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Faster Data Access Means Faster Troubleshooting
Trying to manage a production line for speed and quality when it takes more than 24 hours to find out which equipment malfunctions are causing problems is a recipe for inefficiency.
This 24-hour lag time was the challenge facing FCC (Adams), a manufacturer of automatic transmission clutch assemblies and components for major automotive companies in the US and abroad. Headquartered in rural Berne, Indiana, the company had long relied on a manual, paper-and-pencil process to assemble Excel reports for managers on production line performance and equipment functionality.
In search of faster results, production managers turned to Mitsubishi Electric, which had long supplied PLCs, servos and other automation components to the site, for a solution that would be easy to implement. The results of a trial on the first of four production lines at the site have been so spectacular that plans are in the works to install it on the other three lines.
The solution was the installation of a Mitsubishi Electric MI3000 Series industrial computer with a CC-Link IE Field Network. Connected to the assembly line, it provides automated, real-time visualization of the entire process, including any alarms or issues on the line itself. Data is collected seamlessly and compiled into any number of reports as defined by the user.
The CC-Link IE network provides full 1Gbit/s performance across the whole network, regardless of device type, eliminating hidden bottlenecks. It allows manufacturers to integrate a wide variety of automation components into a single, seamless system.
Easy learning curve
Mitoshi Sawaki, assistant chief engineer, says the Mitsubishi Electric solution was ideal because it only required a one-time purchase with no additional maintenance fees after installation, which took just a week. There was also an easy learning curve as the plant was very familiar with Mitsubishi Electric's network architecture and PLC software. And it was a flexible solution that could accommodate future design changes at FCC (Adams).
The Mitsubishi Electric team was able to fine-tune and optimize the solution after installation to meet the specific needs of the FCC (Adams) team. Data output provided format support for Excel, which was familiar to the company's team, and the format can be changed or organized differently if desired. The system can also be easily programmed to focus on specific data points for collection.
Now FCC (Adams) can automatically record operational status, alarm history, test results and other metrics on its machines and lines. The solution has allowed them to streamline, manage and organize their data in a way that made it more readily usable.
Accurate data in a few clicks
These days, production Line 1 at FCC (Adams) is more efficient than ever. With automatic visualization of data in real time, production manager Miyuki Lash can see right where issues are occurring and address them quickly, so they don't escalate or slow down production for days.
"We were able to simplify our process through this, versus doing all the hands-on and going out to the machine and doing the recording and everything," explains Tony Ingram, senior staff engineer. "Now it's right there, a few clicks on the computer and you've got the information you need."
It used to take at least two people to gather the line data and compile it into a report. Now just one person can manage the entire process and still have time to focus on other tasks.
"With assembly, there are a lot of component parts," adds Lash. "We used to have a lot of discrepancy in our inventory counts, but now, even with one less person, we've been able to keep up a proper count and reduce loss."
Lash and Ingram agree on the three biggest benefits of the Mitsubishi Electric solution:
- More accurate information about line performance because it's no longer a manual process subject to human error.
- Line operators are working more efficiently because issues are addressed immediately.
- Significant time savings in completing and reacting to necessary reports.
"We went from basically using pencil and paper to having an accurate data collection system that helps us understand the issues that we have on a daily basis," says Ingram. Read more on this story.
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