PC-controlled conveyor enhances productivity, customer service

To improve productivity and customer service in meeting the demands of its $1.3 million, 4,000-order-per-day business, Kennametal Inc., a global supplier of metal cutting tools, wanted to consolidate eight regional distribution facilities into one, state-of-the-industry, automated North American Distribution Center.


To improve productivity and customer service in meeting the demands of its $1.3 million, 4,000-order-per-day business, Kennametal Inc., a global supplier of metal cutting tools, wanted to consolidate eight regional distribution facilities into one, state-of-the-industry, automated North American Distribution Center.

Kennametal also sought to improve customer service with a one-order, one-shipment, and one-invoice system, at its 125,000 ft2Cleveland, Ohio, facility.

Implementing a computer-controlled 4,800-ft conveyor system has improved inventory management, order entry, and material handling systems.

Exceeds initial target

Kennametal facilities manager Tom McNamara says, "Our operating performance proves that, while technologically sophisticated, the system is easy to use. Our initial target for efficiency was to get 94% of orders out the door on the same day. We're already at 97%, and we see the opportunity for ongoing significant gains, because of the control system's flexibility."

The control system's open platform, incorporating Cutler-Hammer's (Milwaukee, Wis.) PC-based DeviceNet solution, provides flexible information flow, and allows real-time automated updates of product movement through the warehouse, from arrival on the receiving docks until departure from shipping. It also provides order status updates to management. In conjunction with smart distributed controls, Kennametal's PC-based system moves products through the facility and to customers with increased order processing speed and accuracy, according to those involved with the project. PC-based controls ensured the system's ease of installation and start-up, reduced wiring costs, and provided diagnostics to reduce downtime.

Kennametal's distribution center has a 30-ft ceiling and uses a mezzanine system with eight bays and 16 zones. The conveyor system uses Cutler-Hammer's NetView, which provides DeviceNet addressing; Steeplechase Software's (Ann Arbor, Mich.) PC-based control, which handles tote control and motor control; and NetPoiNT, which provides HMI screens of process overview, tote management, motor and network diagnostics. The system also uses Advantage enclosed control on DeviceNet, Prism photoeyes, touchscreen monitors, and other Cutler-Hammer products.

The control system tracks more than 32,000 variables, in addition to information to control the conveyors, such as timers, inputs, and counters.

A key requirement of the conveyor control system, Mr. McNamara says, was the need for linkage with Kennametal's SAP system, an Oracle-based, inter-enterprise software system that tracks each step while fulfilling orders. The link with the SAP software was created quickly, allowing a SAP server application to run in the same PC.

Using the connection, orders are sent via multiple order entry locations to the North American Distribution Center, where fulfillment begins. Kennametal has already tapped into the informational resource created linking SAP system and Steeplechase PC-based control.

Mr. McNamara says the new system exceeded initial expectations. "Even though we're still technically in start-up, we track errors using Six Sigma criteria, calculating the number of errors per million lines shipped. Our target is 500. While we are not there yet, we have consistently been over our goal, which is 99.9 percent accuracy," he says.

For more information from Cutler-Hammer, www.ch.cutler-hammer.com , from Steeplechase Software, www.steeplechase.com , ; or visit www.controleng.com/freeinfo .

System improvements at a glance

Kennametal's new 125,000 ft

Gets 97% of 4,000 daily orders out the door same day;

Allows real-time automated updates of product movement;

Provides order status updates to management;

Lowered wiring costs;

Provides diagnostics to reduce downtime;and

Tracks more than 32,000 variables.

Source: Control Engineering with information from Kennametal

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