An increasing array of software products continues to transform the complexity of upkeeping operations within the process industries. Nicola Curtis reports.
As rapidly advancing technology continues to shape the modern manufacturing landscape, companies are taking advantage of ever more sophisticated software to help run increasingly efficient maintenance operations and so remain competitive in the marketplace.
ShireSystem from Elecosoft offers a suite of maintenance management software products which promise a long list of cost-saving advantages including improved reliability and inventory control, increased safety, decreased downtime, enhanced productivity and ensured compliance. Established in 1982 and acquired by Elecosoft UK in 2018, ShireSystem CMMS (computerised maintenance management software) has a large range of customers both in the UK and abroad.
“It’s a solution product that’s tailored for lots of different industries and different business types. It’s very versatile, very easy to use and can be implemented extremely simply which allows it to scale with many customers,” says Jonathan Hunter [pictured], chief operating officer, Elecosoft plc.
Importantly, particularly with today’s often mobile workforce, the software can be deployed on a range of devices including those that are; ruggedised, IP67, ATEX compliant, integral barcode or RFID scanners.
“It’s essential that your engineers who are on the move have everything they need at their fingertips. So, making sure that the mobile application for both android and IOS is on top form and can cope with the various work given to the engineer is key,” says Shawn Ackermann, general manager at Elecosoft Southampton.
Xaar plc, which develops world-leading piezoelectric dropon- demand inkjet technologies, use ShireSystem to ensure its precision manufacturing equipment stays operating at peak efficiency and with total accuracy.
The company has created meters in ShireSystem and equipped maintenance engineers with tablets and the MobilePro application. They can now fill and close work orders on the move and monitor the usage of gases and liquid chemicals in real -time to enable planned procurement as well as scheduling machine servicing to match actual production usage.
Ian Rickwood, project and equipment engineering manager at Xaar plc, says: “We have used ShireSystem for nine years and we are still exploring all the integrated possibilities. It has already helped us plan, manage and understand our detailed maintenance scheduling, securing efficiencies and formalising our TPM processes to give greater accountability to the people responsible for checks. It helps us gain more efficient use of our resources, and it is moving us towards more effective planned preventative maintenance.”
As a very flexible system with a modular ability to adapt and evolve, ShireSystem is also well placed to cope with the sort of rapid change in product line seen recently as some manufacturers have responded to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies have the flexibility to change their hierarchy structure/assets themselves and could easily transition from, for example, a brewery/ distillery to a ‘hand sanitiser’ production set-up.
Distribution of data
In modern, connected manufacturing data forms a crucial asset for engineers. Specifically, real time, informative 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, unless the collection of data 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 correct data to the correct 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.
The detail, grade and complexity of the profiles we can deliver are continuously increasing 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,” Marchart continues
Erich Marchart, manufacturing manager, Hydro Extrusion & Components Nenzing
“The plant in question has three extrusion press lines with roughly 40,000m2 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,” explains manufacturing manager Erich Marchart.
“The detail, grade and complexity of the profiles we can deliver are continuously increasing 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,” Marchart continues.
Through the deployment of new smart technology Hydro gained access to a wealth of additional operational data, but it realised it needed to 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 Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk ThinManager software.
The solution lets Hydro centralise the management and visualisation of operational data and then share it with all facets of its manufacturing operations. In addition to streamlining workflows it also helps reduce interactive hardware operations and maintenance costs.
“Using the central resource, operators and maintenance technicians use mobile devices in the field to enter and receive information, independent of the 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,” says Marchart.
“The influence of data and its handling on the performance of the system is immense,” Marchart 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
- Safety, because Hydro can reduce the amount of movement within its manufacturing environment tied to employees retrieving information. For example, very often employees must pass personnel on stairs or narrow paths within the facility.
Maintenance used to be synonymous with greasy hands and overalls. As Industry 4.0 unfolds that image is changing. As firms take advantage of advancing technology, complex maintenance operations are transforming. Unlocking the potential of 4.0 will take time but that journey has certainly begun.