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An Introduction to Plant Modernization

The future is here. And it’s transforming business operations.  

In recent years, automation technologies have exploded, creating new opportunities for manufacturing plants to increase production, establish sustainable processes, and boost profits.

With all these options, how do decision-makers balance big production goals, prevent downtime, and prioritize business growth?

Begin with an automation roadmap

With a clear understanding of business goals and obstacles, your team can develop a three-to-five year plan to push the envelope of your factory production. An automation roadmap details how you will address immediate pains, like outdated equipment, while outlining the best cutting-edge automation integrations that will bring plant-wide operations into the future.

Plant modernization provides solutions to mitigate risk, diversify product lines, ensure quality, and achieve many other production benchmarks.

Escape the daily stresses of being stuck in reactive mode; follow an automation roadmap.

While you assess your plant operations and decide on big business goals, consider the below emerging plant modernization technologies.

Network Architecture

 

 As the demand for data multiplies, network systems that are patched together will become a huge hindrance to plant operations. That is why many manufacturers are choosing to invest in a seamless, thoughtful network architecture. A system that can handle all this data will give manufacturers the ability to make critical real-time decisions and, ultimately, increase profits.

 

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) & IIoT

With enough bandwidth, a SCADA-powered software integration may be the solution to ease plant pains. A programmable logic controller, or PLC, can communicate with a number of common factory machines. Then, a SCADA integration can aggregate and display the data. The combination provides endless system capabilities:

  • Monitor equipment status in real-time
  • Give plant leaders universal access to information
  • Create custom reports and notifications

Obsolescence

As plant equipment ages, it becomes more and more difficult to find replacement parts – even on auction sites like E-bay.

For those manufacturers who are working with equipment a few decades old, replacement parts may no longer exist or can cost thousands of dollars more than they were bought for originally. The best approach to combat obsolescence is to replace parts before they’ve failed on you – and while they are worth replacing.

Controls Upgrades & Robotic Vision

Intelligent machines are finding homes in more and more factories, helping plants meet their unique production needs. Machines are getting faster, can scan and see environments similar to a human, and are processing data in ever-advancing ways.

When it comes to plant growth, keeping up with client demand is only the beginning:

  • Increase productivity
  • Boost efficiency, accuracy, and reliability
  • Decrease material waste
  • Earn more profit
  • Better plant safety

Still don’t know where to begin? Read the Concept System’s Guide to Plant Modernization where we dive deeper into the most innovative automation technologies.

Concept Systems to Demonstrate Fully Integrated Automated Laser Etching System at the International Manufacturing Technology Show Sept. 10-15, 2018

ALBANY, OR – Concept Systems, an industry-leading manufacturing automation solution provider, will showcase its acclaimed plant modernization services, and demonstrate a fully integrated, automated laser etching system in booth E-135754 at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) Sept. 10-15, 2018 in Chicago.

Concept Systems IMTS Demo System Booth E135754

Concept Systems will feature a fully integrated automated pen etching system at IMTS 2018 in Booth E-135754

Featuring components from leading automation equipment manufacturers such as FANUC America, Rockwell Automation, Allen-Bradley, FLIR, Radian Laser Systems, Schunk Grippers, and Wave7, this system illustrates how choosing the right components to update your plant, coupled with expert integration of new and existing systems can improve efficiency and optimize operations.

At the event, booth visitors will be able to interact with and operate the system. From the PanelView Plus 7 HMI, visitors will enter their names and watch as the pens moves through the etching, inspection and picking processes resulting in personalized pens the visitors keep. Visitors will be able to test the area safety scanner, slowing and ultimately stopping the system as they approach the protected area. An iPad kiosk will feature system operation and downtime analytics for visitor exploration.

Systems Integrated:

  • PanelView Plus 7 from Rockwell Automation
  • MagneMover Lite from MagneMotion, a Rockwell company
  • Sr 3iA from FANUC
  • LROpen Frame 2D/3D Fiber Laser from Radian Laser Systems
  • MPG 25+ Gripper from Schunk
  • A35 Thermal Inspection Camera from FLIR
  • SafeZone Multizone Laser Scanner from Rockwell Automation
  • Guard Logix 5562s PLC with a Safety Partner Logix 55LSP from Allen-Bradley
  • WaveRider droplet and system analytics from Wave7

As a Partner to our clients, Concept Systems is dedicated to providing automation solutions that prepare our clients and their operations for the future. Our plant modernization services include controls and CNC retrofits, safety assessments and mitigation plans from TUV certified engineers, automation consultations and roadmaps, maintenance plans and emergency support, and project startup services including project management, engineers for hire, and more.

“Manufacturing today is a globally competitive operation that is evolving with the advent of industry 4.0,” said Jim Ford, Director of Engineering at Concept Systems. “To thrive in that kind of environment, manufacturers need to prepare now for the future of automation. Our Plant Modernization services are designed to meet the unique needs of mid-sized to large companies looking to update their operations and gain an edge on the competition.”

Staff will be available during the show to offer short consultations and answer any questions about our plant modernization services.

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The benefits of robotics process automation

Process automation enhances business development with a vast return on investment.

Author: Deanna M. Murray

In automation’s 60-year history, business executives and workers often hesitated to implement new technology before they supported its benefits. Robotics process automation (RPA) is the use of software with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities to accomplish repeatable tasks, previously requiring human interaction. Though there are jobs in nearly every industry that in time will no longer require human interaction due to automation, keeping RPA at arm’s length is a rejection of progress for businesses that want to develop and cultivate a competitive edge.

Automation benefits

Like any new technology or process, automation implementation does require upfront costs. But the use of automation can result in increased return-on-investment (ROI) because automation reduces labor costs, allowing employees to focus on more business-critical tasks instead of focusing on repeatable processes. According to Information Services Group, automation’s returns have garnered double-digit productivity improvements over outsourcing, and cost reductions between 14% and 28% have been realized.

Automation can also streamline regulatory compliance that imposes fines by virtually eliminating human error. With the correct automation solution, the cost savings reverberate throughout an organization and the ROI impacts multiple budget lines.

Automation can be complicated, but the beauty of this technology is its ability to easily scale from simple to complex. The key to understanding what type of automation can work for a particular application is to rediscover every aspect of each process then realistically think through what can be streamlined or eliminated in each action. Keep in mind that many current everyday processes exist because of automation—from simple automated stamp machines to complicated medical procedures. Automation can be applied to every business when the right automation experts critically looks at an organization’s practices.

Customer-facing businesses setting themselves apart with personal touches and big smiles should not shy away from automation as a business enhancement. In fact, the opposite is true. Automation implementation on the back-end processes can free up valuable time for employees to spend on more meaningful customer interactions—not less.

Business development, automation

Automation technology is ever-changing. But an update to automation technology only will need to change when processes or the business needs change. Unlike other business efficiency tools, it doesn’t require numerous software updates, renewals, or pricey upgrades. While there might be routine maintenance, automation expenses are controlled by the desire to expand the business and employ additional automation capabilities to realize greater benefits.

Automation is a sign of growth. It is a sign of efficiency and an investment that will pay off for years to come. Business owners frightened of RPA and what it stands for in regards to the future of the business should think of it as a natural step in expanding and keeping up with the needs of an ever-growing clientele.

While there are growing pains and staff realignments associated with many RPA implementations, current employees can use this opportunity to learn about automation and expand skillsets. Also, if an automation plan is inclusive, employees can contribute meaningful insights into the best ways for the automation to function and hence, support a more efficient RPA implementation.

If experts with a vast understanding of automation implementation and rethinking processes are put to use, automation can open the door to a new world in business development.

View the original article and related content on Control Engineering

Copyright: Copyright 2017 CFE Media LLC

Five tips for automating your food processing plant

To optimize ROI, it’s important to learn which areas of your food processing facility are best suited for automation. Below are five tips for improving your plant’s automation capabilities.

Author: Michael Griffith, Manager, Stellar

Total automation may be an ideal for most food processors, but it can be difficult to determine how to connect every system in a food plant-or if they should even be connected at all. To optimize ROI, it’s important to learn which areas of your food processing facility are best suited for automation. Below are five tips for improving your plant’s automation capabilities.

1. Leverage existing connected automation systems—Many systems are well-integrated on a common network and platform, but they don’t do much good if they aren’t fully integrated.

Consider a brewery that had a manual data system in place that was generating a great deal of useful data. Because its systems weren’t integrated it couldn’t put that data into context, making it relatively useless. Once the brewery installed a manufacturing execution system (MES), its packaging efficiency increased by 30 percent.

2. Implement overarching integration—On the packaging side of food processing plants, I often notice that processors have yet to fully implement integration across the number of individual components and machines that must run to have a fully functional packaging line. Often times, when one piece of process equipment malfunctions, the entire system stops working.

It’s important to tie all your equipment together in an overarching system so that the whole doesn’t suffer when one element stops working.

3. Use software to connect processing and packaging equipment—When talking with food processors, I find there is a lack of plant floor connectivity between processing and packaging areas. Why? While the networking capability DOES exist, there’s no software in place to connect the equipment from each area.

Considering space and labor are relatively inexpensive, the ROI on installing software like a material handling systems (MHS) can take up to 15 years, which is much longer than most processors have an appetite for (typically no more than three to four years). So, only recently have food processors recognized the value of a more integrated system.

Subsequently, older plants were often built with such an array of hardware and software that the integration isn’t always so easy.

4. Define a vision of the future—At Stellar, we’re typically involved with food plant owners on a project basis for automation. My focus in conversations with clients is to try to help them define a vision of the future-the sort of “blue sky” version of where they would like to be at some point in the future. Then, we define the scope of the current project as a logical step on the path to achieve the long-term vision.

You must understand the vision for where the system is intended to go. Then, make intelligent decisions about how to best spend capital on current projects to support that vision. It’s best to have a standard for hardware and software that is geared toward the fully integrated system you want to own someday. But keep in mind, technology changes:

  • On one hand, a small increase in costs now can sometimes future-proof the automation system purchased as part of the current project or equipment purchase.
  • On the other hand, it is not useful to add costs to a project to build in functionality that won’t be useful for two or more years.

5. Move toward becoming a data-driven business—The benefits of using real-time data outweigh the cost of implementing the systems that generate it. Automated data collection helps companies determine the root causes of performance issues, as well as enhance the efficiency of day-to-day processes. Automation isn’t limited to big companies; food processors of any size can make good use of data collection. For smaller processors looking to become more data-driven, there are resources available at a reasonable cost.

A historical data repository (historian) is the foundational technology food processors need to add value to their existing equipment and processes. A historian connects to all the existing automation, and is also scalable to include additional points when future automation projects are completed.

Manufacturing execution systems (MES) help track and document in real time the transformation of raw materials to finished goods, which is vital to the efficiency of daily processes.

 

View the original article and related content on Plant Engineering

Copyright: Copyright 2016 CFE Media LLC