Because the controller directly manages interaction with the MES, operators aren’t forced to work on its schedule. The controller administers the interactions through a server dedicated to MES communication, making the interactions seamless for the operator.
On top of this improved control infrastructure, the company layered the FactoryTalk® software suite from Rockwell Automation for visualization and manufacturing intelligence, including FactoryTalk View Site Edition, FactoryTalk Historian and FactoryTalk VantagePoint® software from Rockwell Automation. Operators interact with runtime data through FactoryTalk View software. FactoryTalk Historian software automatically identifies, gathers and stores production data from the control system. FactoryTalk VantagePoint software aggregates this data, and correlates and presents production information to operations via easy-to-read dashboards so variances are easily identified and corrected in real time.
The FactoryTalk suite also added remote access to the medical device manufacturer’s machines for the first time. With browser-based interface options, engineers can now program from the office or through a VPN connection from home, rather than going to the plant floor for a direct connection.
“The Rockwell Automation products installed cleanly,” the engineer said. “You get it, install it and it runs. We did it all in one afternoon. It was a big, added benefit that the servers are the corporate standard and can be supported by IT when it comes to security updates and more.”
According to the engineer, IT support has been an added benefit throughout the entire process. The proliferation of Ethernet-connected devices in the plant has fortified steady collaboration between plant operations and corporate IT. For the manufacturer, this partnership resulted in long-term supportability, the utilization of the existing infrastructure, and the end of the proliferation of PCs in the plant.
Boosting Throughput, Cutting Waste
In less than a year, the upgrades paid for themselves. Through reduced cycle times, the manufacturer was able to increase throughput by 230 percent without extra labor. Tighter process enforcement via the no-fault-forward system reduced scrap by 20 percent. Use of controllers and HMIs on even the manual processes allowed the company to dispose of keyboards and enhance the operator experience through universal training methods and ergonomic improvements.
Manufacturing intelligence provided by the FactoryTalk applications provides diagnostics of plant-floor issues. Before the enhancements, the company experienced slow transaction times during each shift, but struggled to nail down the cause. After the implementation, it identified that the issue occurred at precisely 5 p.m., which was during a scheduled server backup that suspended the system.
“Once we realized the problem, we worked to reschedule the backup,” the engineer said. “It gave us a way to start measuring and breaking down the problem by the hour. We started to ask the right questions to boost productivity.”
Without MES transactions slowing them down, operators are now able to run all seven modules each week, with roughly seven to 12 changeovers, allowing changeover time to be cut by approximately five minutes.
While there was skepticism about integrating a PAC system in a manual assembly process, the manufacturer vowed to only operate on a value-added approach.
“There is some payback for taking the risks,” the engineer said. “Make the easy way the right way. If you could format an infrastructure where the easiest way is the correct way, then people will do that. People will probably prefer a plug-and-play solution versus a complicated, multi-PC system – and that’s what’s starting to happen.”
The results mentioned above are specific to this company’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.
Allen-Bradley, CompactLogix, FactoryTalk, PartnerNetwork, TechED and VantagePoint are trademarks of Rockwell Automation Inc.
EtherNet/IP is a trademark of ODVA Inc.