Software solution underlies project to improve Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) in a BorgWarner plant. Lean practitioners once hated automation and software. Over the years, though, appropriate use of these technologies actually improves Lean performance. Here is a case study.
The cloud-based lean manufacturing solution provider Leading2Lean was part of a Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) solution that helped auto powertrain maker BorgWarner increase Overall Equipment Effectiveness of an operating area by 10 percent in six months when coupled with its TPM implementation, at its Seneca, SC plant.
Soon after implementing Leading2Lean, the plant began to resolve inefficiencies and frustrations with a system that allowed them to better identify production weaknesses. The plant handled an increase in product demand while still improving First Pass Yield ratios, reducing scrap, maintaining high production levels, better utilizing labor resources, and improving overall communication with management and employees.
The team maintained high levels of operational availability—some areas as high as 90 percent. Area employees drive this process optimization—scheduling, planning and monitoring performance of machines on their lines—all through the Leading2Lean product.
“It’s as easy to use as Facebook or Google,” said Will Venet, TPM Implementation Leader at BorgWarner. Experienced managers also find the system intuitive. “What a reliability engineer took decades of experience to learn can be learned in an afternoon,” Venet said.
Plant Maintenance Engineer Rodney Osborne said the crew used to use “gut checks” to guess which machine needed maintenance or how much money they spent on spare parts for a machine. “But now with Leading2Lean we do a simple report and it tells us—there’s no ambiguity,” Osborne says. “It takes the gut check out of it. It’s real data, and it’s without question a much better way of doing business for us.”
Initially, some employees thought bringing in the Leading2Lean system was an oversight effort, like “Big Brother,” but results soon changed their minds. Today, there is a far more collaborative relationship between Production and Maintenance, and team members at all levels feel more engaged because they are empowered to identify and produce solutions for continuous improvement.
Downtime reductions were driven largely by the engagement of operators. This was because they had easy access to the data and the manipulation of that data to drive improvements in preventative maintenance. What used to take four or five days to analyze through laborious data mining can now be done in 20 minutes.
“The collaborative efforts the team is making for continuous improvement are influenced by having a tool that is universally appreciated,” Venet said. “I’ve come to appreciate that what Leading2Lean is really doing is helping us to be a better manufacturer all around.”
Despite the bad press that robots receive these days, I still have a soft spot in my heart for the technology. I first learned to program one in 1985. I’ve seen how robots remove humans from unsafe working conditions and improve product quality.
I have also liked what I’ve seen from Rethink Robotics. However, the press release I recently received was so filled with superlatives, that I was beginning to wonder if there was substance behind the hype. I’m betting there is. (And I removed most of the superlatives so that it reads better. Maybe I’ll see them at Automate and get a deeper dive.)
Rethink Robotics has announced Intera 5, a first-of-its-kind software platform that connects everything from a single robot controller, extending the smart, flexible power of Rethink Robotics’ Sawyer to the entire work cell and simplifying automation with ease of deployment.
Intera 5 fundamentally changes the need for integration, making it substantially easier and more affordable, allowing manufacturers to deploy full work cell automation in a matter of hours, not weeks, according to the press release.
Intera 5 is much more than the latest version of Rethink Robotics’ software; it’s a new way to approach automation that allows manufacturers to control the robots, orchestrate the work cell and collect data.
“With the introduction of Intera 5, we’ve created the world’s first smart robot that can orchestrate the entire work cell, removing areas of friction and opening up new and affordable automation possibilities for manufacturers around the world,” said Scott Eckert, president and CEO, Rethink Robotics. “Intera 5 is driving immediate value while helping customers work toward a smart factory, and providing a gateway to successful Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) for the first time.”
Rethink Robotics’ Intera 5 modernizes the traditional work cell by improving coordination, increasing flexibility and drastically reducing deployment times. Run through the robot’s controller, manufacturers can orchestrate conveyors, equipment and other machines from a central Intera 5-powered robot.
Tuthill Plastics Group, a full-service custom injection molding company, is using a Sawyer robot with Intera 5 to power improved product quality and more efficient production. Operating 24 hours a day, five days a week, Sawyer with Intera 5 is picking parts from a conveyor belt and communicating with a computer numeric control (CNC) machine to precisely place the part into the machine by using Intera 5’s unique force-sensing capabilities. By applying a precise level of force while placing the part, the Tuthill team has been able to improve part quality and consistency, reducing a length defect on the part by 98 percent since implementing Sawyer.
“Sawyer with Intera 5 is a major step forward in manufacturing automation,” said Richard Curtain, president, Tuthill Plastics Group. “Part placement is extremely critical to our machining process. Sawyer is able to effectively ensure product quality and consistency, handle the variability of the production line, and automatically re-register to the environment in the event that any parts move.”
German magnet manufacturer, MS Schramberg, is also leveraging Sawyer with Intera 5 and has substantially improved deployment time. With six robots operating on three machines, MS Schramberg has one robot selecting parts from a series of patterns and loading the part into the machine, while a second robot removes the part from the machine and loads the part into a tray.
With less than a day of training, an MS Schramberg engineer is able to deploy and train the robots in just more than an hour. The robots now run 24 hours per day, six days per week, and can easily configure complex logic tasks, minimizing the need for human interaction and freeing up employees for more complex tasks.
“We’ve cut our deployment times by hundreds of hours with Intera 5, and are able to easily deploy our Sawyer robots on an extremely complex task in just over an hour,” said Norman Wittke, general manager, MS Schramberg. “The ease and speed of deployment is extremely valuable for our company, and is helping make our manufacturing processes more efficient, while improving our ROI.”
With Intera 5, manufacturers will reap the benefits of:
- Industry-leading embedded vision, which will allow the robot to perform tasks just as humans do, reducing the need for expensive part presentation fixturing and additional integration costs.
- Adaptive force-sensing, allowing users to precisely set the amount of force required, or enable the robot to feel and respond to a specific force, so the robot can make adaptive decisions while performing a task.
- Intera Studio, an intuitive and powerful new tool to simply and effectively deploy automation like never before, providing a gateway to the factory of the future.
“Intera 5 is equipping industry leaders like Tuthill Plastics and MS Schramberg to achieve immediate bottom-line improvements in productivity, quality and efficiency on the factory floor,” said Eckert. “By implementing our robots equipped with Intera 5, manufacturers will have unprecedented work cell coordination, greatly reducing the need for complex, time-consuming and outdated automation options.”
Beginning in March, Intera 5 will be available for download on all existing Sawyer robots, and will come standard on all new robots.
This is another of a series of posts from the Rockwell Automation show Automation Fair last week. This stop on the tour concerned Safe Machines. The safety team has been active for many years now developing new products and initiatives. Not everything they do is expressly pointed at selling a product. Often they are out in public teaching safe machine practices, risk assessment, and safe machine design.
They showed a BevCorp machine that had been designed with the latest safety advances in mind. The idea involved removing incentives to defeating safeties. One feature is an ultra-wide door that allows access to more of the machine.
The safety system has a “request to enter” function. This is a high inertia filler machine. Activating the function begins with guiding the machine to a slow stop at a repeatable location. Therefore the controls always know status without requiring a reboot. Of course, there is a safe reduced speed mode to allow maintenance without a shutdown.
Integral with the Connected Enterprise philosophy of Rockwell Automation, the HMI and software collects data on who/what stopped the machine, which safety devices were triggered, and the like. From this data, employee behavior can be ascertained.
This leads to the real value of Connected Enterprise–production, engineering and EH&S can come together to evaluate the entire system from all points of view. The goal is to maintain productivity through use of a safe machine.
I’ve followed Rockwell Automation safety for years. In fact, I can remember classes in the 90s before becoming an editor on risk assessment and the launch of safety products. There have been two popular podcast interviews at Automation Minutes one on Safety Automation Builder and the other on the Safety Maturity Index.
This is the last stand where I had a deep dive. Following will be a review of partners who also exhibited at the Fair. Then it will be on to the next conference–which I couldn’t visit in person, but I have some interviews.
Back in the day when the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) was called Machine-to-Machine (M2M), the promised benefit was for OEMs monitoring their machines on customer sites. Providing that the customer allowed it, the OEM could collect data on performance of the machine and its components, offer maintenance services, and alert customers to potential problems.
Customers generally were leery about allowing connectivity to the outside world. This could become an open port for hacking and even open a gateway for stealing Intellectual Property. Over the ensuing 15 years, many improvements have been made in networking and security. Now, Rockwell Automation is releasing a gateway and cloud analytics platform that hopes to deliver just such benefits.
As Rockwell states in its release, “IoT-enabled assets and machines can improve operations when information that matters is delivered to the people who can use it best. Yet, equipment builders who invested heavily to build smart machines often are blind to the use and performance of their products after deployment.” Rockwell Automation announced FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines cloud application – a new Microsoft Azure cloud-enabled capability that empowers equipment builders with information.
As part of the company’s expanded Information Solutions strategy, the application provides access to performance analytics from deployed systems in order to gain valuable insight to support their customers. For manufacturers going through a digital transformation, this capability capitalizes on connected technologies to help drive higher availability and output while reducing maintenance costs.
“The sophistication of plants today has made specialization and collaboration essential,” said Axel Rodriguez, SaaS/Cloud products manager, Rockwell Automation. “Your manufacturing operations and maintenance teams have a lot on their plates. Allowing your equipment builders – who know their machines like the backs of their hands – to become collaborators in performance analytics can free up the best minds to focus on optimizing entire lines, plants or applications.”
OEMs can embed a FactoryTalk Cloud gateway device onto the machines they provide. Once commissioned, the machine starts collecting data. The data from selected controllers is sent to the FactoryTalk cloud application securely with minimal configuration by the equipment builder or the end user. The equipment builder then has access to real-time analytics and actionable information via prebuilt dashboards. It’s that simple!
The Festo International Press Conference has taken me on manufacturing and technology tours to Germany and Hungary in the past. This year’s event was a short drive down Interstate 75 to Cincinnati, Ohio. Here a large international press contingent toured its new $70 M state-of-the-art distribution and manufacturing center.
The facility features a highly automated order picking system unique to the manufacturing industry in North America and only comparable to the highly sophisticated warehouse systems of the strongest retail brands. With these new premises Festo is now able to triple its capacities: This allows for more flexibility, improved services and offers plenty of space for future growth.
Excellent growth prospects
The center is designed to allow for the speed and flexibility needed to accommodate Festo’s future growth in the NAFTA market (US, Canada and Mexico). The RSC will also support the expected growth in Mexico, which is becoming a recognized hub for the automotive industry. The new center has Foreign Trade Zone status, which makes it faster and more efficient to support customers in the US, Canada and Mexico from a central US location.
With a storage capacity of 65,000 bins, the highly automated warehouse system – implemented by Witron, the leading designer and supplier of fully automated warehouse and logistics systems – features seven high-performance picking stations and the capability to pick and pack 1,000 items per hour. “As regional and US sales continue to grow, this Regional Service Center will provide a strong product supply backbone for the North American market with best in class supply chain performance“, said Yannick Schilly, Head of Product Supply NAFTA
and RSC Mason.
Festo Value Production (Lean)
The facility features an implementation of the Festo Value Production system (FVP). This system is based on closely involving employees in defining standards and continuously improving processes and technical solutions. Great emphasis is placed on consistent communication as well as the visualization of objectives and results. It is thus possible to produce globally over 30,000 products with countless variants and deliver tailor-made solutions to customers all over the world within a matter of days.
The Regional Service Center features both an assembly area and the warehousing/picking area. When assembly is completed, the finished product is transported to the Regional Service Center (RSC) for shipment. All components in a system are grouped by barcode, packaged for shipping, and then shipped out to schedule.
“Our customers in North America expect top quality ‘made by Festo’, with guaranteed supplies and next-day delivery at prices in keeping with local market conditions. At the same time, energy efficiency, environmental protection and occupational safety are becoming increasingly important. The Regional Service Center in Mason/Ohio will secure our regional supplies to the North American market for the years ahead,” concludes Dr. Dirk Erik Loebermann, Chief Operation Officer and Member of the Festo Management Board.
Training and Apprenticeship Program
Festo has established a separate group, Festo Didactic, which provides training and apprenticeship programs both for Festo products and systems as well as for automation in general. In Mason, Didactic has partnered with Sinclair Community College and five companies in the Cincinnati tri-state area (Art Metal Group, Clippard Instruments, Festo Inc., MQ Automation, Nestlé) to create a two-year Mechatronics Apprenticeship Program to help employers develop the skills that are missing in the workforce today by combining theoretical education, hands-on training, and on the job training. The apprenticeship is designed to help individuals learn advanced manufacturing skills as well as earn an associate’s degree in mechatronics.
The first cohort of the program includes 11 apprentices who are training for careers as maintenance technicians, automation specialists, service technicians, and manufacturing technicians. The program uses the German apprenticeship model of dual education, where apprentices learn in a classroom and maintain a steady job.
Every week each apprentice spends one day at Sinclair Community College for classes, one day using state-of-the-art equipment at the new Festo Learning Center in Mason, and three days working at their respective employers. The apprentices are able to take what they learn in class, practice it at the Festo Learning Center, and then use that new knowledge and skill in a real-life work environment. “In terms of educational modality, the apprenticeship model couldn’t be a better fit for manufacturing,” says Vice President for Regional Centers at Sinclair Community College Scott Markland.
The Festo Learning Center is a unique part of the program. The Center is designed to meet international standards for production facilities and labs. It provides the apprentices a training facility where they can work with instructors on high-end Festo workstations that simulate a work environment and corresponds to their classroom curriculum.
For manufacturing companies in high-wage countries, Industry 4.0 provides an opportunity for remaining competitive on a global scale. “We are talking here about the transformation of industrial manufacture into a fully networked, flexible production system. To remain competitive, we must take the initiative with our characteristic spirit of inventiveness and give shape to this new development”, says Prof. Peter Post, Head of Corporate Research and Technology of Festo AG & Co. KG.
This transformation in the world of production is founded on digitalization, a crucial element in the merging of the virtual and real worlds. Prof. Post sees great potential here: “Digital refinement will give rise to increasingly intelligent products. In future, the individual elements of an overall system will be able to communicate with each other and autonomously control and regulate themselves. They are the core of industrial digitalization and support the production process through enhanced functionality – from classic aspects such as productivity and quality on to increasing individualization.”
To optimally leverage these new capabilities of intelligent products, cooperation needs to be established with many systems and business processes. “Together with our partners in Industry 4.0, we’re currently defining the new language of Industry 4.0. The German ‘Plattform Industrie 4.0’ with its widespread members from office and shop floor, as well as from standardizations and associations, works on joint reference models and international standards. This will allow for engineering the digital work stream in a kind of plug&play manner! The intelligent devices will describe themselves and will autonomously find the right collaboration partners”, details Dr. Michael Hoffmeister, representing the portfolio management software of Festo AG & Co. KG. “In the future, digitizing these virtual added values of a component will be as important as manufacturing the physical part”, he says.
Being one of the main drivers of standardization within Industry 4.0, Dr. Hoffmeister points out, how important worldwide collaboration is: “We’re working technically closely together with our colleagues from the Industrial Internet Consortium. Our business scopes are complementing each other and our architectures are mapping together”.
Festo Customers in the Region
We toured two customer plants in the area. HAHN Automation and Storopack.
HAHN Automation is one of the leading manufacturers of special machinery for automated production. Its main customers are the automotive industry and its suppliers. “We have a firm focus on customer proximity, since that is the only way we can ensure our quality standards and guarantee intensive project support,” says John Baines.
This strategy has borne fruit, as shown by the successful cooperation with customers located within three hours’ drive of Cincinnati. The nationwide list of customers reads like a who’s who of the industry: from BMW to BorgWarner, Brose, Continental or Mitsubishi, HAHN Automation’s customers include most of the industry’s global players. Another practical point is the closeness of its own facilities to Cincinnati Airport, which is just ten minutes away. This also explains why the company is developing and supplying its site in Mexico from its US factory.
Modular cell concept
HAHN Automation’s main concept is the MasterCell. A MasterCell can either be used as an automatic single workstation with manual component placement or combined into technologically sophisticated automation systems. The modular system design is based on the principle of fast and cost-effective expansion in line with demand as production quantities increase. In the MasterCell modern robots as well as leading-edge assembly and testing technology are used, making it suitable for challenging assembly and testing processes.
The benefits for customers include the standardized cell structure, ease of handling and operation, ergonomic design, high quality, high availability, short delivery times, great economic efficiency, flexible degrees of automation and high levels of customizability.
Festo automation components play an important role in the MasterCell concept: from the modular automation platform CPX/MPA to pneumatic drives from the standard product range and pneumatic grippers, HAHN Automation uses key products from the automation specialist. These are used in almost all assembly cells.
Packaging material is a typical throwaway product. Packages arrive, are opened, the goods are removed, and the filler material is thrown away. “Hardly anyone – apart from Storopack – thinks about how important it is to select the right protective packaging products in the right quantity and quality for a particular application,” explains Daniel Wachter, President of Storopack for North America in Cincinnati, Ohio. Incorrect or inadequate filler material can damage goods in transit, while excessive or incorrectly inserted protective packaging material can significantly reduce productivity at packing stations in distribution centers.
Storopack produces – among other things – its AIRplus film rolls to supply to distributors and customers throughout the world. During the primary process, plastic granulate is formed into basic plastic film at blown film lines. This is then wound onto rolls by winding machines. These machines are equipped with standard cylinders DSBC which allow the rollers of the winding machines to be correctly aligned, depending on the load.
On configuration lines in the secondary process, the film is configured to the required dimensions and perforations and packed as finished AIRplus rolls. Stamping tools are used to seal and perforate the infinite plastic film to form air cushions of specific widths and lengths. These lines are also equipped with pneumatic cylinders DSBC, as well as rotary cylinders DSNU-PPS, compact cylinders ADN and short-stroke cylinders ADVC, controlled in each case by individual valves CPE 14.