When looking at solutions for a new control system, the WR-ALC team already had experience with Rockwell Automation products and solutions.
“There really was no other option that came to our minds when picking a solution to our problem,” Prince said. “We have used Rockwell Automation products, so we knew their solutions would be scalable and easy to update, allowing for the longest life cycle possible.”
PREMIER System Integrators, a Solution Partner in the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork program, helped design and implement the line’s new control system. With expertise in network architecture design and manufacturing execution systems, the integrators helped minimize downtime to just one week for implementation of the new system.
Many network changes were made to build a new and more reliable system. The network was upgraded to a collapsed-core design, where the network’s core and distribution layer functions are implemented with a single device. This design was based on Converged Plantwide Ethernet (CPwE) guidelines, which Rockwell Automation developed with Cisco, a Strategic Alliance partner in the PartnerNetwork program. CPwE guidelines help industrial companies deploy scalable, secure, safe and future-ready industrial network architectures.
All device control was transitioned to PLC logic. Additionally, the unmanaged switches in PLC cabinets and industrial data center were upgraded to Stratix 5400 industrial managed switches and Cisco Catalyst 3850 Series switches. This allowed traffic to be segregated, and it provided more visibility into the network’s health.
Beyond network upgrades, the team installed the FactoryTalk software suite from Rockwell Automation, including batch, production intelligence, HMI and historian systems.
The modern batch software helps the company with recipe management, creating a consistent recipe for all the different jet parts and their corresponding cleaning and maintenance processes. This has put an end to the dropping of parts. Material manager software was also used to help track parts during their inspections. Operators can now rely on the system and expect it to perform as ordered.
Overall, the batch solution provides efficient time management and improved operational reliability for operators.
“The FactoryTalk Batch software is flexible and was easy to adapt from its traditional use to control the plating line,” said Larry Grate, director of technology, PREMIER System Integrators. “Integrating process data into the Batch reporting framework was also a straightforward process and gave WR-ALC operators the information they needed to improve product quality and operating efficiency.”
The production intelligence software helped create a one-batch quality report. This report includes important operational information such as product details, temperature, timing data, alarm information and more during operation. If a problem arises down the line, this allows operators to troubleshoot at the source, saving the WR-ALC valuable time and money. New HMIs also provide direct visualization for operators while the parts are going through the inspection process to help make sure everything is performing correctly.
Throughout the process, the historian records all the information gathered and acts as an extra hard drive for the network. Lastly, old HMI PCs have been replaced with thin clients equipped with ThinManager software. Unlike PCs, the thin clients can be centrally configured and managed, and don’t need to be individually patched. And if a terminal goes down, it can be replaced in fewer than two minutes with no loss of data.