Automation of the industrial sectors is fast proving its worth, as more and more industries discover the productivity-boosting benefits of automated manufacturing. In Layman’s terms, turnkey automation with purpose-built machine integration can be defined as the process of automating processes within the plant environment that would otherwise require human input.
Purpose-built means that the automation system is manufactured exclusively for the specific plant or process operation, ensuring that its unique requirements are accommodated. Purpose-built machines ensure that everything runs smoothly on the floor exactly the way you the customer requires it, with the entire automated system controlled and managed from either a single controller or from multiple controllers integrated to communicate with each other.
Below we’re taking a look at a few issues facing the industrial sectors and how purpose-built manufacturing automation solves these issues, the business benefits of turnkey automation, and a few case studies of automation projects we’ve undertaken previously.
Issues Faced by the Industry
Let’s take a look at four problems manufacturing plants face on a daily basis, problems that can be solved with bespoke automation:
- Product quality inconsistency
Depending on the type of manufacturing line you operate, chances are you’re looking for near-perfect products 10 times out of 10. Unfortunately, humans are human and mistakes & inconstancy’s occur, costing time and money.
- Rate of production
Whether because of a process line fault or operator negligence, when the machines aren’t working you aren’t producing. Down-time caused by faults that have been detected late, as well as unplanned maintenance, dramatically affects rate of production as well as company profits.
- Reliability of operators
Another major issue that faces industrial sectors is the reliability of process operators. When your factory relies on human intervention to run effectively, the efficacy itself is reliant on the people who work for you.
- Little to no diagnostic information when problems occur
When problems occur, you’d ideally like to gather as much information about what happened as possible. This enables you to learn from the mistakes, avoiding them moving forward. Without maintaining diagnostic information on key processes, you’re going in blind when attending to an issue.
- Product quality inconsistency
Programmable Automation Examples
Below are two examples of successful automations in the process & packaging line sectors:
Process System Automation
This project was for a Fortune 500 company manufacturing consumer products. The process involved handling of raw materials through transportation systems, together with an automated packaging line. The entire purpose-built process system was engineered to fit into a factory with a tight footprint.
An integrated process system and packaging line were installed, along with fabricated raw material tanks and piping systems. On the process side, raw materials required transport from storage tanks to the process system, mixing together product batches using a precise automated set of controls.
Packaging Line Integration
Another Fortune 500 brand in the consumer products required an automation solution. The main goal was to source a multipurpose solution that could fill sample sizes and refill sizes on a single packaging line. In the final automation solution, two lanes of bottles were manually fed into a small in-line gravity filler. The bottles diverted into one lane after leaving the filler. Caps or trigger sprayers, depending on the package type, were then manually added.
Plant staff program custom parameters in the filler controls for new container sizes. Parameters such as package height and fill are entered to adjust to varying container types. Once a set of parameters is programmed and saved, operators simply press a button for future runs of that type. This ensures consistency and reliability of the end product.
Benefits of Turnkey Automation Solutions
Below are three benefits of automation solutions, namely time saving, improved productivity, and early fault detections:
When processes are automated, much time is saved in between the ending of one process and the starting of another. Before, a worker would have to approach the machine and physically start the next stage of the process. Now, this will happen automatically – saving time in the long run.
With key processes automated in the factory, workers are freed up to attend to other duties. This means that important things requiring human input can be prioritised while the turnkey automation system takes care of the processes on the factory floor.
Early Fault Detection
One major benefit to the implementation of automation is that processes are carefully monitored at every stage. The software involved is able to monitor key metrics and notify users when potential issues arise at certain stages of the factory process. This also prevents wastage and losses.
Successful Purpose-Built Machine Integrations
- Spanner finishing process
When Motion Tronic was contacted by the client, there were four processes being done by hand in four different locations along the manufacturing chain. This was costing our client time and money, and relied on the abilities of the operators.
By integrating the machinery that performs these processes, with purpose-built machines, we successfully moved the part from one process to the next, reducing the handling time between operations. This saves seconds every minute, minutes every day, and hours of productivity in the long run.
Automating the integrated processes into one single process eliminated quality inconsistencies and resulted in a reduction in non-conforming parts, less re-working of parts and less scrap. Predictable machine performance due to a known and consistent production rate improves the ability to accurately plan production runs, as well as uphold daily target and, most of all, company profits.
- Drop tester automation
This Motion Tronic client’s quality conformance testing was originally done by hand, dropping a filled container from a pre-defined height. Problems with doing this exercise by hand would be height inconsistencies, releasing the container in a manner that might cause it to fall at an angle not intended for the test.
Another issue with this quality testing method is possible fatigue of the technician performing the test. All theses problems result in inaccurate testing results, often resulting in the test having to be repeated, more time being wasted and possibly frustration due to the poor test results.
The solution we devised was a simple mechanical lifting arm with an adjustable stop position to accommodate a variety of test samples, held at various heights, for quality testing purposes. A drop chute that ensures the container under test always falls in the same manner was also implemented to ensure consistency in the tests.
This purpose-built machine reduces test time through motorised lifting, improves test accuracy with highly-repeatable height and drop angle accuracy, and reduces operator fatigue – improving work efficiency.
Motion Tronic Industrial Automation Projects
Below are a few blog articles discussing previous projects we’ve undertaken for clients in KwaZulu-Natal:
- Full build and automation of automatic feeder for metal cropping press
Motion Tronic was given the spec and had to conceptualize, design, build and automate a solution for well-known manufacturing company. The customers requirement was to enable them to load 6 m lengths of steel of varying thickness and width up to 600 kg’s. Then automatically feed the material through a cropping press with precise accuracy and speed.
- Automatic pipe cutting machine
Our client requested us to come up with a design for an automatic pipe cutter machine which can cut programmed cut lengths and qty for piping they use on their truck builds. Motion Tronic designed the once off machine from beginning to end including mechanical and electrical. Once the design was complete our experienced team then built the machine according to the design.
- Servo press feeders for metal stamping and pressing
Servo feeders for metal stamping lines. Motion Tronic design, build and maintain heavy duty servo feeders for the metal stamping industry. The systems are designed with robustness and durability in mind for harsh environments and conditions. Incorporating digital Baumuller synchronous servo drives the user is able to set feed distance to accuracy of 0.01 mm as well as speed, production counts etc.
Turnkey Manufacturing Automation in KwaZulu-Natal
Programmable flexible automation with purpose-built machines is the future of the industrial world, and Motion Tronic is one of a few South African companies that can design and plan, fabricate and maintain complete turnkey automation systems for purpose-built machines. Contact us today for more information on our turnkey automation capabilities!
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