Thanks to SmartMonitor, Werma Signaltechnik provided to his client an uncomplicated solution for the data collection: it consists only of the wireless transmitters fitted to signal towers on the machines, a receiver and the software
by Ginevra Leonardi
A subsidiary of the Samson Group, Vetec Ventiltechnik develops and produces rotary plug control valves and pneumatic actuators as well as specialist valves for industrial applications. The German company offers solutions for the control of gaseous, vaporous, liquid and solids-laden flow media. In addition to its large technical plant and machinery, there are three large horizontal milling machines with a maximum clamping weight of three tons, CNC lathes, machining centres and band saws.
Sven Donner, the production manager, stresses how important it is to evaluate processes and workflow at the touch of a button and, above all, monitor them in real time. And there’s more: “As a manufacturer of special solutions in mechanical engineering, we usually produce in batch sizes of 1 – so it is essential to have setup times under control. Until now, Vetec has had no machine data collection system on which we could have relied, so a solution had to be found quickly”.
An uncomplicated data collection
The solution came thanks to Werma Signaltechnik, a German manufacturer of signal devices: SmartMonitor is the clever alternative for industrial companies who are looking for uncomplicated and reliable data collection for the optimisation of their manufacturing processes – and all at the touch of a button. Vetec started immediately with the trial kit and tested this monitoring system live in its own production facility.
SmartMonitor consists only of the wireless transmitters fitted to signal towers on the machines, a receiver and the software. Regardless of the type, age or manufacturer of the machine – the system only needs a signal tower as an interface. The “Win slave” transmitter is simply installed on the existing signal tower, and transmits wirelessly changes in the machine status indicated by the signal tower light elements to the “Win master” receiver. This is connected to the LAN network collects the data from all transmitters connected to the network, saving the data in a Microsoft SQL database integrated in the software.
The manufacturing process can be optimised
With local clear visual management of the shop-floor through the signal towersm and the displays on the control station on the software, response times can be significantly shortened and the manufacturing process optimised. Notification of a disruption to productivity can be sent to a smartphone. All downtime and monitored conditions are recorded and easy-to produce reports highlight opportunities for permanent improvement to processes and productivity. The installation was self-explanatory and took just a few minutes. Together with the Vetec IT department and its own electrician, the new system, including software, was ready for use immediately. “We started our trial with the Werma monitoring system on a CNC lathe, which we had suspected was working unproductively” says Donner. “We wanted to know exactly how long the set-up times are, and how we can shorten these times.” Since Vetec has long relied on signal towers from Werma, just the wireless slave transmitter had to be fitted onto the existing tower. They could see the first results after just one day, and they noticed how unbelievably long the set-up time was.At Vetec, the classic traffic light colours of red, yellow and green are used: the red light illuminates when the machine is switched off, the yellow light signals set-up time, the green light indicates machine running. The cycle start signal input from the machine PLC which switches the green light guarantees accurate start/stop time machine monitoring.
The status of all machines connected to the network is available at a glance
Donner confirms that the trial phase with the system was a success. Vetec decided to roll out the project to the entire machine shop the Speyer site even before the 30-day test phase was over. The individual slaves has been fitted to the signal towers, which are mounted on the busbar above the machines. The company adopted the same colour assignment of the signal towers from the pilot project, so that the status of each machine is immediately recognisable to everybody.
The site at Speyer, with a complex architecture, posed no challenge for the wireless transmission efficiency of the Werma system: since each slave simultaneously acts as a repeater one slave to another, a perfect network and transmission integrity was guaranteed.
It was very important to integrate all employees into the project. That’s why Vetec put a huge screen at a central location in the company. This shows the status of all machines connected to the network at a glance.
A blue light element as a call-foraction
Vetec identified a need for further optimisation: the analysis and evaluation of the data showed a large number of available unused capacity on many machines. An improvement potential was found in the area of internal processes. Employees were having to leave their workstation after completing a job, to prepare the goods for the next step as per the production order. This had to be stopped in order to keep unproductive and non-value-adding activities to a minimum.
SmartMonitor was also used for this: each signal tower has been fitted with a blue light element which indicates that the internal transport system (Itrans) can be called up. Now every employee can request it as soon as a job is nearly complete by means of a simple rotary switch, which has been mounted on, for example, the workbench. They no longer need to leave their workstation, but can immediately start working on the next job whilst the finished goods are collected by Itrans. That call-for-action simultaneously despatches to the Itrans operator the e-mail via the Werma monitoring software.
Another advantage here is that accurate analyses and reports are easy to generate: it is possible to see from the software exactly how much time passed between when the request was made and the logistical support was given. Since the goal of reacting is within 20 minutes, the software enables to quickly assess whether staff may be required.
The system has been presented as part of the Samson production network, and in the meantime it has been installed to another manufacturing site.