OEE automation project profile

Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) at U.S. Pipe Marvel City mill improved by applying FactoryTalk from Rockwell Automation, Microsoft SQL, and smart integration from Revere Control Systems Inc. and Stone Technologies Inc.



Automated ductile iron pipe manufacturing operation advanced quality and lowered cost by applying FactoryTalk from Rockwell Automation, Microsoft SQL, and smart integration from Revere Control Systems Inc., and Stone Technologies Inc.


U.S. Pipe and Foundry’s automated ductile iron pipe manufacturing operation in Bessemer, AL, is an efficiency-based, streamlined, flow-through process facility. Higher quality and lower costs resulted from the application of FactoryTalk from Rockwell Automation, Microsoft SQL, and smart integration from Revere Control Systems Inc., and Stone Technologies Inc. The U.S. Pipe Marvel City Mini Mill is the only ductile iron pipe operation in the United States to employ state-of-the-art machinery and transport systems, the company says. U.S. Pipe and Foundry Co. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mueller Water Products Inc.


Two of the goals for the Bessemer operation were to improve quality and lower costs, and both goals have been met through automated processes and improvements in technology. U.S. Pipe announced plans for the automated operation in May 2007, and it began producing orders in the fall 2008.


The operation, designed to run up to 24 hours per day, makes maximum asset utilization a requirement. New equipment assets have advanced U.S. Pipe’s level of automation, while under-utilized assets at sister facilities were used where appropriate for the new operation.


People first, better environment

While the Bessemer facility uses far more automated processes than traditional ductile iron pipe facilities, it relies heavily on a highly skilled work force.


Time and development was spent on bringing the new workforce into the operation to help complete the installation.


Training is a fundamental foundation of the mill’s culture by investing in people, helping them grow, and providing challenges to stimulate minds. Employees are cross-trained on all jobs within the operation, including preventive maintenance. Through automation U.S. Pipe has moved towards a workforce that monitors processes. The resulting work environment encourages lower turnover and provides a stable employee environment. State-of-the-art performance monitoring software helped established performance standards for continuous improvement. The company says that combining new controls and automation with existing manufacturing technologies has lead to superior performance.



MES screens enable efficiencies, details
U.S. Pipe and Foundry's automated ductile iron pipe manufacturing operation in Bessemer, AL, is an efficiency-based, streamlined, flow-through process facility.
-Operators at U.S. Pipe Marvel City Mini Mill can select the current production mode for the operation with the screen at left, Stone Technologies says.
-Other human-machine interface displays show detailed events to be re-categorized; see them at budurl.com/USPipeAutomation.
-A primary stop HMI screen prompts an operator to select a category for the downtime, while another screen allows selection of more detailed reasons.

Marvel City Mini Mill overview

U.S. Pipe wanted an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) system to help understand the efficiency and downtime of the new automated operation. U.S. Pipe’s local systems integration partner, Revere Control Systems Inc., suggested Stone Technologies Inc. provide expertise in the manufacturing execution systems (MES)/OEE space. Stone worked with U.S. Pipe to define reporting requirements and designed and implemented a solution accordingly.


The implemented system tracks the efficiency, downtime and operators at each location within the line to provide production visibility. The solution uses Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk Metrics, FactoryTalk Transaction Manager, FactoryTalk Historian Classic, and Microsoft SQL Reporting Services to provide the desired functionality.


Stone developed a custom application using ASP.Net to allow U.S. Pipe to re-categorize its downtime events and enter notes that team members can review to help make process improvements. Stone also provided custom Microsoft SQL Reporting Services reports that allowed U.S. Pipe to understand casting operations information, including valuable information from each captured data fields. U.S. Pipe Plant Systems group created applications that store production data. Stone provided custom reports to provide visibility into data stored within those databases.


Custom operator screens were developed by Stone Technologies to satisfy the needs of U.S. Pipe. Each screen interacts with data captured by FactoryTalk Metrics or modifies data previously captured by FactoryTalk Metrics.


Revere Control Systems and Stone Technologies worked on the U.S. Pipe Project and are business units of the Automation Alliance Group (AAG), a corporation owned by system integrators that provides clients with broad process and technological capabilities worldwide.






U.S. Pipe project requirements, automation inside



Project execution criteria included:




  • Delivery of a complete OEE and human-machine interface (HMI) solution;

  • Downtime and event logging;

  • HMI operator log in screens; and

  • Data acquisition and transfer to plant process areas and custom reporting capabilities.



Stone project responsibilities:




  • Hardware and software procurement;

  • Database design;

  • FactoryTalk Metrics OEE configuration;

  • Custom report development;

  • HMI design; and

  • Creation of custom reporting portal.



Technologies applied:




  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005;

  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services;

  • Microsoft ASP.NET;

  • Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk Metrics;

  • Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk Historian Classic; and

  • Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk Transaction Manager;



Benefits include ability to:




  • Get real-time downtime data;

  • Track operators at each location of the facility;

  • Get real-time efficiency information; and

  • Use FactoryTalk Transaction Manager to move data between the control system and plant systems data sources.


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