Aged Plants Stay Competitive With Innovative Safety Solutions

Two industry leaders successfully enhanced safety and productivity when installing innovative safety solutions in aging plants

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Imagine smart factories where robotics arms and conveyors never break down and production targets are never missed – all thanks to Internet-connected devices and components that monitor machine health and respond to any possible errors.

But for the vast majority of manufacturing plants, the reality could barely be more different. There are factories still running on decades-old machinery that is not outfitted with smart devices.

There are no ready-made solutions for getting from where most of the manufacturers are now to smart factories. The transformation requires a deep understanding of each machine’s functions and the metrics to be tracked, trial and error to determine the right equipment to use and the best place to put it, and a comprehensive plan for collecting and making sense of the data.

With the advancement of industrial technologies, Rockwell Automation has developed scalable and smart solutions to help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) start and move forward on their journey of smart manufacturing.

The Time Has Come

Asaleo Care is a leading personal care and hygiene company that manufactures essential consumer products that are used daily in households and businesses across Australia, New Zealand and some other countries in the Pacific. Since 1955, its plant in Kawerau is the only tissue base paper manufacturer in New Zealand.

The company is committed to introducing the latest technologies to their 11 plants and facilities to continue to produce quality products and meet evolving safety standards.

As they decided that it was time to address the obsolescence issues and turn to smart manufacturing, Asaleo Care called on Rockwell Automation to design, manufacture and commission a control and drive upgrade to their tissue machines.

“We must stay competitive in order to remain in business over the long term and that is a key reason for the upgrade,” stated Paul Stevenson, electrical engineer, Asaleo Care.

Driving Safe Production

The existing drive system at the Kawerau plant was an analog, direct current system, requiring periodic maintenance. Being 30 years old, it was also facing obsolescence. Over the years they became familiar with the processes required to maintain the system, but still they had to replace the brushes quite often.

Rockwell Automation helped the company assess the issue and possible risks and leveraged its application knowledge to engineer a solution that incorporated the latest technologies.

A new system was designed to take into account various factors relating to the old AC drives system such as excessive electrical noise and motor circulating current. It was also designed for integrated safety control using Allen-Bradley® GuardLogix® controllers with safe speed monitoring and safety gates.

The upgrade included new motors and eight new Allen-Bradley PowerFlex® drives for the tissue machine line. The Active Front End (AFE) capability provided regenerative braking for energy savings as well providing harmonic mitigation for all the common bus line drives.

By placing two AFE’s in parallel, the DC bus capacity reached 2,470 Amps, providing power for all the tissue machine’s common bus drive system.

Hassle-Free Commissioning

The Global Solutions team from Rockwell Automation has numerous software standards that have been developed over the years to help reduce risk by providing the capability for these machines to be configured correctly the first time.

For Kawerau plant, the entire solution was engineered, manufactured and delivered from the Lane Cove Assembly Centre in Sydney, Australia. To keep downtime to a minimum during commissioning, a full factory acceptance test (FAT) was conducted to test the equipment before installation.

“These machines are not designed to stop, and the process does not allow for it in terms of our supply channel, so time is always a limitation. We had to keep downtime to a minimum and took advantage of the two-week shutdown to complete some additional work at the site,” said Paul Kirsopp, project manager, Asaleo Care. “The cooperative approach by everyone involved in the project allowed for ahead of schedule delivery despite the challenges of working alongside two other major upgrades at the plant.”

Future-Proofing the Factory Floor

As a result of the upgrade, diagnostic information is more readily available and the level of support to access, repair and maintain the system is improved. The aged machines are more reliable and have advanced capabilities for guarding and productivity gains.

The project was more than just delivering new systems and technologies to the plant. With specific experience in tissue machines and paper machines, the Global Solution team provided the Kawerau plant the insights and in depth knowledge of the machines and equipment.

The system in the plant now does not require an enormous amount of technical input, and with improved reliability as the primary outcome, the productivity will improve when they start increasing the speed. “In addition, the machine is so much quieter that we had to check that it was still running at times,” said Kirsopp.

Another Safety Leader

The productivity of people, machines and processes is not the only key element of any sustainable business; studies show that best-in-class OEMs achieve higher overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) when they see safety as important as productivity.

There is another industrial giant in Australia that has also gained successful outcomes from their plant and system upgrades.

Fairfax, one of the largest media companies in Australia and New Zealand, owns their original printing press in Tamworth, New South Wales since 1997. The press was constructed from second-hand equipment and was around 25 to 30 years old.

Since the media industry requires companies to invest in new technologies and consolidate print centers to service a broader geographical location, Fairfax decided to reconstruct and transform their Tamworth press into a new greenfield facility.

Tamworth press print center publishes 15 to 20 tons of newsprint every week. On top of that, there are other additional printing operations. To continue to meet these production requirements while putting safety first, Fairfax conducted a risk assessment with participation from Goss International and Rockwell Automation.

Integrated Control and Safety

Based on the findings of the risk assessment, an innovative safety solution was commissioned at the site. This culminated in a positive safety record for the press that is based on the latest technologies in integrated control and safety.

Key to the success of the project was the requirement for a completely integrated solution that would provide effective safety, drive and process control for the Tamworth press.

GuardLogix safety controllers were the ideal choice and one of the major components of the solution. The control and drive system were configured so that some particular safety guards could not be opened until the press reached a slow speed, while opening a unit guard at the inappropriate time would stop the press to help prevent injuries.

The solution also included DeviceNet™, which provided communications between the Safety IO and GuardLogix to deliver integrated safety, drive and process control; four PowerFlex DC drives were used to power the press that were linked back to the control system using ControlNet™ communications.

There were more than 110 Sipha™ sensors that were put on the guards throughout the press. Moreover, the PanelView™ graphic terminals were used to display real-time status of the guards for fast troubleshooting.

Safe Guarded Record

The press contains six print towers, six reel stands with two folders that create the end newspapers. This print line can either be run as one press or two independent presses (each containing three print towers with a folder).

To allow for this, they introduced zoning into the safety system so that when used as one press, all of the press's safe stops are active; but if they run as two separate presses, the safe stop of one press does not control the other.

Although there is also an emergency stop that can make an overall stoppage, and there are more than 150 guards just on the press alone, to keep fingers out and avoid serious injuries, guarding can be cumbersome and cause issues with maintenance and production.

“With the new solution, there has been no hold up in production or maintenance schedules and it provides the safety and work environment for staff that we wanted to achieve,” said David Hedges, plant manager at Tamworth Press.

In addition, Fairfax has found the working components offer great reliability, and the press operators have implemented a monthly check list to confirm all the guards are working correctly.

Since the installation of the press there have been no failures on the guard switches and there have been no injuries or near misses thanks to the high level guarding at the press. This is reflected in the press's safety record – up to 2,369 days without lost time injury, which is the best in the group.


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