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Predictive Maintenance For The Metalworking Industry

Predictive Maintenance for the Metalworking Industry

While predictive maintenance is a ‘trendy’ topic in the industry currently, it’s important that companies do not deploy such system just to have it in their plant. With clear goals and proper planning during implementation, companies should achieve better maintenance schedule planning, reduced downtime and better spare parts management. Article by David Chia, Beckhoff Automation Pte Ltd.

Preventive maintenance has been the industry’s default practice for maintenance for many years, where operators change out parts based on its estimated lifetime before the machine is expected to fail. Though preventive maintenance did help in reducing overall downtime of the machine, but it may not be completely optimised. Unnecessary change of parts may occur since the expected lifetime of a component is largely based on vendor’s recommendation and historical data, not taking into consideration other factors such as machine usage, which will also affect the lifetime of a component.

With such observation on the effectiveness of preventive maintenance, the industry then starts to look into predictive maintenance instead. As the term suggests, this approach predicts the machine failure and maintenance is carried out only when a failure is predicted to happen. A system will monitor the machine condition during its daily operation and alert the operators when an abnormal trend or signal is observed.

Along with the trend of Industry 4.0, predictive maintenance became a widely discussed topic among the various industries, including the metalworking industry. According to the Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index (SSIRI), under the “Intelligence” Pillar of the “Technology” Building Block, one of the criteria states that a Smart Industry needs to be equipped with systems that are able to predict potential failures ahead of time and alert operators of such deviations, across the “Shop Floor, Enterprise and Facility” Dimensions. To achieve this, huge amount of data needs to be collected from the shop floor level and to be sent to the enterprise level for further analysis for failure prediction.

Therefore, predictive maintenance solution actually cuts across the shop floor and the enterprise level. At the shop floor level, companies need to look at what data are to be collected and how this can be done. For existing machines in the plant, it may means adding on new sensors to the machine to monitor parameters such as chamber temperature, vibration and pressure. Constant monitoring of these parameters will then generate sufficient data to determine a normal or safe machine operating condition, and able to detect out of bound signals and trigger warning to the operators.

These monitored trends are then sent to the enterprise level for data storage and analysis. With good amount of data over time, the system will be able to identify certain patterns of the machine operation, which can then be used to generate reports on more accurate maintenance schedule and identify areas of improvement. If we broaden the scope further, such data and reports can also help improve the spare parts stocking flow of the company, to determine what are the more common parts to stock, and the purchasing of spare parts can also be automated.

Although predictive maintenance has become a hot topic in the industry, there remains some hurdles to cross after a company has decided to embark on such implementation. Before jumping into conclusion hastily and decide on a predictive maintenance system, the company should always ask these questions. What is your current practice for machine maintenance? What are the areas that can be improved in your daily maintenance practice? How can predictive maintenance help you in achieving the improvement that you intend to see? Without clear goals being set at the start of the journey, companies will fall into the trap of just implementing a system without reaping the full benefits of it, and thus leads to waste of resources.

There are many predictive maintenance solutions available in the market. From standalone Condition Monitoring Systems (CMS) that consists of dedicated hardware and software, to monitoring features that are integrated together with the machine controllers, such as PLC, PAC or PC-based systems. While both are able to achieve data collection and analysis, standalone CMS are considered quick to deploy solutions since the software mainly involves configuration instead of programming. However, integrating predictive maintenance features onto a machine controller provides flexibility in terms of expanding the machine monitoring scope throughout different phases, and integration of more features besides analysis for predictive monitoring. Each of these solutions will have its pros and cons, ultimately it very much depends on the goal that the company has set and the return of investments (ROI).

While predictive maintenance is a “trendy” topic in the industry currently, it’s important that companies do not deploy such system just to have it in their plant. With clear goals and proper planning during implementation, companies should achieve better maintenance schedule planning, reduced downtime and better spare parts management.



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Sandvik Launches Digital Monitoring System

Sandvik Launches Digital Monitoring System

Using digital solutions for monitoring of equipment utilisation makes workshops far more efficient and profitable. Sandvik Coromant has introduced its monitoring system, CoroPlus MachiningInsights which also gathers data, calls attention to issues and provides insights required to take action. It is an easily attainable step for manufacturers that are looking to reduce waste in production and make a smooth transition into a digital way of working.

This digital solution was developed in recognition that a machine that stands idle is not making money. For many manufacturers and workshops, knowing when a machine has stopped – and identifying the underlying reason for the stoppage – can be a major challenge and digital solutions are creating new possibilities to overcome this issue. Replacing the traditional ways of manual tracking, manual data aggregation and manual time studies, collecting data directly from a connected machine tool as well as from operators makes it possible to visualise the machine-, and even tool-, utilisation levels and create improvements within the factory.

Manufacturers are able to make substantial efficiency gains from this digital solution through the ability to analyse equipment utilisation and act to optimise production processes. The analysis itself is facilitated by digital connectivity and by adding the capability of operator input into the system, Sandvik Coromant has ensured there are also opportunities for increased collaboration and greater efficiency by combining data from the operator with data from the machine.

Transparency is ensured through the visualisation being carried out online and, therefore, accessible by a web browser. This means there is a rapid and simple method of incorporating digital manufacturing intelligence into a production site to drive improvements.


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Smart Press Shop Live

Smart Press Shop Live

Schuler offers a variety of digitalization and networking solutions for forming technology – Now, the technology and global market leader in the field of forming technology offers specific solutions for the age of Industry 4.0, also known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) – like the new  MSP 400 servo press. Contributed by Schuler

The 400 ton machine is still made of genuine iron and steel and suitable for both progressive and transfer mode, can travel at an oscillating stroke of up to 70 strokes per minute thanks to the highly dynamic servo drives, and thus offers high performance in this price segment. But at the same time, it already features intelligent software applications like the Smart Assist and the Optimizer.

“Schuler is putting forming technology on the fast track to the digital future,” notes CEO Domenico Iacovelli. Schuler has designed the control of the MSP 400 in the style of an intuitive smartphone app: operators can select from predefined movement profiles or program them freely. This significantly reduces the inhibition threshold for exploiting the machine’s potential. Thanks to the kinematics of the knuckle-joint drive, forming at the bottom dead center is also slower in itself. This means that readjustment via the servo drive is not always necessary.

The “Smart Assist” software guides the operator step-by-step through the setup process, supported by small videos and text modules. The electronic assistant optimizes the transfer and slide profiles to maximum output depending on the clearance profiles – a complex process that used to take a lot of time.

At the Hot Stamping TechCenter in Göppingen, Schuler is currently conducting a field test in the area of condition monitoring. Image Credit: Schuler

Process Monitor Integrated In The Control Unit

The process monitor integrated in the control unit offers extensive monitoring options. This ensures overload protection across the entire course of the press force profile and the entire movement profile; a minimum and maximum force can be defined for effective protection of the die. The response times of the electronically designed overload protection device are in the range of a few milliseconds, which is faster than with a hydraulic overload protection device. The press can be used again immediately after an overload has been detected.

The short stopping distances and quick response times are only possible thanks to the low mass moments of inertia in the entire drive train, which also lead to high dynamics during forming and other machine operation. While standard presses normally reduce the force in the event of an overload and drive the slide through the bottom dead center to the upper reversing point, the MSP 400 has a “Smart Release” function: here, the slide automatically runs back over a defined path after an overload has been detected, thus relieving the strain on the die and press.

Comprehensive Condition Monitoring

The integration of additional sensors – e.g. for acceleration, oscillation or pressure – enables comprehensive condition monitoring of the system, which can be displayed in the control system’s visualization. The basis for this is frequency spectra that provide information about possible wear in the gearing, bearing or motor. This prevents unplanned downtime and increases the productivity of the system. Furthermore, the process and condition data allow for complete quality control of the produced components.

Unlike a conventional press, the pressure points of the MSP 400 are not above the slide, but instead on the outside of the actual bed area. This allows the machine to absorb very high eccentric loads, and means that around 25 percent more press force is available to both the infeed and discharge sides. It is therefore possible to form even high-strength materials in the first die stage.

The geometric arrangement also gives the slide a high mechanical tilting rigidity. In addition, the deflection of the entire system is reduced because the drive is located far to the outside of the crown. This makes it possible to achieve die-friendly forming and better component quality. The electronic coupling enables force-independent parallel control: in the event of an eccentric load, the drives are readjusted on one side without any loss of force, and the slide can thus be held parallel.

At the Hot Stamping TechCenter in Göppingen, Schuler is currently conducting a field test in the area of condition monitoring. © MICHAEL STEINERT FOTOGRAFIE, 

“More efficient production and fewer rejected parts”

“The digital transformation of the press shop is already well underway,” says Domenico Iacovelli, Schuler’s CEO since April 2018. He adds: “Both major automakers and medium-sized suppliers can use the Smart Press Shop for more efficient production and fewer rejected parts. This means that we can give them the competitive edge they need.”

Schuler has also already demonstrated its ability to fully network different production facilities with its systems for constructing large-diameter piping (“Pipe ID 4.0”) and train wheels. Among other things, this process requires the availability of data necessary for determining and increasing the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The data is prepared by the system so that a quick glance is all it takes for the production manager to determine the total number of parts produced, how many of these parts are acceptable, and which shift had the best performance.

The collected data also serves as a basis for functions like the tracking & tracing of safety-related parts. Among other things, the system links these parts to information about the starting material used and the material’s origin, about the system’s lubrication and drawing force, and about other production conditions. All of this makes it possible to provide a complete trail of documentation in the event of quality-related complaints.

To monitor the condition of individual components for changes, wear, or damage (a feature referred to as condition monitoring), Schuler is integrating more and more sensors into its machines; such as those which measure vibrations and temperatures, for example, so that this data can be intelligently processed and displayed. Currently, a large-scale field test is in progress in Göppingen involving a 1,600-ton hydraulic die hardening press, which produces parts for lightweight automotive construction from sheet metal heated to 930 °C.

Virtual Training For Operators Of Press Lines

The new virtual training system from Schuler’s Forming Academy serves as a basic training of the operators dealing with the real forming systems in the press shop. This takes place in virtual space while a new system is being put into operation or the production is already running. Thus, the production in the press shop is not disturbed and the operators can be optimally prepared.

These days, the most important thing a press shop is to deliver the demanded level of flexibility—for last-minute orders and smaller batch sizes—without sacrificing profitability. There is no other way to boost efficiency in the press shop than by carrying out an end-to-end optimization, one that also includes the entire flow of materials.

Optimizing the presses themselves is, of course, a key component of this process. What is referred to as overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE, can be determined by examining availability, efficiency and quality. By taking a wide range of different steps to increase OEE, press shop operators can tap into existing potential and increase productivity.

The “Smart Assist” software guides the operator step-by-step through the setup process, supported by videos and text. Image Credit: Schuler

Software Helps To Coordinate Slide And Transfer Movement Curves

One such step is to enlist the help of software. “The specialists at Schuler will then optimize the die and production parameters digitally,” says Schuler CEO Domenico Iacovelli, who also took over as head of Group technology upon being named to his current position. “With the help of software tools, we can perfectly coordinate the slide and transfer movement curves with each die, and can take full advantage of what the presses are capable of.”

In the span of an entire year, significantly increasing the stroke rate or decreasing the setup time will free up large amounts of otherwise unavailable production time. This additional time can be used to produce more parts on the same equipment or decrease batch sizes, and can also be used to perform preventative maintenance. This avoids unplanned downtime while maximizing availability and delivery capability.

A holistic view of the press shop quickly reveals widespread schools of thought, such as the notion that performing frequent setups decreases operating efficiency. After all, a wider variety of parts and larger batch sizes do in fact drive up warehouse volumes, and therefore tie up more capital. In order to reduce batch sizes, internal setup times need to decrease. Enormous amounts of untapped potential are waiting to be utilized with improved methods and preparation. Equally important is the necessity of storing dies in a well-maintained condition, so that sudden changes in the production plan can be responded to flexibly.

Full Mapping Of The Value Stream Improves Efficiency

As an equipment manufacturer and process consultant, Schuler partners with the lean management consultants at Staufen AG to offer extensive press shop analyses. These analyses are based on a quick check which illustrates the shop’s individual efficiency relative to the industry leaders. The analysis process involves a full mapping of the value stream for the flow of materials—from the time the materials are received all the way to the departure of the finished product from the shop—and provides recommendations for customized measures that can be taken to improve efficiency. Additionally, based on actual and target value streams, new ideal or real layouts for the press shop can be developed, both for new press shops (greenfield) and existing production facilities (brownfield).

When it comes to the actual optimization, the deciding factor is the ordering behavior of internal and external customers. In an ideal case, a press shop will produce in line with the customer’s own pace, and can therefore flexibly respond to demand fluctuations without the need for larger inventories. Running consecutively positioned stations as closely in sync as possible prevents an accumulation of large inventories and minimizes lead time.

As a general rule, permanent increases in efficiency will always take precedence over short-term, one-time effects. Huge untapped potential can often be found not only in production, but also in administrative areas such as production planning or container and shop-floor management. In the latter case, managers must have the ability to maintain regular communication while also using key performance indicators to manage and also to control processes. “The biggest benefit arises wherever process and management excellence are developed side-by-side,” concludes CEO Domenico Iacovelli.


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