See Clearly into Plant-Floor Applications

Not too long ago cutting edge software integration was linking together silos of information on the plant floor. Now the rest of the organization and its partners in the supply chain realize the value of up-to-date information from and connections with manufacturing or processes.There's increasing attention being given to the benefits of interconnecting manufacturing to the enterprise.




  • Software and information integration

  • System integration

  • E-manufacturing

  • Database

  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

  • Manufacturing execution systems (MES)

Sometimes good information is automation rocket science
Benefits of integration, interconnections

Not too long ago cutting edge software integration was linking together silos of information on the plant floor. Now the rest of the organization and its partners in the supply chain realize the value of up-to-date information from and connections with manufacturing or processes.

There's increasing attention being given to the benefits of interconnecting manufacturing to the enterprise. (For a list of related items, see October Control Engineering Online Web Exclusive, 'Connect the plant floor to the supply chain.'

Analysts indicate expanded interest, as well. ARC Advisory Group (Dedham, Mass.) expects the enterprise integration market to grow 20% per year (compound annual growth rate) to $11 billion by 2006. ARC put the market for related software and services revenues at $3.9 billion in 2000 and $4.8 billion in 2001.

'Market growth in manufacturing industries has been driven by the need to accommodate new business models where supply-chain management techniques, partner relationships, customer service, and others make external integration a requirement,' according to ARC vp Bob Mick, author of the 'Enterprise Application Integration Global Outlook' market study.

The benefits of collaboration and consistent business processes have raised integration planning to a strategic level, beyond automating and connecting. This is raising interest in 'integration architectures, technologies, and products that provide consistent methods for leveraging all available resources,' internal and external to the enterprise,' Mr. Mick adds.

Some key applications and related benefits follow below.

Nissan North America Inc. signed a multi-million-dollar
contract with GE Fanuc for a new manufacturing execution
system (MES), which will be modeled after the MES at
Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., plant shown here. The new project
features design, onsite implementation, startup, and support
as the new Nissan Canton, Miss., facility comes online.

Motoring to the supply chain

Nissan North America Inc. sought a way to integrate manufacturing execution system (MES) and the supply chain at its new Canton, Miss., facility, to cut design time and reduce work-in-process (WIP) inventory. GE Fanuc's (Charlottesville, Va.) Cimplicity Business is providing a multi-million contract for MES, consulting solutions and software (design, onsite implementation, and startup) for the 2.6-million-ft2, $930-million facility. The complex will have capacity to produce 250,000 units per year, including full-size pickups, sport utility vehicles, and minivans.

'We chose Cimplicity's MES because installation of the solution at our Smyrna, Tenn., plant, achieved better inventory management, broader quality control, and faster lead times and inventory turns,' said Mike Head, department manager for plastics and systems engineering at Nissan. 'Cimplicity's MES is a major contributor to making this plant the most productive in North America [according to The Harbour Report, a North American automotive survey], and we're passing those benefits on to our new facility.' Nissan's North American operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer, and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing.

Kevin Roach, vp of the GE Fanuc Cimplicity business, adds, 'The complexity of running the most-productive automotive plant requires an advanced level of real-time visibility and control of the floor. Nissan utilizes the full suite from Cimplicity to reduce inventory, integrate the execution system to the supply chain, and achieve production rates required to meet market demands.'

Weaving in the yarn

Advanced Glassfiber Yarns (AGY; Aiken, S.C.) is tying together MES, visualization, and enterprise resource planning in production of fiberglass yarn for the electronics, construction, aerospace, defense, and industrial product markets. Unifi Technology Group Inc. (Charlotte, N.C.), an e-manufacturing solutions provider, is integrating Camstar's InSite manufacturing execution software for the management and control of AGY's production processes, AGY's Oracle ERP application, and automated plant-floor equipment controlled by Rockwell Software's RSView32 SCADA application.

Integrated automatic data collection, product genealogy, and WIP tracking allow AGY to more easily monitor production, reduce costs, and increase product quality. 'The new system will give us much better visibility into all of our manufacturing processes,' says Rick Schawe, operations solutions leader at AGY.

'With the increased visibility, we'll be able to improve our processes, respond to alarms and unplanned events, reduce costs, and keep product quality high. Unifi Technology provided us with a detailed analysis of the process data we'll need to collect for efficient plant operation, and also the structural design and deployment roadmap for the overall systems solution,' Mr. Schawe says.

Touch points between InSite and the Oracle ERP will be built so that order and completion information will be passed between the two systems in real time. AGY was spun off from its parent company, Owens Corning, in 1998. Mr. Schawe expects the integration to allow quick response to 'customer inquiries, maximize the use of all of our manufacturing resources, and operate smoothly on a 24/7 basis. For that to happen, a robust execution system tightly integrated with our plant equipment and business systems is essential.'

Clear as East Bay MUD

Integration of a SCADA system and an Oracle Enterprise database with a real-time, web-based interface allows East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD; Oakland, Calif.) to provide management and staff with real-time monitoring of water conditions in the San Francisco Bay Area. EBMUD supplies water and provides wastewater treatment for 1.2 million people in a 325-mile2area.

Metso Automation (formerly Neles Automation; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Helsinki, Finland) and IndX Software Corp. (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) provide insight@Web. The system is 'an 'enterprise dashboard' with an easy-to-use browser interface for management and staff,' says Kevin Wong, EBMUD's 'enterprise dashboard' project manager. 'Real-time data with historical trending and data from our backend systems can be combined and presented graphically to casual users.'

Using insight@Web, EBMUD's staff and management can access live data and analysis, including real-time status, from Oracle. The system combines Oracle data with real-time and historical information from EBMUD's AspenTech InfoPlus.21 historian to enable in-depth analysis of both real-time and historical conditions. Metso Automation is upgrading EBMUD's existing SCADA system to a distributed Oasys SCADA system. As part of this project, Metso has developed connectors that will link the new SCADA system to insight@Web and provide a layer of operations intelligence.

Forging integration

Since 1979, Alfe Heat Treating (Fort Wayne, Ind.) has offered aluminum heat-treating for automotive (and other) industries. The company now the largest independent U.S. aluminum heat-treating contractor supplies aluminum engine blocks and heads to General Motors.

In 1999, at its new Saginaw, Mich., facility, Alfe sought an integrated automated processing system that would improve productivity, quality, and security and decrease labor and training costs. In the old architecture, diagnostics were limited to the systems level, and problems were often hard to isolate and correct quickly. Varying levels of operator knowledge occasionally led to errors. Lifecycle was an issue; an aluminum heat-treating system is expected to last 15 years.

Sister company Alfe Systems designs, manufactures, implements, and services continuous and batch-style heat treating furnaces. Alfe Systems used Creative Control Systems (Fort Wayne, Ind.) to provide the primary control systems for the Saginaw facility.

Process flow

The new Alfe Heat Treating system in Saginaw consists of two parallel, continuous-solution furnaces, each with an in-line quench tank at the exit. After quenching, product moves through a patented, two-level age oven, then proceeds to testing and unloading. It requires approximately 12 hours to transform raw metal into a component capable of withstanding engine temperatures and stresses.

Upon receiving castings, Alfe loads them onto conveyors, which carry the parts throughout the continuous process and feed them into the heat-treating system, raising metal temperature to approximately 1,000 °F. Products move into the quench tank, the age oven, then to the inspection station, for a series of tests to verify metal strength and hardness. After passing the tests, baskets are prepared for shipment, and the products are ready for machining.

Rockwell Automation's (Milwaukee, Wis.) Allen-Bradley ControlLogix provides logic for furnaces, conveyor panel and age oven, and transfers information back to a central server. 'We chose ControlLogix because its highly integrated processing and ease of programming provide an extremely versatile platform for controlling the heat-treating system,' said Bob Bailey, senior systems specialist, Creative Control Systems; 'Without these capabilities Alfe would be limited in its ability to modify and expand the current system.'

ControlLogix uses ControlNet and DeviceNet networks to communicate with field devices, and Ethernet to communicate with the Rockwell Software RSView32 Active Display (RAD) server. ControlNet links the controller and remote I/O chassis, and enables it to talk to the conveyors' Allen-Bradley 1305 variable-speed drives and communicate information gathered by RSView. The PLC checks the drives' status throughout the heat-treating process.

DeviceNet connects four bar-code readers looped to the conveyor panel; ControlLogix provides data to the RAD server. Ethernet provides high-level communication among the server, the clients, and PLC. Temperature controllers also use Ethernet to communicate information to the server via protocol converter boxes.

'Being able to access data from one place on the plant floor has helped us to easily and quickly determine where problems exist,' said Matt Jones, plant manager, Alfe Heat Treating. 'RSView allows our operators to focus on primary job functions, rather than spending time trying to memorize how a control systems is supposed to work,' saving training time, Mr. Jones adds.

Due to experiences at the Saginaw facility, Alfe is looking to retrofit other existing facilities and is finalizing plans for a new facility using this technology.

Sometimes good information is automation rocket science

Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power, a division of Boeing Co. (Chicago, Ill.), is currently producing the first new large liquid-fueled rocket engines in the United States in more than 25 years. The engine, the RS-68, powers the expendable launch vehicle (EELV), evolved from Delta IV, and developed by Boeing Co. Purposes include satellite payloads.

The bell-nozzle RS-68, a liquid hydrogen/liquid-oxygen booster engine, has a simplified design philosophy, drastically reducing parts compared to current cryogenic engines, making the Delta IV one of the most cost-effective rockets in use today, according to representatives from Rocketdyne's Canoga Park, Calif., manufacturing site.

Among new development, production, and testing challenges of producing the Delta IV was the need to develop an automated process for the main combustion chamber (MCC) thermal processing area. This included a processing application that measured temperatures and pressures on the hot isostatic pressure (HIP) furnace used to bond the RS-68 combustion devices. During early development of the RS-68 program, manual data collection included operators recording data from work centers with paper and pencil. Operators would profile temperature and pressure in a step-by-step procedure, making frequent adjustments to achieve the processing profiles required for complete testing. Operators also needed to regularly refer to a complex process manual.

'We are typically working with temperatures exceeding 1,700 °F, as well as pressures of 500 psi over cycle times of 18 to 20 hours,' says Thomas McQuillan, deputy director for Joining and Tooling Processes. 'We are introducing various gases in the process to facilitate the high pressures from the processing chamber. Safety is our primary concern and protecting our million dollar equipment is second.'

In seeking technical advances, 'We identified the MCC bonding process as a candidate for major process improvement. We thought we could improve our processes and become much more efficient by using an automated data collection and control system,' Mr. McQuillan says. The system chosen includes Wonderware InTouch human-machine-interface (HMI) software running on a Microsoft Windows desktop computer, as well as GE-Fanuc programmable logic controllers. Wonderware (Irvine, Calif.) is a business unit of the Invensys plc Software Systems Division. Henberger (San Diego, Calif.;

Test data needs to be available for quick retrieval for up to 10 years. 'Wonderware allows us easy storage and quick retrieval of data. Having multiple departments accessing these systems has improved communications and reduced the time normally taken for problem resolution by up to 20%,' says Mr. McQuillan. Other departments using this data include engineering, operations, and quality. Rocketdyne is considering the Wonderware/ Windows combination for other joining and brazing processes, which also would allow the same look and feel for operators in all areas.

[More on this application appears with this article online.]

Jerry Henberger, president, Henberger Co., is a consultant for enterprise and plant-floor strategies.

Benefits of integration, interconnections

Alfe Heat Treating, Saginaw, Mich., uses automation on a single-platform, integrating the facility, sources say, which:

Decreases the total cost of ownership and improves competitiveness;

Allows a consistent visualization strategy that helps to maintain this integration;

Reduces costs since it is not necessary to go MONG multiple platforms;

Enables greater reuse of programming routines with user-defined functions;

Puts the system on a single platform, decreasing training costs, increasing productivity, improving connectivity and enhancing ability to customize;

Creates a system with complementary control, communications, and visualization platforms for horizontal and vertical plant-wide integration within heat-treating activities;

Augments information sharing between the shop floor and enterprise, easing data flow among networks;

Combines reliability and flexibility of a distributed automation system with tight integration of a centralized system;

Increases efficiency and flexibility by logging and displaying critical information in a simple format, which has simplified troubleshooting;

Decreases errors caused by inappropriate system operation, from better security;

Led to redeveloped plant operator training incorporating the more intuitive system; and

Keeps the process running smoothly.

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