Contributed by Amit Patel • Senior Marketing Manager, Digital Transformation at Emerson
Digital technologies along with pneumatics automation can transform a facility’s efficiency, productivity, and versatility.
The digital transformation of processing and packaging operations is well underway. Manufacturers are integrating connected technologies into their operations and seeing significant results. Digital technologies have the power to transform the efficiency, productivity and versatility of a facility’s systems. Improvements in these key areas give companies a competitive edge and the agility required to respond to evolving market needs. (Image 1)
Close collaboration between manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and technology suppliers is required to digitally transform manufacturing processes and operations and achieve manufacturer goals. The intentional design and integration of connected technologies makes it possible to monitor a new array of system performance data from machines and realize smart, efficient ways to turn that data into actionable insights.
A broad range of automation technologies, including pneumatics and fluid control, now incorporates IIoT and edge analytic capabilities, with analytics taking on increasing importance. Data analysis techniques can help operators spot issues faster and earlier to prevent downtime and adjust as needed to ensure efficient operations.
Gaining insights that make an impact
Unlocking trapped data is the number one factor influencing IIoT and smarter factories. OEMs building and supplying packaging machines are selecting components and subsystems based on their ability to fill this need. Luckily, there’s greater availability of these technologies than ever before, and technology providers are continuously innovating their offering. Pneumatics, for example, continues to gain intelligence, resulting in systems with more comprehensive connectivity and better analytics.
IIoT technologies can build upon basic automation, leveraging plant floor data from disparate sources to deliver real-time insights and guidance. Analytics techniques to provide that real-time insight include first principles, failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), statistical models and machine learning, all to help producers avoid line upsets, quality issues and downtime.
The ability to predict problems before they occur results in less unplanned downtime, while real-time root cause analysis provides decision support for the appropriate corrective actions. Automated troubleshooting and analytics help to reduce maintenance time, increase equipment availability and improve productivity.
Emerson recently launched an industrial software platform that helps consumer packaged goods (CPG) and food and beverage producers better understand the health and performance of equipment and processes, improving overall plant efficiency. Movicon.NExT HMI/SCADA helps companies improve operations by identifying issues and optimizing plant management and decision-making. Modular and scalable, Movicon.NExT software goes beyond SCADA to solve automation problems, from the level of the machine to the plant overall. Movicon Pro.Lean provides performance data and analytics to track overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), while Movicon Pro.Energy measures and tracks energy consumption. Using visualization tools, Movicon NExT.AR makes it possible for operators to evaluate previously unreachable equipment and solve operational problems. (Image 2)
By combining the right sensors with analytics, CPGs and food and beverage producers can better understand machine energy consumption and efficiency via a multimedia monitoring solution. This solution provides leakage and consumption trending data about critical utilities, including compressed air, water, steam, gases and electricity, and translates it into valuable insights. Monitoring and analyzing this data is key to reaching sustainability targets, improving overall equipment effectiveness and optimizing maintenance practices. Multimedia monitoring solutions can be used with an edge analytics dashboard, which makes it possible for operators to better gauge efficiency, optimize productivity, and reduce unplanned downtime. (Image 3)
Setting up smarter facilities that solve challenges
The opportunity for transformational results in packaging operations through the application of IIoT technology is real — but technology is an evolution, not a revolution. Merely applying more sensors and gathering more data will not solve persistent manufacturing problems.
The connected digital packaging facility can incorporate smart technology, including smart pneumatics and analytics, to enable extensive data capture of manufacturing system performance. It also leverages technologies, like edge computing and smart gateways, to simplify and speed up the delivery of that information in real time, thus enabling deep dives into critical performance data.
The prevalence of pneumatics in facilities, paired with the advancements in smart technologies, makes pneumatic systems prime opportunities for digital transformation, energy savings and better overall equipment effectiveness. The latest pneumatic systems feature new, intelligent options for leveraging digital information to improve performance, insight, and control of manufacturing processes.
These systems feature smart sensors, digital interfaces and edge-computing capabilities that provide contextualized, real-time data, enabling end-users to assess how much compressed air energy machines consume versus how much is truly needed in normal operating conditions. If the machine is using too much air, there is likely a leak that can be proactively addressed to reduce costs and CO2 emissions. The systems also allow operators to capture a more complete picture of machine health. The system can detect when valves or cylinders are due for replacement, or if they are nearing the end of their useful life, eliminating unplanned downtime.
Remote monitoring is another example of smart technology that gathers crucial information in a more efficient manner to help plants stay up and running. There is increased interest in the use of remote troubleshooting tools to identify issues without someone having to physically be in the plant, and more smart pneumatic technologies feature these capabilities. For example, Emerson’s Aventics AF2 flow sensor and analytics package is proven to help plant operators detect compressed air leaks on machines, and the new high-flow model allows operators to access machine insights in larger air lines and systems. Using the AF2 high-flow model, maintenance can check for potential leaks and even be alerted when the air consumption crosses a specified threshold, all through an analytics dashboard that is accessible via smartphone, tablet or computer. (Image 4)
Analytics present the opportunity to better understand process and equipment conditions but, to be effective, requires a more complete set of data. This is achieved by deploying additional sensors on measurements not previously monitored. These pervasive sensing applications, enabled by wireless sensors and networks, help to overcome the issues of high installation cost and disruptions, enabling new, insightful data to be gained quickly and cost-effectively.
It’s important to recognize that automation technology can empower workers and elevate their productivity. However, a major challenge created by broad deployment of new technologies is the need for organizations to train and upskill workers, modify work practices and maximize the return on investment while overcoming the resistance to change from within the organization.
The application of business processes, such as lean manufacturing, six sigma and value stream mapping, can help to eliminate or minimize low-value tasks while maximizing focus on value-added activities. The organization also needs to empower stakeholders, identify sources resistant to change, and implement strategies to overcome that resistance.
New, digital-enabled technologies can make a significant difference once packaging equipment manufacturers and plant operators have a clear understanding of the problems to address. Solutions using existing infrastructure may prove less costly to implement, but change can’t come just from better or more real-time analytics: People must be empowered to make changes to processes and systems based on the direction the data tells them to go.
Connected technologies, such as intelligent devices, motion control, machine control, edge computing systems and analytics packages, establish a solid foundation and supportive tools for smart manufacturing facilities that are empowered to solve their biggest challenges quickly and effectively.
However, having the right technology isn’t enough. It’s equally important that packaging operations follow through by investing time in optimizing their overall processes around these IIoT and analytics technologies. To effectively and reliably make real-time adjustments during production, it’s essential to have a plan for how to use new data streams and analytics to make confident long-term decisions. Purchasing new equipment, entering new markets and using new types of packaging can feel like less of a risk when backed by real data. This is the goal — and ultimate benefit — that the power of analytics and digital transformation can offer.
Emerson | emerson.com
Recently, Emerson helped a major consumer packaged goods company reach its ambitious sustainability goals through compressed air monitoring. The company worked with Emerson to develop a digital transformation strategy that would help it achieve net-zero carbon by 2040.
The challenge: Compressed air use in the company’s production lines was going unchecked. Without a way to measure pneumatic system airflow, leaks could release air over time while operations could use more air than they required. Both issues are opportunities to save compressed air and energy use.
The solution: With Emerson’s support, the company integrated real-time compressed air monitoring into one application on some of its production lines. The monitoring solution features Emerson’s Aventics AF2 flow sensor, the AF2’s integrated web server and an analytics dashboard.
The impact: The company has substantially reduced its compressed air waste, with machines using approximately 15% less air without sacrificing performance. Using the AF2, operators were able to better match compressed air supply and demand as well as quickly address leaks. The compressed air savings provided by the pilot monitoring solution motivated the company to integrate monitoring systems on more of its lines — from filling to packaging. To reach its sustainability goals, the company plans to continue digitally transforming its other facilities using compressed air monitoring.
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