed to unplanned downtime that comes with no warning and could disrupt a production run.

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Reducing the time it takes to change over a machine to a different packaging size allows the process to finish the batch quicker than if a manual change over was used, which in turn means a shorter production blog 2.20 2run for that line. Automated change over allows the process to be exact every time and eliminates the risk of operator error due to more accurate positioning.

 

 

blog 2.20 3Traceability using RFID can be a very important part of the smart PFB factory. Utilizing RFID throughout the process —tracking of raw materials, finished goods, and totes leaving the facility — can greatly increase the efficiency and throughput of the process. RFID can even be applied to change part detection to identify if the correct equipment is being swapped in or out during change over.

Adding smart solutions to a PFB production line improves efficiency, increases output, minimizes downtime and saves money.

For more information on the Smart Factory check out this blog post: The Need for Data and System Interoperability in Smart Manufacturing For a deeper dive into format change check out this blog post: Flexibility Through Automated Format Changes on Packaging Machines

 

 

IO-Link — Enables Industry 4.0 and Reduces Costs

Where does IO-Link fit on the road to Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing?

IO-Link is a major enabling force for Industry 4.0 & smart manufacturing. Motivations for flexible manufacturing, efficient production and visibility require that we have more diagnostics and data available for analysis and monitoring. Lot-size-one flexible manufacturing requires that sensors and field devices be able to adapt to a rapidly changing set of requirements. With the parameterization feature of IO-Link slave devices, we can now send new parameters for production to the sensor on a part by part basis if required. For example, you could change a color sensor’s settings from red to green to orange to grey and back to red if necessary, allowing for significantly more flexible production. With efficient production, IO-Link slaves provide detailed diagnostics and condition monitoring information, allowing for trending of data, prediction of failure modes, and, thus, eliminating most downtime as we can act on the prediction data in a controlled & planned way. Trending of information like the current output of a power supply can give us new insights into changes in the machine over time or provide visibility into why a failure occurred.  For example, if a power supply reported a two amp jump in output three weeks ago, we can now ask, “what changed in our equipment 3 weeks ago that caused that?” This level of visibility can help management make better decisions about equipment health and production requirements.

Has IO-Link been widely accepted? Is anything still holding back its implementation?

In the last year IO-Link has become widely accepted. Major automation players like Balluff, Rockwell Automation, Festo, Siemens, SMC, Turck, Banner, Schmalz, Beckhoff, IFM and more than 100 other companies are engaged, promoting and, most importantly, building an installed base of functional IO-Link applications. We have seen installations in almost every industry segment: automotive OEMs, automotive tier suppliers, food & dairy machinery, primary packaging machinery, secondary packaging machinery, conveying systems, automated welding equipment, robot dress packs, on end-effectors of robots, automated assembly stations, palletized assembly lines, steel mills, wood mills, tire presses and more. The biggest roadblock to IO-Link becoming even further expanded in the market is typically a lack of skillset to support automation in the factory or a wariness of IO-Link as “another industrial network.”

What is the latest trend in IO-Link technology?

One of the biggest trends we are seeing with IO-Link technology is the reduction of analog on the machine.  With analog signals there are many “gotchas” that can ruin a good sensor application: electrical noise on the line, poor grounding design, more wiring, expensive analog input cards, and extra integration work. Analog signals cause a lot of extra math that we don’t need or want to do, for example: a linear position measurement sensor is 205mm long with a 4-20mA output tied into a 16bit input card. How many bits are there per mm?  A controls engineer needs to do a lot of mental gymnastics to integrate this into their machine. With IO-Link and a standard sensor cable, the wiring and grounding issues are typically eliminated and since IO-Link sensors report their measurements in the engineering units of the device, the mathematic gymnastics are also eliminated.  In our example, the 205mm long linear position sensor reports 205mm in the PLC, simple, faster to integrate and usually a much better overall application cost.

Collaborative Automation…It’s Not Just for Robots

Manufacturing is made up of hundreds of discrete operations. Some are repetitive, while others are more diverse. Repetitive tasks are ideal for automation while diverse tasks require more flexibility. And while automation can be extremely flexible, that comes with a high initial investment costs and significant deployment time. The alternative? People!

Humans have the unrivaled ability to adapt to a diverse and flexible manufacturing environment. They can be productive relatively quickly with proper guidance without high initial cost investments.

But as we all know, “to err is human” and this is one of the biggest issues with manual operations. People need a little guidance from time to time. Collaboration is not just for robots; It’s for complete automation systems as well.

Collaborative automation is most important at the point-of-use, where humans are performing critical operations. Some of those common operations include:

  • Manual assembly for low volume or highly flexible operations
  • Delivery of raw materials to the point-of-use
  • Kit assembly for down-stream operation
  • Machine setup and change-over
  • Machine maintenance and calibration

All of these functions can be done error-free and with little training by simply guiding people within their current work envelope, also referred to as their point-of-use. This type of a lean function provides hands-free guidance in the form of indication devices connected directly to your automation system allowing workers to stay focused on the task at hand instead of looking elsewhere for instructions.

With the technology of IO-Link, smart indication devices can now show much more information to all the people involved in specific manufacturing tasks. Automation has an immediate and direct connection to the people that are so vital.

For example, in a manually-fed weld-cell, the smart indicators are capable of not only signaling that the part is loaded correctly, but also whether the part is out of alignment (shown here by the red indicator) or that something wrong with one of the automation components such as a stuck pneumatic clamp.

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A manually-fed weld-cell with smart indicators is capable of not only signaling that the part is loaded correctly, but also if the part is out of alignment (shown by the red indicator) or that there is something wrong with one of the automation components such as a stuck pneumatic clamp.

Even better, with IIoT technology, trends can be analyzed to determine if the fixture/tool could be optimized for production or to identify common failure points. This all leads to tighter collaboration with operations, maintenance personnel and production supervisors.

A traditional kitting station, sometimes referred to as a supermarket, is another ideal application for smart indicators. Not only can they guide a single operator to the intended part to pull, they can guide multiple operators at the same time.  Also, smart indicators can inform of incorrect pulls, potential bin options (a physically closure bin), directional information, and inventory levels. And again, with IIoT technology, trends can be analyzed to determine proper layout, individual personnel performance and system throughput. The automation system collaborates with operations, forklift drivers and production supervisors.

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A traditional kitting station, sometimes referred to as a supermarket, with smart indicators to guide operators to the intended part to pull.

So, take a look and see what a collaborative automation system utilizing smart indicators can do for your manual operations. You might be surprised.

The Need for Data and System Interoperability in Smart Manufacturing

As technology advances at a faster pace and the world becomes flatter, manufacturing operations are generally focused on efficient production to maximize profitability for the organization. In the new era of industrial automation and smart manufacturing, organizations are turning to data generated on their plant floors to make sound decisions about production and process improvements.

Smart manufacturing improvements can be divided roughly into six different segments: Predictive Analytics, Track and Trace, Error Proofing, Predictive Maintenance, Ease of Troubleshooting, and Remote Monitoring.IOLink-SmartManufacturing_blog-01To implement any or all of these improvements requires interoperable systems that can communicate effectively and sensors and devices with the ability to provide the data required to achieve the manufacturer’s goals. For example, if the goal is to have error free change-overs between production cycles, then feedback systems that include identification of change parts, measurements for machine alignment changes, or even point of use indication for operators may be required.  Similarly, to implement predictive maintenance, systems require devices that provide alerts or information about their health or overall system health.

Traditional control system integration methods that rely heavily on discrete or analog (or both) modes of communication are limited to specific operations. For example, a 4-20mA measurement device would only communicate a signal between 4-20mA. When it goes beyond those limits there is a failure in communication, in the device or in the system. Identifying that failure requires manual intervention for debugging the problem and wastes precious time on the manufacturing floor.

The question then becomes, why not utilize only sensors and devices with networking ability such as a fieldbus node? This could solve the data and interoperability problems, but it isn’t an ideal solution:

  • Most fieldbuses do not integrate power and hence require devices to have separate power drops making the devices bulkier.
  • Multiple fieldbuses in the plant on different machines requires the devices to support multiple fieldbus/network protocols. This can be cost prohibitive, otherwise the manufacturer will need to stock all varieties of the same sensor.
  • Several of the commonly used fieldbuses have limitations on the number nodes you can add — in general 256 nodes is capacity for a subnet. Additional nodes requires new expensive switches and other hardware.

IOLink-SmartManufacturing_blog-02IO-Link provides one standard device level communication that is smart in nature and network independent, thus it enables interoperability throughout the controls pyramid making it the most suitable choice for smart manufacturing.

We will go over more specific details on why IO-Link is the best suited technology for smart manufacturing in next week’s blog.

 

Connecting Fluid Power to the Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0

The next industrial revolution has already begun. To remain a viable business, it’s time to invest in IIoT and Industry 4.0 applications, regardless of whether you are a “mechanical-only” company or not.Industry 4.0 & Industrial IoT

Industrial Internet of Things

IIoT is simply about connecting devices on the plant floor to a network. These connections provide new ways to generate and collect useful data. This network can provide visibility down into the machine, enabling predictive maintenance and big data analytics. With IIoT, we are able to improve overall equipment effectiveness and provide new insights into our business.

Industry 4.0

On a grander scale, Industry 4.0 is a blend of digitalization, new technology and practical decisions to improve manufacturing. Industry 4.0 aims to achieve unprecedented flexibility, efficient production and visibility at every level of production. Industry 4.0 has impact throughout our processes and across the supply chain. Its philosophy blends lean initiatives, automation, technology, materials, downtime reduction upgrades, and investments in overall equipment effectiveness. This philosophy keeps the current generation of manufacturers competitive in a global market. While the German government set this precedent for Industry 4.0, the entire manufacturing world must now take on this challenge.

Implementing IIoT and Industry 4.0

Standard systems like hydraulic power units (HPUs) are receiving a major boost by becoming IIoT-ready. Traditional on/off flow or pressure switches are upgrading to provide information beyond the simple switch points. In addition, analog devices like temperature, pressure, flow, and level transducers can become IIoT-ready through open standard technologies like IO-Link. These technologies add additional value by incorporating easy-to-report parameters, diagnostics, events and warnings. A standard HPU can become a smart power unit with minimal modification.

The value of IIoT increases with predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and ease of troubleshooting. Imagine not having to climb down into the oil-drenched pit of a stamping press to trouble shoot an issue. With IIoT-ready technologies, we can connect to the devices and know exactly what needs fixing. In addition, we can possibly predict the failure before it occurs. This can dramatically reduce machine downtime as well as the time spent in hazardous locations.

Selecting IIoT-ready technologies is only one step of the program to fully leverage the value of Industry 4.0. We must also analyze processes and determine how to implement flexibility into production. After that, we must then discuss where automation technology makes sense to support lean processes. Manufacturers can see into every aspect of their production while manufacturing hundreds of variations of product in the same line, all while assuring quality standards with virtually zero machine downtime.

The difference between Industry 4.0 and IIoT

Industry 4.0 is a cultural philosophy about how we can use increased visibility, flexibility and efficiency to be more competitive. IIoT’s connectivity is an enabling force for Industry 4.0. IIoT connects our devices, our data, our machines and our people to the advantage of our company and customers.  By embracing both, it is easier to achieve positive results and sustain global competitiveness.

Article originally posted on Hydraulics & Pneumatics.

Everything You Need to Know to be Successful at IIoT

Do you need to quickly ramp up your IIoT knowledge? Do you want to know why manufacturers are investing in IIoT? For years this blog has shared many of the individual values that smart manufacturing, Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things can bring to manufacturers. I am going to quickly summarize the key findings and provide links to the full entries so you can easily have at your fingertips all of the advice you need to be successful at IIoT.

  • Industry 4.0 & IIoT, who cares?!?! You should. Even in 2016, IIoT investments were rapidly growing and more than a fifth of technology budgets were being invested in data analytics, IIoT and Industry 4.0. This has not slowed down in 2018!
  • 5 Common IIoT Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. The first point is the best point, every IIoT project that ignores the IT department is doomed for failure. IT & OT must work closely together for a successful data project in the factory.
  • Capture vs Control – The Hidden Value of True IIoT Solutions. In automation, everything seems to revolve around the PLC. This is very much an Industry 3.0 way of thinking. As we take on the next industrial revolution, devices can talk to each other in new and incredible ways, and we can capture data without impacting a working production line or modifying PLC code.
  • JSON Objects and How They Can Streamline an IIoT Application. How the data is captured is important to understand when you are ready to take action and implement your first project. By utilizing web tools like JSON, we can effectively capture data for IIoT applications.
  • What does that “Ready for IIoT” tag really mean? But how do I select a device that is going to be actually ready for IIoT? Features like condition monitoring, automatic configuration and scalability make for robust IIoT projects that can stand the test of time.

When you are convinced and ready to take action on an IIoT project kickoff for an Industry 4.0 team, take a look at the blogs below which can help you make an action plan for success and get buy-in from management.

  • How to Balance the IIoT Success Equation. What should you and your team be focusing on? How do we set a strategy, manage data, and take action to run a successful project? All of these need to be in balance and planned for to have long term vitality in your IIoT investments.
  • How do I justify an IIoT investment to my boss? We can show ROI through reduced downtime, by tying our project to corporate goals of productivity or utilization and you can point out that your competitors are heavily investing in this topic.
  • Enabling the Visibility Provided by the Industrial Internet of Things. And last but not least, there is a seriously strong technology available on the market from virtually every automation vendor that enables and scales IIoT like no other. That technology is IO-Link. With IO-Link you can create visibility down to every sensor in the plant and gain the flexibility and reliability that you need for sustainable competitiveness in the global market.

To learn more about IO-Link and how it enables machine builders and manufacturers to be successful with IIoT, check out this interactive infographic.

Back to the Basics: IO-Link

In the last post about the Basics of Automation, we learned how distances, travel, angles and pressures can be measured contactlessly, whether linear or rotary. In this blog, let’s take a closer look at IO-Link technology.

Throughout the history of manufacturing, as the level of automation increased, the demand for intelligent field devices grew. A variety of interfaces with different mechanical and electrical characteristics were created, and the need for standardization grew. The cooperative work of several companies developed the viable solution. Like  USB in the PC world, IO-Link in automation leads to a considerable simplification of installation with simultaneously extended diagnostics and parameterization capability.

IO-Link 1

It’s a worldwide standardized I/O technology according to IEC 61131-9, in order to communicate from the control to the lowest level of automation. The universal interface is a fieldbus independent point-to-point connection that works with an unshielded industrial cable. The IO-Link Community founded in 2006, consisting of leading automation manufacturers, promotes IO-Link with the acronym “”USE””:

  • Universal – IO-Link is an international standard (IEC 61131-9)
  • Smart – IO-Link enables diagnostics and parameter-setting of devices
  • Easy – IO-Link provides great simplification and cost reduction

System Components

IO-Link master
Also mentioned as the heart of the IO-Link installation, it communicates with the controller via the respective fieldbus as well as downward using IO-Link to the sensor/actuator level.

Sensors and Actuators
The IO-Link capable intelligent sensors and actuators are connected directly to the IO-Link master via IO-Link. This enables the simplest installation, the best signal quality, parameterization and diagnostics.

Hubs
The sensor/actuator hub exchanges signals with the binary and/or analog sensors and actuators and communicates with the IO-Link master.

IO-Link 2

To learn more about the Basics of Automation, visit www.balluff.com.

The Evolution of RFID in Metalworking

RFID – A key technology in modern production

It’s not just IIoT that has focused attention on RFID as a central component of automation. As a key technology, radio frequency identification has been long established in production. The inductive operating principle guarantees ruggedness and resistance to environmental stress factors. This makes the system highly reliable in function and operation. With unlimited read/write cycles and real-time communication, RFID has become indispensable. The beginnings for the industrial use of RFID go far back. RFID was first successfully used on machine tools in the mid-1980’s. Since the usage of RFID tags on cutting tool holders has been internationally standardized (ISO 7388 for SK shanks, ISO12164 for HSK shanks), there has been strong growth of RFID usage in cutting tool management.

Cutting tool in tool taper with RFID chip

Track-and-trace of workpieces

Modern manufacturing with a wide bandwidth of batch sizes and ever compressed production times demands maximum transparency. This is the only way to meet the high requirements for flexibility and quality, and to minimize costs. Not only do the tools need to be optimally managed, but also the finished parts and materials used must be unambiguously recognized and assigned.

Workpiece tracking with RFID on pallet system

RFID frequencies LF and HF – both RFID worlds come together

In terms of data transmission for cutting tool identification, established systems have settled on LF (Low Frequency), as this band has proven to be especially robust and reliable in metal surroundings. Data is read with LF at a frequency of 455 kHz and written at 70 kHz.

When it comes to intralogistics and tracking of workpieces, HF (High Frequency) has become the standard in recent years. This is because HF systems with a working frequency of 13.56 MHz offer greater traverse speeds and a more generous read/write distance.

As a result, RFID processor units have been introduced that offer frequency-independent application. By using two different read-/write heads (one for tool identification and one for track-and-trace of workpieces) that each interface to a single processor unit, the communication to the control system is achieved in an economical manner.

RFID processor for both tool identification and workpiece tracking

New Hybrid Read-Write Head

Industrial equipment is designed for a working life of 20 years or even more. Therefore, in production you often find machines which were designed in the last century next to new machines that were installed when the production capacity was enlarged. In such a brown field factory you have the coexistence of proven technology and modern innovative equipment. For the topic of industrial RFID, it means that both low frequency and high frequency RFID tags are used. To use both the existing infrastructure and to introduce modern and innovative equipment, RFID read/write heads have been recently developed with LF and HF technology in one housing. It does not matter whether a LF RFID tag or a HF RFID tag approaches the RFID head. The system will automatically detect whether the tag uses LF or HF technology and will start to communicate in the right frequency.

This hybrid read-write head adds flexibility to the machine tools and tool setters as you can use the entire inventory of your cutting tools and tool holders.

RFID Tool ID tag ready for the Cloud

The classical concept of data storage in Tool ID is a decentralized data storage, which means that all relevant data (tool dimensions, tool usage time, machining data, etc.) of a tool/tool holder is stored on the RFID tag which is mounted on the single tool holder. The reliability and availability of this concept data has been proven for more than 25 years now.

With the Internet of Things IIOT, the concept of cloud computing is trendy. All — tool setter, machine tool and tool stock systems — are connected to the cloud and exchange data. In this case only an identifier is needed to move and receive the data to and from the cloud. For this type of data management Tool ID tags with the standard (DIN 69873) size diameter 10 x 4,5 mm are available now in a cost effective version with a 32 Byte memory.

Evergreen – more modern than ever: RFID Tool ID in Metalworking

Learn more about the Evolution of RFID in Metalworking from true experts at www.balluff.com  or at  Balluff events worldwide

Robot Collaborative Operation

In previous blogs, we discussed how “Safety Over IO-Link Helps Enable Human-Robot Collaboration” and “Safety & Productivity”. We’ll build on these blogs and dive more deeply into two robot collaborative operating modes: Safety-Rated Monitored Stop (SRMS) and Speed & Separation Monitoring (SSM).

Human-Robot Collaboration

Human-robot collaboration has received a lot of attention in the media, yet there is still confusion about the meaning and benefits of various types of collaboration. In a previous blog we briefly discussed the four collaborative modes defined by the global standard ISO/TS 15066. The most well-known mode is “power & force limiting”, which includes robots made by Universal Robots and Rethink. As the name implies, these robots are designed with limited power and force (and other ergonomic factors) to avoid injury or damage, but they are also slower, less precise and less powerful than traditional robots, reducing their usefulness in many common applications.

Tom K Blog

The safety-rated monitored stop (SRMS) and speed & separation monitoring (SSM) modes are very interesting because they allow larger, more powerful, traditional robots to be used collaboratively — though in a different manner than power & force limited robots. The updated standards allow the creation of a shared workspace for the robot and human and define how they may interact in this space. Both SRMS and SSM require this shared workspace to be monitored using advanced safety sensors and software, which create a restricted space and a safeguarded space. With SRMS, the robot stops before the operator enters the collaborative workspace — this requires a safety sensor to detect the operator.  Similarly, in SSM the goal is to control the separation distance between the human and robot, but it can be dynamic, rather than static as in SRMS. The SRMS separation distance can never be less than the protective distance and this requires sensors to verify the separation.

Spaces

The robot’s restricted space is a 3-dimensional area created to limit where the robot can operate. In the past this was done through limit switches, hard stops or sensors such as Balluff’s BNS; now the standards have been updated to allow this to be done in software with internal robot feedback that can dynamically change to adapt to the robot’s programmed operation. The robot controller can now restrict the robot’s motion to a specific envelope and monitor its actual position against its programmed position within this envelope using software tools such as Safe Move or Dual Check Safety.

The safeguarded space is defined and monitored using safety sensors. The robot might know and assure its own safe position within the restricted space, but it doesn’t know whether or not a person or obstruction is in this space, therefore a safeguarded space needs to be created using safety sensors. Advanced sensors not only detect people or obstructions, but can also actively track their position around the robot and send warning or stop signals to the safety controller and robot. Safety laser scanners, 3D safety cameras and other safety sensors can create zones, which can also be dynamically switched depending on the operating state of the robot or machine.

Closely coordinating the restricted space and safeguarded space creates a flexible and highly productive system. The robot can operate in one zone, while an operator loads/unloads in a different zone. The robot sensors monitor the restricted space while the safety sensors monitor the safeguarded space – and when the robot moves to the next phase of operation, these can dynamically switch to new zones. Warning zones can also be defined to cause the robot to slow down if someone starts to approach too closely and then stop if the person comes too close.

Blog_graphic_Safe-space_081718-01

System Linkages

Linking the restricted space and safeguarded space to create an effective, closely coordinated human-robot SSM/SRMS collaborative system requires several elements: a high performance robot and controller with advanced software (e.g. Safe Move), a fieldbus and a variety of built-in and external sensors (standard and safety).

Significant growth in robot collaborative applications utilizing safety-rated monitored stop (SRMS) and speed & separation monitoring (SSM) will occur as robot users strive to improve productivity and safety of traditional robot systems – especially in applications requiring faster speed, higher force and more precision than that offered by power & force limited robots.

Process Audits – the most powerful tool you probably aren’t using

For a myriad of reasons, when industrial machinery is being designed and constructed, the right sensing/connectivity product with the right application-specific attributes doesn’t always get designed into the zone of the machinery for the function it’s intended to perform.  This can result in consumption, excessive and expensive machine downtime and increased overall cost to operate the machinery.  A process audit, which is used in end-user environments to document specific sensing/electronic measurement/network/connectivity issues, can assist with reducing machine downtime, increasing productivity and reducing material consumption on the plant floor.

Getting to Root Cause of Failure

Finding out and documenting exactly why things prematurely fail in specific electronic locations by Cell Number and OPS Number, photographing each problematic sensor location and offering solutions to areas where components are prematurely failing is the heart and soul of an audit. It’s pretty amazing, but once problem areas are documented, and shared with every pertinent player from the corner office to the operator, it’s hard to refute and even harder to ignore.

Understanding the problem and why it is happening, allows a company to establish a timeline and an action plan for retrofitting sensor locations and developing best practice solutions that will enhance productivity, decrease machine downtime, build better parts with efficiency, and save the organization money.

Pictured below is a plain Jane, plastic faced, M5 inductive proximity sensor with minimal rated sensing distance (Sn) in a hostile spot that a customer is using to detect small “L” brackets on a huge welded panel.  If five of these are used per day (common), and the purchase price for the device is approximately $56 each, this equates to $280 per day or $1,680 per six-day work week. That totals to $84,000 spent per year for one inductive sensor in one individual sensor location.  If machine downtime is a nominal $250/minute (a very low estimation) and it takes five minutes to change out this sensor, machine downtime equates to $375,000 (1,500 sensors x $250).  One sensor can potentially cost this customer $459k per 50 week manufacturing year when factoring in material and downtime.

Dave Bird

If best practice solutions save the customer 50% (In fairness, most customers will only go so far to improve the process.), the business will see a savings of $229,500!

This is a significant payoff for the relatively small cost of an audit. Some businesses will provide them at no charge in the hope that the customer will then use that business to implement the best practice solutions — a win-win situation.

A small price to pay

Audits aren’t reserved for only harsh manufacturing environments like metal stamping and robotic welding. Any end-user manufacturing discipline that integrates sensors, connectivity, RFID, and networking systems that are consumed in the process of a hostile manufacturing environment is a candidate for an audit.

Hostile manufacturing can show up in all industries in all parts of the country.  The process audit can be a valuable tool for you and for your customers.