Food and beverage manufacturers of all sizes are facing huge operational challenges right now. Sudden increases in consumer demand, shifting expectations, changes in food safety legislation, and emerging technologies, all require companies to be responsive, agile and flexible. There is also the matter of ensuring seamless production continuity, to ensure consumer confidence around maintaining food and beverage supplies.
As digital technologies continue to transform global markets, no industry remains untouched, and food and beverage manufacturing is certainly no exception.
Let’s consider how each of these three factors can impact day-to-day operations on the production floor, and how leading manufacturers are adapting to win.
Standards and Legislation
In recent years, food and beverage manufacturing regulations have changed significantly across the globe due to technological and scientific advancements. Europe has long been at the forefront of these legislative changes and successful companies will likely be those who stay ahead of the curve by implementing changes sooner rather than later. These companies will avoid both production downtime, and the potential for higher costs associated with refits, when new legislation eventually passes.
Even in our current outcomes-based regulatory framework, reducing cleaning time and ensuring impeccable hygiene standards continue to be key areas of focus. As the physical landscape of manufacturing shifts to accommodate the increased presence of technology, so too will our approaches to safety and cleanliness.
This leads us to our next topic: the presence and proliferation of technology in food production spaces.
Food Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility
There’s no denying that we all have a responsibility to implement sustainable environmental practices. But from a commercial perspective, it’s also worth your time to embrace sustainability as millennials and Gen Z begin to dominate the consumer market.
The consumers of the future will place huge value on environmental sustainability, and they’ll also go out of their way to support companies who follow environmentally friendly practices.
Manufacturers that want to reach this audience will need to implement changes that reflect this shift in consumer priorities and effectively communicate the changes that have been made. To do this, you’ll need to streamline every aspect of your business with a new focus on environmental sustainability.
Whether it’s recycling production materials to close the loop on waste outputs, or reducing the energy consumed during cleaning, every part of your process should be moving towards a more sustainable future, either directly or indirectly. For example, Rittal’s HD enclosures are specifically designed to make them quicker and easier to clean. HD enclosures are typically power washed, so reducing the time it takes to clean them will lower both water and energy usage.
In order to offset the cost increases associated with making these transitions, industry leaders are continuing to refine efficiency-boosting practices like CIP to make production facilities greener.
Technology and Digital Transformation
At this point, we can consider the massive impact that the Internet of Things (IoT) will have on manufacturing is a sure thing. Telstra puts it very clearly when they state that “In an increasingly automated manufacturing environment, having multiple machines communicating with each other and being managed and diagnosed remotely offers benefits that are self-evident.”
These smart machines pose a unique challenge to the food and bev industry; their delicate circuitry and sensors must be on the production floor but must also be protected from contaminating/being contaminated by the manufacturing process.
Additionally, these complex computer systems need to be compliant with current and future food safety regulations and be well-suited to withstand increasingly ambitious CIP procedures.
Now is the time to consider how you can update your existing manufacturing systems to try and account for the changes that are taking place in the industry. Whether it’s investigating new, sustainable production methods, or investing in physical infrastructure that supports new technologies, now is the time to move confidently forward or get left behind. Optimising every piece of the manufacturing puzzle is essential to maintain a competitive advantage.
By Emma Ryde, Rittal’s Product Manager Industrial & Outdoor Enclosures.
For more info about our range of Rittal Enclosure Range check out our website or call LC Automation on 01254 685900, our experts will be happy to help!
Applying new technology to a physical process or manufacturing system is an essential part of progress, however the practical side of implementing the latest Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Smart Technology solutions is bringing its own unique challenges. That in turn is leading to new automation solutions.
Chris Evans – Marketing and Operations Group Manager of Mitsubishi Electric UK looks at the latest challenges and solutions.
When looking to develop and install new smart manufacturing systems at an existing location one of the most important pieces of groundwork that needs to be carried out is to fully understand what the organisation is trying to achieve and what are their immediate “pinch points?” In addition for an existing location, what is the level of automation and infrastructure that already exists and what needs to be added to create a bridge between the operational technology (OT) & the information technology (IT) levels in the organisation. This vertical integration of a factory or plant has machines with automation on one side and the enterprise level on the other and it is the ability to gather information and bridge this OT/IT gap which will ultimately create the opportunity to become a smart manufacturing operation.
As already mentioned, to enable IT and OT integration there must also be horizontal connectivity at the shop floor level, i.e. between machines from different suppliers with disparate automation vendor’s equipment and different elements of plant control. Therefore, the openness of the automation technologies being used plays a key role; communication standards need to be used that will “speak” to all machines, sensors, actuators and other components. Evaluating the current level of automation and network infrastructure is critical in understanding what will be possible in the short, medium and long term and how easy or difficult it will be to match the goals of the organisation in becoming a smart operation. The good news is that whatever level an organisation is currently at, with good project planning and communication the journey towards digitalisation and smart manufacturing can be achieved to the appropriate level for the organisation in question.
Adoption of standards for machine control and network connectivity has further aided the process, for example in the food & beverage and packaging industry, organisations are frequently operating in a multi-vendor automation machine environment and are now using developments in the OMAC PackML and OPC UA standards to achieve better integration.
In the past the IT and OT worlds have not been natural bed fellows with the OT world operating in real time with process speeds of milliseconds or below and the IT world operating at much longer sampling times, such minutes, hours or more. There has been a natural divide between these two worlds but the advent of Edge computing technology to sit in the “space” between the two has made the integration of these seemingly diverse worlds much more straight forward and allowed a greater level of choice about where data analysis takes place.
It is easy to assume that if the necessary levels of automation and network infrastructure on plant either already exists or now exists as phase one of our plan to become smart, the natural extension of this is to collect every byte of data that it is possible to collect and sit back and admire what has been achieved.
Of course it needs to be more scientific than that. Inevitably, increased communication in recording those machine ‘conversations’ will create the need to manage a far higher volume of data. This requires the creation of a platform for efficient data analytics and data transfer between the OT and IT levels. The challenge is to handle all that data in a structured way, filtering out unnecessary “noise” and turning “Data” into “Information”.
Performing Analysis on Data
Not losing sight of our goal to become a smart manufacturing plant, performing analysis on this data will allow us to visualise the important aspects of production: Overall Equipment Effectiveness, productivity, quality control, use of raw materials, waste and predictive and preventative maintenance, all of which are familiar to production directors tasked with making the operation more efficient. The question is often “where best to implement our data analytics?” Is it best to move everything to enterprise level servers or even the cloud, or is there an alternative?
Of course the new smart technology appearing at the “Edge” not only gives an alternative but greater flexibility and efficiency of data management. Edge computing offers industrialised solutions designed to live in the plant environment like all other automation equipment and to be at the “sharp end” of the data collection process. As previously discussed, the IT and OT worlds are often divided by the frequency at which data is sampled but Edge solutions offer the chance to perform sophisticated data analysis incorporating recognised AI algorithms in real time and therefore interface with the plant automation systems at high speed, making machine learning and improved production efficiencies a reality.
The next major benefit to carrying out data analytics at the Edge layer, is that the data can be filtered and only the necessary and relevant data passed to the enterprise or cloud based servers. This can considerably reduce the cost of data processing at this level, where cost is often attributed to the number of data points processed. It is clear that by linking the IT and OT world, the Edge classification of technology is playing a key role.
MELIPC Edge-Computing Solution
Into this space, Mitsubishi Electric has launched the MELIPC Edge-Computing solution: The MELIPC solution takes care of all connectivity issues “downstream” to the plant level, supporting all of the major open networks and removing the problem of interfacing to machines or plant assets controlled by disparate automation vendors. It provides a real time data logging and processing environment in a ruggedized industrial form factor. From a data processing perspective, it incorporates a suite of analytical tools such as; multiple regression analysis, the Mahalanobis-Taguchi system and Statistical Process Control (SPC) and AI functionality such as Similar Waveform Recognition, giving responses to process analysis in real time.
MELIPC has a dual operating system of Windows and VxWorks RTOS which gives the user the flexibility of embedding third party applications into either of these environments. The VxWorks RTOS environment has a proven track record of running critical embedded applications where high availability is a mandatory requirement. The internal structure of MELIPC follows the Edgecross framework as defined by the Edgecross Consortium which is an independent organisation of over 200 members whose goal put simply is to standardise the interface between the OT and IT layers.
In the final analysis
One of the biggest challenges faced by manufacturing industry is to ensure that final product quality remains consistent, independently of variable environmental conditions, raw products and in-feed ingredients.
Many plants have “optimised” their operations but what digitalisation and the road to smart manufacturing offers in addition to this, is the ability to move to a predictive model based on a continuous improvement strategy and if this is followed to its ultimate conclusion then the whole plant eco system including energy supply and the supply of raw materials can be completely integrated and made operationally efficient. The seamless vertical connectivity between OT and IT also opens up manufacturing industry to newer business models – like ‘batch size one’ or the rapid changeover of one product line to another to keep pace with fast moving consumer trends.
One of the key takeaways from this march of change, in systems, technology and networking is that it can be applied equally to existing production lines and equipment as it can for new factories. Manufacturing by its nature is now a mature industry, so upgrades and progress inevitably involve managing change, not just for physical plant and software layers but for people too.
All manufacturing plants have the capability to become smart operations, the journey to that goal may be short or long but can be achieved step by step with the right planning, required investment and partnering with the right automation vendor to help plot and navigate the course.
Everyone will agree that these are dark times and we are a long way from business as usual (in fact, it’s hard to remember what normal actually is). But manufacturers still need to produce food and medicines, utility companies need to supply fresh water and others are trying to keep their business open for as long as possible.
We get that, so as an essential part of that supply chain, LC Automation isn’t relying on business as usual. We are upping our game and making sure that everything is in place to keep our customers working.
Don’t Feel Isolated – We Are Here When You Need Us
Following the latest government guidelines, all non-essential staff are now working from home and those that remain are following strict social distancing measures. But, whether our team are home or office based, you can still get in touch in the usual way. To make it as easy as possible for you, everything stays the same. The same people, on the same phone numbers, with the same e-mail addresses. We are here for you.
Working with Our Suppliers to Keep You Working
We have plenty of stock and our key suppliers are not currently experiencing major supply issues. The spares and products you need to keep production running are still available, and we have a great team who continue to despatch your orders straight away. Delays may occur at some point in the future, but we will keep you updated if and when things change.
Working with You
Our team of Field Sales Engineers continue to provide local support to our customers and are a great point of contact if you have any questions. Although face to face meetings aren’t appropriate, they can still keep in touch by telephone, e-mail and online.
Our Technical Support Engineers can provide all the help and support you need from their homes. To get in touch, just call the usual number; 01254 685900 and choose the Technical Support option.
Of course, our website is available 24/7 if you want to check stock and current prices, place orders, create a quote or track your deliveries. Register today or talk to our Sales Department if you need any help.
We have put together a vigorous response to dealing with the current situation, but we continue to review and will adapt to whatever challenges come along. I would like to finish by saying how proud I am of the whole LC Automation team who are pulling together to deliver a first-class response in very trying circumstances. It is great to see.
Wächter Packautomatik develops and builds customised packaging solutions. One of them is the powerful case erector Tablomat LE, which efficiently produces up to 30 boxes per minute. The electrosensitive safety gate sensor PSENslock and the safe controller PNOZmulti 2 from Pilz have made the operating concept more flexible & fast format changes can easily be implemented. Flexibility & efficiency are indispensable in the packaging industry, particularly in end-of-line processes.
More flexibility for control and operation!
So when developing the case erector Tablomat LE a new, sustainable automation and safety concept was included. The requirement was for diagnostic data from the sensors to be available to the machine controller in real-time so that the plant operator can retain a complete overview of the machine status.
There are four safety gates on the machine and each use the non-contact safety gate system PSENslock. It performs the safe position monitoring and process guarding. The safety controller PNOZmulti 2 monitors the safety gates and the installed E-STOP pushbutton and guarantees the exchange of diagnostic data via fieldbus module with the PLC.
With this efficient solution, fast format changes and fast, simple adaptation of sensor and actuator technology can easily be implemented.
“Together with Pilz we have achieved all the stated objectives on the Tablomat LE: The case erector is impressive with its clear, streamlined wiring and it can be reconfigured for new tasks in the shortest possible time. The plant is enjoying virtually trouble-free operation, the operator has a comprehensive overview of the current machine status at all times”. – Jürgen Schulte, Production Manager at Wächter Packautomatik GmbH & Co. KG
Advantages and Benefits of the solution
More efficient diagnostics reduces downtimes: The plant operator has a complete overview of the machine status at any time
The needs-based, transparent automation concept increases safety
Higher plant availability through more flexibility: Machine can be reconfigured for new tasks in the shortest possible time
For more info about our range of Pilz Machinery Safety Solutions check out our website or call LC Automation on 01254 685900, our experts will be happy to help!
Electro Beyco, the local government-run water distribution system in Costa Rica needed a connectivity solution for real-time data acquisition. Previously, personnel was going to the pressure points distributed around the city to collect the data manually. All this travelling was costing them more than $10K per year.
No visibility into data and trends
With no visibility into the data and trends, asset failure was not predictable, there was no information about critical points with too high or too low pressure, and most importantly the behaviour and trends of water consumption were not taken into analysis. Consumption or increases in leakage in the water network could therefore not be predicted and system efficiencies could not be maximised.
The measurement points had no internet connection and based on geography, there was no possibility for radio communications. The solution needed to be easily installed and they didn’t want to involve complicated or expensive 4G cellphone chips or Telecom APNs. But more important was the security of the network in case of cyber-attacks.
The project comprised 14 sites monitoring pressure, two sites monitoring tank levels, and one point monitoring chlorine. Five users were connecting to the system by workstations and cellphones.
From pen and paper to smart analytics
Technicians no longer need to go out to the field and take measurements on paper – instead they use their time in other tasks, saving around $10K a year. The estimated ROI for commissioning TOSIBOX® is less than a year.
A TOSIBOX® Lock 500 was installed at each site, creating secure infrastructure to enable the local water ecosystem including an AVEVA Intouch Edge SCADA system that enables AVEVA Insight cloud services and artificial intelligence for the analysis of the data.
TOSIBOX® Lock 500 is the next-generation connectivity device that was chosen for its high-temperature enclosure since it is exposed to direct sunlight. The Lock 500 also provided a 4G network connection. For service and maintenance, remote user access is established using TOSIBOX® Key.
TOSIBOX® technology was easy to set up and has worked well. The local distributor, NV Tecnologías is always available and attentive to Electro Beyco’s doubts.
Adopting TOSIBOX® technology has increased the speed of development and implementation time of technicians, because they no longer need extra support from other departments. The information obtained using TOSIBOX® infrastructure has already helped solve problems in two pressure regulating valves, where the average expenses from damage to the water network without one valve are estimated to be around $25K.
Technicians no longer need to go out to the field and take measurements on paper – instead they use their time in other tasks, saving around $10K a year. The estimated ROI for commissioning TOSIBOX® is less than a year.
Ensuring secure infrastructure for a critical water distribution ecosystem.
Real-time data and alarms made available with the 4G network without any failures in communications in the past 10 months.
Layer 2 remote user connections to the field equipment for programming/troubleshooting.
Remote access has enabled technicians to save their work and travel time.
For further information about Tosibox Remote Access Solutions check out our website or call LC Automation on 01254 685900, our experts will be happy to help!
Ski lift manufacturer Leitner-Poma standardises on TOSIBOX® technology developed by Tosibox Oy to secure global network of transportation systems.
Leitner-Poma has installed more than ten thousand transportation systems in sixty-one countries, and safely transport eight million passengers each hour. Reliable operation of transportation equipment is essential, but as with all machines, issues are expected to arise from time to time. If a lift at a remote location has issues, Tosibox provides secure remote access to diagnose what is wrong.
Previously there was no consistent way to get to the machines around the world. Leitner-Poma found that using hand-made, traditional Cisco-based IT-networking was not scalable per their needs or operationally feasible. Remote access became difficult to set up, use and maintain. Moreover, connection reliability was an ongoing challenge. The old system was constantly requiring Leitner-Poma to thinker with it to keep it connected.
”The way we used to do it was just painful. Then we went to Tosibox. You plug in the Key, click, click, and BANG. You are connected,” said AJ Egli, IT Network Admin at Leitner-Poma of America.
Leitner-Poma discovered the patented TOSIBOX® technology that provides a consistent and standardized VPN access anywhere in the world in 5 minutes and without special IT skills. TOSIBOX® solution has been a game changer for Leitner-Poma’s team, making their job easier and less time consuming. By using TOSIBOX®, they have been able to save time and have more time fixing their ski lifts, gondolas, trams, and so on. TOSIBOX® is also used to maintain secure access to Leitner-Poma’s global network of systems.
Leitner-Poma now enjoys more reliable connectivity than before, and there is no longer the concern about whether it will connect or stay connected. The company is standardizing on TOSIBOX® as the connection solution for securing its global network and has been able to maintain over 99% uptime. Instead of spending time on IT, they can now simply fix issues and get the customer’s lift back to making money, which even makes for happier customers.
“Thanks to the accelerating development of technology, human life will change more over the next 30 years than in the previous 300 years. In this era of the Internet of Everything, the ubiquitous technology changes customer expectations – even for the uptime of ski lifts. Our mission is to change the world by simplifying secure digital connections, and the disruptive TOSIBOX® technology offers ways to ease the work of technicians around the world,” says Jarno Limnéll, CEO at Tosibox.
TOSIBOX® Lock and Key create a secure point-to-point connection between the machine and user that allows effortless troubleshooting. Remote access is established simply by plugging in the Key to a computer’s USB port and logging in to the TOSIBOX® Key software to connect. To learn more about the solution, call our remote access experts on 01254 685900, they will be happy to help!
Sweden is the destination of many popular ski resorts in remote locations. Thanks to its reliability and security, SALTO is the selected access control option for over 3 million doors worldwide. ToP’s is a SALTO partner, who provides the SALTO access control solution for mountain lodges’ doors’ online readers at two customers’ ski resorts in Tänndalen and Funäsdalen
All the resorts’ accommodation bookings are made and transferred using Bookvisit, an online booking and administration system, which is also used to create a physical key card or a key in a mobile app for accommodating guests. To be able to run the system as a key as a service (KaaS) for the ski resorts’ reception, the SALTO BLE readers required connectivity with a SALTO server in Stockholm and the reception. However, building a VPN to connect three sites would be extremely expensive. They needed to be in the same, secure network with same IP range, without exposing the units to the Internet.
ToP’s wanted to find a secure network solution to combine SALTO system with spread out locations transporting data through several different telecom operator networks. However, operators can only provide a solution where their network is, requiring APN and entailing also dark fiber. An alternative to APN wouldn’t be viable.
ToP’s was referred to Tosibox by SALTO. ToP’s set up a network to remotely connect access systems by SALTO using the TOSIBOX® solution that was worked out together with the Tosibox technical support team. ToP’s was able to build a local network between the sites and set up a VPN that would be the alternative to APN by operators. This has made them operator independent, superseding the offer of APN and dark fiber by operators. Not using dynamic host configuration protocol makes the solution secure, since only fixed IP is used, and no IP addresses are delivered.
The experts at ToP’s set up TOSIBOX® Lock 200’s in Client Mode, and sent them over to the remote sites, where they were taken out of the box and set up as sketched, instantly working like a charm.
In Client Mode, the Lock does not act as a router/firewall in the network, but as a client. This means the Lock will provide a secure remote access to the network but cannot protect the devices connected to the same LAN, as the default gateway to the Internet is another device on the network.
ToP’s did also connect camera surveillance communication and building management system to the same network with TOSIBOX®. All communication from buildings will then be performed through the secure and reliable TOSIBOX® connectivity solution to the server room in Stockholm.
Tests at an Audi factory have shown that an alternative form of cabinet wiring can cut internal temperatures, extending the life of critical components inside the cabinets. As Lütze’s cabinets product manager, Michael Bautz, reports, the reduction was greatest at hotspots that are critical for many components.
While the components used in control cabinets are generally becoming smaller, their heat dissipation is increasing and cabinets are getting hotter. More efficient cooling systems obviously help, but the way the cabinets are wired can also have an effect.
One approach to cutting heat levels is to separate the heat-emitting components from the cabling using a wiring frame rather than using conventional mounting plates and trunking. This directs cold air downwards to the rear of the cabinet and then to the front and up again, creating a cool zone to the rear, where most of the cabling is located. A permanent circulation of air is generated between the warmer wiring at the front and the cooler wiring at the back.
Traditional v’s Alternative Cabinet Cabling Technologies
An Audi engine factory in Hungary was recently used as a testbed to compare the traditional and alternative cabinet cabling technologies. The plant, in Györ, includes automated production lines that press valve seat rings and valve guides into the cylinder heads of V6 Otto engines. The test involved two of the site’s production systems, each using four control cabinets with the same construction.
The cabinets are 2000mm high and 600mm deep. Three cabinets in each system were 1200mm wide, while the fourth was 600mm. For the test, one of the four cabinets in each system was monitored. The first cabinet was equipped with a conventional mounting plate and was cooled using an air-conditioning system with a 1.5kW heat loss. In the second cabinet, the mounted components were separated from the wiring using a wiring frame – Lütze’s AirStream system.
The AirStream cabinets don’t use trunking that might impair airflows and were cooled using 1.45kW heat exchangers. The relative power losses of the two cooling systems was a minor factor because the cold air came from the roof. Instead, the study focused on verifying the effect of guided air inside the control cabinet.
In the alternative system, the air circulates freely, unlike in cabinets with conventional mounting plates. Measurements were carried out over two days and taken for six hours at a time with ten sensors recording ambient and internal temperatures. The power consumption of the two systems was not examined because it was assumed that the clocking was identical.
Measuring Temperatures at Critical Points
Temperatures were measured at critical points in the cabinets – e.g. components with high heat losses. After the air-conditioning system was started in the cabinet using the mounting plate (about 40 minutes after the production start-up), the temperatures fluctuated between 29°C and 43°C. The temperature measured between a contactor and the trunking was 38.5°C – 42.5°C, indicating an air blockage, while the temperature between a Siemens Simatic ET200S I/O system and a cable duct was 36.5°C – 38.5°C. At the air intake of the air-conditioning system, the temperature was 33.5°C.
The trunking hotspot remained just within the tolerances because the system is designed for an external temperature of 38°C and a maximum internal temperature of 42°C. In the cabinet with the new wiring frame, temperatures were measured after the heat exchanger had started to operate (a maximum of 37 minutes after the production start-up). The temperatures fluctuated between 30°C and 34°C. The temperature between a contactor and the ET200S in this cabinet was measured as 31°C – 33.5°C, while between the ET200S and the terminals it was 32°C – 33.5°C. At the air intake of the heat exchanger, the temperature was 29.5°C.
If the temperature of the air at the outlet of the heat exchanger was identical to the temperature of the air-conditioner, the curves would rise linearly. Despite this, the air is not layered as happens when a mounting plate is used. Hotspots in the new wiring frame system were barely detectable. When the cabinet incorporating the wiring frame was tested, the ambient temperature was 23.9°C – some 1.9°C higher than when the cabinet with the mounting plate was tested. If the external temperature had been the same, the cabinet with the wiring frame would have been 1.9K cooler and the curves would have been even lower.
The tests demonstrated that using a wiring frame can achieve noticeable cooling and a consistent climate inside control cabinets, protecting installed components from the heat & increasing their life expectancy. Further improvements could be achieved by routing cool air to minimise hotspots around components with particularly high heat losses. Further analysis using Lütze’s online AirTemp application also reveals that air-conditioning wouldn’t be needed using the wiring frame. Assuming an ambient temperature of 25°C and that 70% of the components would be operating at the same time, fan-based cooling would be sufficient.
Looking for More Information? LC Automation Can Help With That…
If you have a specific question or would like to discuss cooling in your control panels, please call LC Automation on 01254 685900. Our Technical Support Engineers will be able to help you select the best solution for your application.
Aircraft manufacturing. Before a brand-new A320 can be put to work ferrying holidaymakers to sunnier climes, the aircraft has to pass some serious testing at Airbus. However, it isn’t just the aircraft that needs overheating protection to make sure it runs like a dream – the testing hardware needs proper protection, too. Airbus uses Blue e+ cooling units from Rittal to keep its testing facilities in top condition.
The two Airbus workers sit on stools in the cockpit of the Airbus A320, as the pilot seats have yet to be installed. Through the cockpit windows they see not clouds, but 4 monitors displaying the “ground test instructions” they need to work through.
However, the first tests start much earlier. As soon as the fuselage sections of a new aircraft have been assembled, the cables are laid there – and tested. All along the various assembly stations, all newly installed components and systems are immediately tested to ensure they are fully functional. Depending on the configuration of the aircraft in question, the full set of tests for an A320 can take around 400 hours to complete. The majority of these are carried out in Jacobs’ department. Fuelling, taxiing, take-off and landing together with various flight manoeuvres are all simulated on the final assembly line. “Our engineers could fly the aircraft, even though they’re not pilots,” the Head of Ground Testing points out. All functions that are essential to flight safety on the Airbus must be 100 per cent reliable. Only when an A320 has passed all these tests with flying colours can it be sent for delivery and take off from the runway at the Airbus plant in Finkenwerder on its maiden flight.
The tasks carried out on the final assembly line include the complete fit-out of the cabin. “Once again, we check everything – from the headphone sockets and in-flight entertainment screens on each individual passenger seat right through to the coffee machine in the galley,” says Jacobs. Testing all the onboard functions requires high-performance hardware that is connected up to the sensors and actuators of the aircraft and used to run complex simulation programs. A total of three computers are needed for the simulations. Each computer is equipped with additional hardware that links up to the components in the aircraft. Lengths of cable as thick as a human arm reach from enclosures containing the simulation computers to the insides of the aircraft. This makes it possible to simulate parameters such as engine speed and the signals from the speed measurement devices. The computers also capture output signals, primarily voltages and volume resistance.
Airbus developed the simulation computers, which are installed in a Rittal enclosure on the test bench, in-house. The hardware generates a lot of heat when in use and therefore needs to be cooled – the voltage transformers in particular, which are needed for the connection to the components in the aircraft, can get very hot. “In the past, before we started using active cooling systems for the computers, they often crashed during the summer,” Jacobs recalls. Given how tightly and carefully coordinated the production schedule is at Airbus, that simply could not continue. The enclosures were fitted out with active climate control systems in 2006 to avoid precisely such downtime. Today, there are 28 of these test stations in the Airbus plant, all similarly configured. What’s more, all are fitted with Blue e+ cooling units from Rittal to protect the sensitive hardware from overheating. The reliability of the Blue e+ units is particularly important to Airbus. “If the cooling systems for the simulation computers were to fail, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our tests,” Jacobs points out. The test bench is in use at least five days a week in double-shift operation. “We switch on the cooling units in the morning and they run with absolute reliability,” he says. The cooling systems at the test benches are monitored and, should a unit still somehow fail, a warning light comes on to alert staff.
Guaranteed Energy Efficiency
The idea to upgrade to the energy-efficient Blue e+ cooling units came about while working on energy management for the ISO-14001 certification. Rittal Support gave Airbus crucial assistance during this process, as Jacobs explains: “Thanks to the energy efficiency calculator, we were able to work out in advance how much energy we would save by upgrading to the new cooling technology.”
Well-timed maintenance is crucial to ensuring the cooling units run reliably and efficiently. The main causes of failures are critical component statuses and external influencing factors. Networking the units with the IoT interface ensures the condition of all cooling units is reported to overarching systems. Maintenance teams can then promptly plan the necessary measures and carry out the work at the most appropriate time. These benefits can be taken to the next level in the future by linking up to Rittal’s Smart Service Portal. The networking between the devices and continuous status monitoring ensure critical operating statuses can be identified early on.
The senior managers at Airbus were also impressed by how user-friendly the cooling units are. All parameters can be adjusted easily, using the two buttons on the control panel, and the display depicts status and error messages in clear language. “The quality is right and the customer service we get from Rittal is excellent,” Jacobs concludes. Based on this positive experience, the test benches at the Airbus sites in the USA and China, which are configured in exactly the same way, are also being retrofitted with the new Blue e+ cooling units.
With any unscheduled downtime being
a cause of major headaches for food and drink manufacturers, John Rowley of
Mitsubishi Electric highlights how predictive maintenance can provide the
solution and how easy it is to implement.
With food manufacturers being
continually squeezed on price by retailers and asked to fulfil orders for
supply that can seem, at best, challenging and at worst highly unrealistic,
improving productivity is a priority. Tight timescales mean many lines are
already running on a near 24/7 basis, leaving little leeway even for scheduled
maintenance, let alone an unexpected breakdown. This can lead to overcautious
service and maintenance regimes, which are expensive to support, but preferable
to unscheduled downtime which is the worst possible scenario.
Short supply or delayed delivery due to plant failure damages a business’s reputation and impacts on the relationship with the customer. And as many food and beverage manufacturers find to their cost, customers such as supermarkets can’t support empty shelves, which makes them very demanding customers indeed.
How to avoid grinding to a halt
Let’s not forget as well, that many
production line failures are not characterised by a sudden fault that results
in immediate line stoppage. Often it is a gradual degradation that impacts on
product output. That means before the line eventually grinds to a halt, it
might have spent a considerable period producing inconsistent goods – that add
to the bottom-line cost of the issue, due to waste.
So we can see that both unscheduled downtime and the developing causes of that downtime both impact directly on productivity, with a direct link to increased costs. The impact of unpredictable downtime is endured right across the food and beverage industry.
The good news is that random equipment failure – leading to unscheduled, emergency repair – doesn’t have to be a fact of life. Modern condition monitoring sensor technology can be easily retrofitted to rotating plant and equipment, while many of today’s plant and machine controllers have advanced monitoring and diagnostics functions built in, ready to use.
Taking advantage of these technologies can quickly take food and beverage companies into the realm of predictive maintenance, where businesses can see advanced warning of impending equipment failure, with enough time to plan repairs during scheduled maintenance periods rather than being hit with an asset failure out of the blue.
Evolving from preventative to
A conceptual and technological leap forwards from preventative maintenance, intelligent predictive maintenance ensures an asset is serviced only when needed, not based on routine helping to increase both productivity and efficiency. Predictive maintenance spots equipment problems as they emerge and develop, providing ample warning of impending failure, and so helping to maximise asset availability. They also help combat inadvertent neglect; humans are generally very smart, but not 100% of the time, and situations change, as do staff, taking knowledge built-up over years with them.
Importantly, these predictive
maintenance solutions are not complex; frequently they are simple and
cost-effective to implement, and often they can be built from functions that
already exist within the plant’s control equipment.
Take, for example, the add-on sensors
that have been developed to monitor the increases in operating temperature,
excessive current draw, changes in vibration characteristics and significant
shifts in other operating parameters that can all be indicative of impending
problems in rotating machines. Today these sensors come with embedded ‘smart’
functionality, revolutionising condition monitoring.
A simple add-on to pumps, motors, gearboxes, fans and more, these sensors used a simple traffic light system of red, amber and green lights to provide at-a-glance monitoring of the condition of the machine. In addition to this they can also be connected into wider factory automation networks using Ethernet and a managing PLC for a smarter solution.
From traffic lights to telemetry
In isolation sensors offer a great
start point to implementing preventative maintenance strategies, but of course
there are limitations to the traffic light warning system. While it indicates
that a problem is developing, it gives no real clue as to what the problem
might be or just how serious it is; it offers no practical recommendations as
to how the problem should be addressed; and while it shows problems developing
on individual machines, it fails to provide an overview on the asset health of
It is these limitations that Mitsubishi
Electric has addressed with the Smart Condition Monitoring (SCM) solution. The
kit provides an integrated approach to monitoring the condition of individual
assets and enables a holistic approach to be taken to monitoring the asset
health of the whole plant. Individual sensors retain the traffic light system
for local warning indication at the machine, but at the same time information
from multiple sensors is transferred over Ethernet to a Mitsubishi Electric PLC
for in-depth monitoring and more detailed analysis.
The SCM kit provides a plug-and-play
solution for machine condition monitoring. Sensors can be added to machines as
and where required, with a simple teach function allowing the sensor and
controller to learn the normal operating state of the machine, generating a
memory map of key parameters. Once set up, the SCM provides 24/7 monitoring of
each asset, with functions including bearing defect detection, imbalance detection,
misalignment detection, temperature measurement, cavitation detection, phase
failure recognition and resonance frequency detection.
Linking multiple sensors into the control system enables the controller to analyse patterns of operation that are outside the norm, with a series of alarm conditions that can provide alerts when attention is needed. The SCM analysis provides detailed diagnostics, offers suggestions for where additional measurements should be taken, and provides maintenance staff more precise error identification. It can even make recommendations as to what rectification actions should be taken, with clear text messages presented to personnel. Further, this information can be networked to higher-level systems for ongoing trend analysis across all the assets around the plant.
Muntons Malt demonstrates how it
should be done
Looking at a practical example of the
technology in action, Muntons Malt, one of the UK’s largest producers of malted
barley is reaping the benefits of the SCM system to protect fans and motors
vital to its large-scale and sensitive production process. The operation team
had previously experienced issues with difficult-to-reach bearings inside a
large fan housing, realising too late that a problem existed, and was forced to
make an unscheduled stop to one of the lines to make repairs.
Determined to learn from this, Muntons Malt installed the SCM system on two large 315kW fan sets and a single 90kW fan set, referencing the electric motor, power transmission coupling and main fan shaft bearing on each. The company is now extremely conscious of the health of the fan sets and has a very clear picture of any maintenance way in advance of needing to make physical alternatives. Remote monitoring and fast diagnosis of any issues has also made the company very reactive should the operating parameters that have been set, even be approached.
With the technology, live information
and any alarms are displayed on a GOT Series HMI mounted in the control
enclosure. The system can work autonomously of any other automation, with
multiple sensors located and recognised by unique IP addresses. However, at
Muntons Malt the visual information as well as the alerts were connected into
the existing automation software platform.
This ease of connectivity illustrates further advantages of today’s condition monitoring technologies, which can provide immediate, visible alarms anywhere in the world on smart devices. For multi-site businesses, this can aid in quickly changing over production schedules from one plant to another to fulfil the most pressing orders or can alert remote maintenance teams of the need to perform more detailed diagnostics.
The information might already be in
This information isn’t just coming from external sensors. Modern drives, PLCs, SCADA systems and other automation products have comprehensive diagnostics capabilities inbuilt, monitoring not only their internal workings but also parameters such as current draw, voltage & temperature in connected motors, pumps, & fans. All of this helps to build a detailed picture of the health of plant assets.
And with a simple plant network
backbone, this information can be shared around the plant and beyond. Indeed,
this sort of functionality is a key aspect of Industry 4.0 and is at the heart
of the benefits of the digitalisation of production.
We can see, then, that predictive
maintenance strategies can offer comprehensive analysis on the health of
individual machines as well as a holistic overview on the health of the wider
plant. The result is vastly improved scheduled maintenance and optimised asset
lifecycle management. With maintenance able to be planned in-advance, there is
far less unscheduled downtime and significant reductions in the loss of service
at short notice. Also when assets are serviced only when needed, food and
beverage producers can benefit from increased productivity and efficiency, with
a very real impact on the bottom line.