It may seem like a lifetime ago that we watched VHS tapes or were excited about the option to play “snake” on our new cell phone, but actually, it has only been about 20 years. Since then, technology has advanced leaps and bounds, taking us from dial-up internet to high-speed live-streaming options from devices that are far superior to their 20-year-old predecessors. With the advancement of technology, many manufacturing controls and components are becoming obsolete. When you consider that the average industrial automation equipment on plant floors is 20 to 30 years old, it raises a few questions about how efficient your manufacturing processes currently are, and what the potential of your line could really look like with even a few upgrades.
While upgrading legacy controls and components is a leading reason to consider modernizing your line, it isn’t the only reason to upgrade. Over time, many of our clients find that their systems need minor upgrades to stay running at their maximum efficiency. Identifying ways our clients can increase throughput on 3- to 5-year-old systems is something we do regularly. We always recommend evaluating systems after they are installed and running for a period of time.
Another great opportunity to make upgrades is during the retooling process. Recently, a large engine plant was preparing an existing assembly line to manufacture a new engine model, which would require a preexisting block honing machine to be retooled and retrofitted. In addition to the machine software and hardware modifications, the plant also desired the automation of several of the hydraulic operations to decrease operator involvement in the machining process.
Patti Engineering works around downtime requirements to help customers make upgrades and improvements less painful. We utilize modern design techniques such as simulation software, digital twin technology and virtual commissioning to dramatically reduce the risk and downtime associated with an upgrade project. As you plan the future of your production line, think about the capabilities that will be needed to maintain efficiency, security, and most importantly – reliability, in the coming years.
Here is a sampling of some of our past upgrade projects:
Major Control System Upgrade with Virtual Commissioning
Replacing five control panels with five PLCs, eight servo drives and motors, cabling, and cable carriers per machine was a tall order. Doing it with under seven days of downtime – some might even say impossible. The customer had received other estimates of up to six weeks of downtime! Utilizing Siemens PLCSim Advanced, Patti Engineering was able to test and debug 95% of our machine programming before we installed a single panel onsite. Our customer benefited from having an entire, brand new controls system up and running in the allotted seven days at 100% production on day 1. The customer now has machines that run faster, recover easier, and have less downtime than they have ever had in their 20-year history.
Motion Controller Upgrade Doubles Production
A highly automated manufacturer of flexible heating cables relied on its Electronic Cross-Linking Facility (ECLF) machine as the heart of its operation. Extended downtime seemed imminent as the ECLF machine was operating on outdated Siemens Simovert MASTERDRIVES technology. Patti Engineering conducted an in-depth engineering study and upgraded the old Simovert servo and vector drives with new Siemens S120 drives. The project was completed on a very tight timeline and exceeded expectations, approximately doubling the original output.
Minor Upgrades Result in Major Improvements
A garment distribution facility that Patti Engineering had previously completed a major retrofit for, again requested services for an improvement project several years later. Evaluating systems after they have been installed and running for a period of time is always recommended. In this case, Patti Engineering was able to complete minor upgrades that resulted in major improvements. The upgraded system is more robust with added functionality and less operator involvement. Additionally, it is easier for the maintenance team to diagnose.
Upgrade Nets 40% Production Increase
After running for over 15 years, a label packaging line was no longer achieving its original production rate. Patti Engineering conducted an in-depth production analysis to attribute the slow production rates to out-of-date hardware and software. Once the technology was updated, the production rate increased 40%, from 1,500 to over 2,100 labels per hour.
Are you considering upgrading your legacy equipment? We’d love to help.
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