- Eager to exploit the capabilities of new technologies, Hydro Extrusion & Components Nenzing realised that it also had to manage the resulting data in order to make the best use of its insights
- ThinManager – A Rockwell Automation solution
- Enhanced product quality due to instant appraisal of variables and parameters
- Greater efficiency and sustainability by avoiding losses in production through unplanned downtime
- Higher safety levels due to the ability to access data from everywhere, not just on line-side HMIs and computers
- Easier management of data due to centralised server
Leading extrusion company leverages centrally controlled operational data to enhance its maintenance operations
In the modern connected manufacturing landscape, probably the single most important asset an engineer can possess is data. Specifically, real time, informative and pertinent manufacturing data upon which vital operational decisions can be made – quickly enough to have a positive impact on production.
But, as part of a smart manufacturing operation, the collection of data and the interconnected pathways down which it flows are just half the story. Unless it can be presented to the right people, in the right format at the right time, it loses its effectiveness. So tight control over data distribution is essential.
On a smaller machine with a single HMI, presenting data is relatively straightforward. But when you consider larger plants with thousands of data points, multiple process steps and a wide range of operators and their associated roles, the task of distributing the right data to the right people takes on a new level of complexity.
This was an issue faced by Hydro Extrusion & Components Nenzing, part of Hydro, a global supplier of aluminium, products and extrusions, which sums up its activities as “from cruise ships to LED lights, windows, air conditioners and hundreds of products in between, Hydro’s experts help design, extrude and manufacture the parts that shape your world.”
Erich Marchart, manufacturing manager at Hydro Extrusion & Components Nenzing, explains: “The plant in question has three extrusion press lines, with roughly 40,000 m² of installed equipment. These lines can handle around 46,000 tonnes of aluminium per year, creating over 30,000 different extruded aluminium profiles, sometimes with as many as 250 different products per day. More product variety demands greater flexibility and agility and in turn this both relies upon and generates more data.
“The detail, grade and complexity of the profiles we can deliver are continuously increasing,” he continues, “and the quality expectation of Hydro itself is growing year by year. The position we have established, means that the maintenance of our plant must be further optimised. Customer expectations in terms of delivery speed and reliability in meeting the specified properties are now driven by new methods. And we want to exploit the possibilities which arise from new technologies – such as sensors, IIoT and miniaturisation – as soon as possible, in order to grow and maintain our market lead.”
Through the deployment of new smart technology, Hydro gained access to a wealth of additional operational data, but it realised that it must make access to this data and the insight it provides available to its employees in a mobile and flexible way.
Hydro has solved the issues relating to data volume and disbursement over a plant of this size by deploying ThinManager® technology from Rockwell Automation.
The ThinManager solution lets Hydro centralise the management and visualization of operational data and then share it with all facets of its manufacturing operations, from control rooms to line-side operators. In addition to streamlining workflows, it also helps reduce interactive hardware operations and maintenance costs.
“Using the central resource,” Marchart adds, “operators and maintenance technicians use mobile devices in the field to enter and receive information, independent of the standard IT infrastructure. The server provides a mirror of the application, giving the operators exactly the information they need, where they need it and when they need it. For example, should a processing variable cause concern, or an alarm is raised, the operators are immediately informed in a format that suits their role, and remedial action is quickly undertaken to prevent any detrimental effect on quality or throughput.”
“The influence of data and its handling on the performance of the system is immense,” he explains, including:
- Quality, by being able to directly represent the relevant relationships of measured values. For example, a deviation might indicate component wear, which can be acted on quickly;
- Efficiency and sustainability by avoiding losses in production, thanks to the reliable and accurate processes and equipment. By keeping a very close eye on all assets, issues are resolved much quicker, resulting in less wastage of time, raw materials and engineering efforts and
- Safety, because Hydro can reduce the amount of movement in its manufacturing environment tied to employees retrieving information. For example, very often employees must pass other personnel on stairs or narrow paths within the facility.
“The biggest advantage of ThinManager is that we can display systems of different platforms and layers quickly and easily on one device,” Marchart elaborates. “Whether tablet, smartphone or notebook, the programs can always be used, independently, whether the operator is in the office or not. It also interacts with other third-party software packages, including our SAP system.
“Our primary maintenance aim is centred around reliability engineering and a zero percent failure strategy,” he adds, “and we are confident that our production activities will gain huge benefits from this approach.
“We have had a relationship with Rockwell Automation for over 20 years,” he concludes, “and I would not change any decisions we have made since the beginning of this relationship. We are looking to develop the system even further with the addition of an Augmented Reality project, using the fruits of the Rockwell Automation and PTC relationship. We are also looking at FactoryTalk Analytics, which will be tested soon alongside a number of other smaller projects centred around digitisation.”