Production data on LED displays enhance bottom line

Electronic displays traditionally provide read-outs of programmable logic controller, operator interface data, or safety statistics. However, Engineered Plastics Corp. (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) recently discovered that displaying real-time production data for its plant employees enhances productivity and saves thousands of dollars per month.


Electronic displays traditionally provide read-outs of programmable logic controller, operator interface data, or safety statistics. However, Engineered Plastics Corp. (Menomonee Falls, Wis.) recently discovered that displaying real-time production data for its plant employees enhances productivity and saves thousands of dollars per month.

Engineered Plastics uses 16 injection molding machines to produce plastic parts, ranging from water softener control valves to cooling fans for electric motors. Light-emitting diode (LED) marquees display related real-time production data for each process, collected in a QNX-based computer platform. Smart Alec, PC-based software from Adaptive Micro Systems (Milwaukee, Wis.), is connected to the QNX-based computer, which acquires and formats the production data for display on two of Adaptive Micro Systems' 4 x 6 ft Alpha LED marquees.

At the Engineered Plastics plant, the marquees allow operations employees to observe real-time production data from their workstations. Data displayed for each of the 16 machines' processes include: machine number; part number; operator identification; good parts count; reject (scrap) count; injection boost time injection hold time; cushion; temperature; and back pressure.

Immediate data, faster solutions

When process parameters run within pre-defined limits, information related to that process is displayed in green. When a process variable goes above the pre-defined limit, information changes to red; below a pre-defined limit, information changes to yellow. Because the Alpha LED marquees provide operators immediate out-of-control information, problems in a given process are resolved more quickly. This saves Engineered Plastics money in several ways.

"We're currently experiencing 20% annual growth. To sustain this growth, we had to shift our quality focus from parts to the process. We know that if we keep our process in control, the parts we produce will be high quality," says Deborah Radder, president of Engineered Plastics. "Immediate response to problems has saved us thousands of dollars a year. Recently, an operator was able to quickly identify a nozzle leak because several parameters on the LED marquee changed color. Left undetected, a nozzle leak costs over $3,000 in replacement and repair parts, lost machine time, and scrapped parts, and that's not counting the cost of missing a customer's delivery schedule. LED marquees help us avoid at least three such incidents a year."

Moreover, because problems are resolved quickly, Engineered Plastics' machine utilization has increased 15%. This allowed a postponement in new machinery investments, which saved about $6,000 per year in reduced after-tax depreciation expenses.

"Now that we've netted substantial gains in utilization and efficiency, we're focusing on reducing scrap. As we identify problem areas and target our corrective action, we anticipate saving a minimum of $2,000 per month," adds Ms. Radder.

Again, Engineered Plastics expects much of its scrap savings to be achieved because operators are always aware of machine performance and its relationship to parts produced and scrapped, which in turn leads to quick problem identification and resolution.

Engineered Plastics' one-time, $70,000 investment in the Smart Alec software, Alpha LED marquees, and associated integration services paid for itself in the first 18 months after installation.

For more information for Adaptive Micro System or visit .

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