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As manufacturers all over the world race to compete in a dynamic and global market, process improvement, waste reduction, and safety all become more and more pivotal within organizations in every industry. More and more frequently, it has become necessary for all types of manufacturers to address outdated technologies and processes with some regularity. System Integrators play an integral role in helping to address these concerns and in offering cutting edge, sustainable solutions. Recently, we took on the challenge of addressing some inefficiencies that were creating work stoppages, waste, and a level of unpredictability for a crimping operation at a cosmetic manufacturer's production facility.
The customer was finding that their Servo control system was having some issues with reliability, creating both unnecessary downtime along with quality issues. We were approached about evaluating what was causing these issues and making the necessary changes to correct the problem. It was found that some of the equipment in use was either outdated or insufficient for what the customer was trying to accomplish. Communications from the machine used in the process were identified as the main culprit for these issues.
Upon investigation, it was found that Ethernet cables being passed through a slip ring could be attributed for most of the communication issues from the machine. We quickly went to work, replacing all the electrical components including a fixed panel subplate, turret PLC, twelve servo drives and motors, as well as an HMI PC onsite and brought two production lines back up with minimal downtime. Our ability to address the issues quickly and come up with effective solutions in order to minimize loss of production between the two lines affected left a lasting impression on the customer.
It's important to understand the utilization of automation can lead to long term, sustained production by addressing key parts and processes that need to be changed or replaced on a production line or facility rather than reinventing the wheel. Think of it along the lines of an automobile: it isn't necessarily time to purchase a vehicle when the tires are bald or the brake pads are worn. What we can do is offer stop gap solutions that allow the customer to make the necessary changes while still maintaining a production schedule.
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Replacing a legacy control system holds endless opportunities to create a real nightmare. Follow these steps to avoid the pitfalls and create a success story when replacing your legacy control system.
Step 1: Know the Demands
Every stakeholder has their own demands when installing a new control system. Each demand must be matched with a solid solution and a well defined approach.
Step 2: Know the Process
The initial definition of your S88 phases often determines the success or failure of the system. If the phases are too simple, the recipes become inordinately complex. If the phases are too complicated, you end up with spaghetti code that is impossible to troubleshoot and requires a complete rewrite to change anything. A good precess definition up front saves a lot of problems in the end.
Step 3: Know the Benefits
The big benefits come from capacity, quality, and flexibility for new products. The repeatability of the automated system - allowing the plant to focus on the best sequence and conditions - resulted in one plant producing 70 recipes on 5 different reactors to raise "first time right" from 60% to above 90% within one week of installing the new system.
Step 4: Know the Systems
Know the current installation and the requirements of the new system to develop an effective cut-over strategy. For example, a thorough understanding of the electrical details of the old and new systems and the field devices controlled, including card impedance's, leakage current, etc. can avoid a huge retrofit nightmare.
Step 5: Know How to Execute
Project execution requires a proven approach that can handle all of the details. The end goals are to eliminate surprises, mitigate risks, realize potentials, maintain project control, and satisfy all stakeholders.
There is much that can go wrong in the replacement of a legacy control system. But an intelligent, step-by-step approach can avoid the nightmares and allow you to sleep at night.