International Paper is the largest producer of corrugated boxes in the United States. A specific plant that produced high-margin boxes was beginning to suffer costly downtime because of aging equipment and hard-to-find replacement parts. Moreover, a clumsy operator interface meant difficult training and long changeover times between different sizes and styles of boxes. The manufacturer hired Concept Systems to retrofit the huge machine with a new control system.
ROI: Less than 12 months
Project duration: 8 months culminating with 14-day startup
Concept Systems: 2 engineers
Concept Systems’ time on site: 14 days
The existing machine was many decades old. But it represented a huge investment, being about 100 yards long. Yet the failure of an electrical component could result in a long downtime because electrical distributors no longer stocked the parts, and plant staff sometimes had to try to hunt down parts on eBay. Because of a clumsy interface, operators had to walk around to different stations to make adjustments when it was time to change from one type of box to another. The changeover time was typically 45 to 50 minutes. Training new operators was time-consuming, as well.
Concept Systems worked with International Paper’s corporate and factory engineers to retrofit the aging control system. Engineers replaced the main PLC controller, remote IO, servo drives, variable frequency drives, and added absolute encoders and touch-screen interfaces, along with customizing all the necessary software. A new machine might have cost $6 or $7 million, whereas retrofitting came in at about $800,000. This will give the machine another 15 to 20 years of life.
Changeover from one type of box to another now takes 8 to 10 minutes, compared to the 45 to 50 minutes previously. This efficiency improvement combined with speed improvements associated with the new control system resulted in the plant being able to nearly double its production per shift. Not only are replacement parts much easier to find for the new system, they are much less likely to fail in the first place. Training new operators goes much more quickly, as well.