From automated data collection to process automation
Data is valuable in many ways, including process automation. Many automation solutions, which are still in full working order today, offer companies room for improvement through the continuous development of systems that can collect data from the field, process it and then use it to increase production efficiency.
New technologies offer opportunities to capitalize on existing data and collect new data to transform it into incremental value for the company.
The "raw" data(what can be collected at any point of a production line,which alone would be insignificant), if combined with other data and interpreted with contextual logic, becomes significant for the entire system (plant, line or entire factory).
Moreover, if the set of collected data is analyzed on a historical time axis, it is possible to identify additional information that is absolutely important and can offer significant opportunities for efficiency improvement.
IoT: Internet of Things, the ally of analytics
Thanks to the modern industrial idea of the Internet of Things (IoT), real-time analytics can be leveraged to use the data that a plant's machines produce. This allows a company to surface important information that can be used to make decisions about the plant that can optimize its efficiency and productivity.
In process automation, knowing whether a machine is running or not is certainly important, but understanding how it is running and measuring its performance against a specific set of benchmarks is definitely relevant, especially from a prevention perspective. The availability of digital information related to plants and machines(Digital Twin, also opens up further advantages: simulation of the production process to assess in advance any positive or negative impact of specific environmental conditions or configuration of machines and plants; prototype evaluation to accelerate the design process of new plants and at the same time reduce implementation costs.
Through data analysis it is therefore possible to realize, for example, that the operation of a single machine is creating inefficiency on the entire line and therefore on the entire production process..
The fundamental index to refer to is the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness): a global indicator of production efficiency that represents the performance of a resource or a set of resources, whether human or technical, during the time in which they are available to produce. OEE can be calculated in different ways, depending on the type of plant and process considered, and the machines that make it up.
The OEE calculated for each process unit can be broken down into three parts:
- Availability: percentage of time the unit is available for processing;
- Performance:: production speed in relation to the expected speed;
- Quality: percentage of products according to specifications compared to the products started to be processed.
There are many benefits to be gained from calculating and monitoring OEE:
- Improvement of key production and economic drivers: yields, production, energy, quality;
- Maximization of productivity by reducing cycle times and decreasing downtime;
- Ability to identify correlations between particular products, processes, machinery and performance losses;
- Training of operators in continuous improvement with focus on the concepts of availability, performance and quality.
L OEE is a fundamental parameter in production, but if we analyze in detail the elements that compose it and the indication it provides, it is easy to understand that similar concepts can also be applied in environments that are not necessarily productive.
Being able to measure the level of performance of a machine that deals with sorting or a complex handling line where several conveyor belts and various sensors deal with the automated handling of parcels, becomes essential to be able to efficiently orchestrate the automation of intra-logistics processes.
Also in the airport sector many of the parameters that are used to calculate OEE find their applicability. BHS (Baggage Handling System) systems, for example, must not only deal with sorting and handling a large number of baggages of different weights and sizes, but must also carry out certain controls and manage handling logics that have the aim not only of managing the flow in the shortest possible time, but also of ensuring the correct execution of all useful controls in full respect of time, all while ensuring the highest level of security. sistemi di BHS (Baggage Handling System) per esempio, non devono occuparsi solo di smistare e movimentare un numero importante di bagagli di pesi e misure differenti, ma devono anche svolgere determinati controlli e gestire logiche di movimentazione che non hanno il solo scopo di gestire il flusso nel minor tempo possibile, ma assicurare nel pieno rispetto dei tempi la corretta esecuzione di tutti i controlli utili, il tutto assicurando il massimo livello di sicurezza.
Knowing how to combine the ability to integrate technologies and systems in the field with the competence to design and implement software platforms for processing the data collected, is therefore a key element in helping companies to develop tools capable of governing their value chain.Read More
Case History: automated warehouse handling systems
Automated warehouse handling systems.
The customer asked Automate Srl for help to intervene on laser-guided AGVs with the aim of reducing maintenance costs but without being able to act on the layout of the warehouse spaces.
The intervention was not limited to the technological adaptation of the machines but extended to the optimization of handling procedures with the aim of increasing the efficiency of flows.
While with the technological refresh we were able to significantly reduce maintenance costs by adapting the electronics and software to the technologies of the market, through the optimization of flows we were able to increase the benefits thanks to a more linear use of the devices so as to significantly reduce the criticality of the mechanical and electrical systems.
We have therefore worked on different aspects to be able to complete the project of renewal and optimization of the automated systems of the warehouse.
In particular, the intervention was based on:
- Reconfiguration of routes;
- Optimization of routes;
- • Replacement (for each AVG) of the connection control electronics (networks to which the door status signals are connected) and the interface (systems for interfacing the AGVs and the access doors to the various rooms via optical messages);
- Redesign of the IT architecture for managing the AGVs and the traffic map;
- Replacement of the navigation system with standard products;
- Mechanical modification of the forks interaxis in order to be able to handle specific Load Units (UDC);
- Development of AGV software and relative NDC navigation system.
While maintaining the same layout and the same machines, the customer has obtained an updated system from a technological point of view, easier and cheaper to maintain, but above all a handling system with high energy and mechanical efficiency able to ensure optimized operating costs.
In order to obtain quality results while respecting one's own needs, the solution is always to rely on true professionals who can give a 360° view of the interventions that can be carried out. Contact Automate now. Contatta Automate adesso.Read More
Revamping: better to adapt the existing or implement new solutions?
Technology refresh of machines and plants, better known as revampinghas always had as its main objective to save investments made in the past thanks to interventions to increase their resistance over time, lengthening their life cycle.
lengthening their life cycle. Without disrupting the entire production process, it is possible to transform the tools that companies already have in order to significantly increase their production capacity increasing revenues and margins.
It's definitely a cost-effective approach that can implement efficiencies, and it's also often a way to get important results quickly.
Retrofitting working equipment with the latest technology provides immediate savings in maintenance costs. With the introduction of sensors capable of collecting new data or simply increasing the amount and frequency of data collected, you gain a greater ability to analyze what happens during production cycles and/or material handling. All this offers the opportunity to act to improve performance, reduce machine downtime, make mechanical improvements that can limit the wear and tear of certain components and thus obtain additional economic benefits. act to improve performance
The technological refresh represented by revamping is not a simplereplacement of existing components, but it requires the adaptation and/or the development of software capable of obtaining the maximum in terms of performance as well as a high capacity of reverse engineering not only of the software and of the electrical/electronic architecture of the machine or of the plant, but also and above all of the processes linked to it.
Acting at software level is not only necessary but allows to bring further improvements able to increase the speed of execution of the algorithms and therefore the speed with which a machine, a plant, an entire line is able to work.
But is revamping always the right solution? What are the scenarios in which it is more convenient to implement new solutions?
Obviously the cost/benefit ratio is the first evaluation to make in the choice, provided that the numbers on which we base ourselves are real and verified. However, it is necessary to consider in this report not only the direct costs of the intervention activities, and therefore the benefits in terms of cost optimization and increased capacity, but also the indirect impact that the intervention for technological adaptation will have on all activities.
It is therefore important to analyze various aspects to best support the decision-making process, for example:
- How long can production be stopped to allow for interventions?
- By intervening on a plant to make it more efficient, will I obtain benefits on the whole line or will I have to intervene also on other plants of the same line?
- If the upgrading of a plant requires action to be taken on other machines as well, can I always adopt a revamping logic for each of the machines on which it is necessary to intervene?
- If I have to intervene on the entire line, is the cost/benefit ratio of a revamping solution always higher than that of building a new line?
In short, each situation is specific therefore is important that in each intervention you do not limit yourself to assessing the specific impact but analyze it in the broadest possible company context.
Choosing professionals capable of guiding you in the choice of solutions to address current needs but open to adjustments and evolutions for future needs.Read More