Edited by Mike Santora
Converting machine builder Curt G. Joa, Inc. keeps its multidisciplinary engineering team well staffed at all times. It must. The company’s current customer list includes global manufacturers who require custom machines that can take six to nine months to build.
The machines are massive, occupying two floors with a footprint measuring 60 meters long. They accomplish multiple manufacturing processes, including accepting roll-fed paper material in a continuous motion and automatically splicing products.
As customers sought more detailed production information from their machines, Joa’s engineering team began partnering more closely with them to better understand the type of machine and production data they needed.
Not surprisingly, as machine complexity increased, so did the design and development time required.
Smarter machines with more automation, communication and integration capabilities entailed more programming and documentation time for the engineers. The lengthy pre-production phase extended company investment and delayed delivery of machines to customers. With new machines capable of producing 1,200 units per minute, each day customers must wait delays their potential for increased production output and profits.
Joa standardized on Rockwell Automation control technologies, and has become an OEM partner within the Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork program. The design environment within the platform gives Joa’s engineers flexibility when designing customized machines.
To further help streamline the machine design process, Joa relies on several design-software programs. One of which is the EPLAN Electric P8 electrical design software from EPLAN Software & Services, an Encompass Product Partner within the PartnerNetwork program.
The engineers use templates within the electrical schematic designs as a base and then customize based on each customers’ needs. A schematics generator then helps create documentation needed for manufacturing, purchasing, panel building, modeling and more.
EPLAN software integrates with Allen-Bradley ControlLogix controllers through the Rockwell Software Studio 5000 Architect application. This bidirectional data transfer helps improve startup time by reducing the need for manually re-entering control data from engineering tools into the Rockwell Software Studio 5000 software.
Joa implements remote-access capabilities on up to 90% of the machines it produces. This allows any qualified customer engineer to open up a portal with a VPN connection, access the HMI to see controller operating data, and render the necessary changes.
All software on the machines is running on VMWare virtualized servers using thin clients. There is no longer a need for a large-capacity, expensive server, and the virtual environment provides a robust, secure and IoT-ready architecture using fewer servers to run the HMI and other software.
Although Joa customizes each of its machines, the various design-software systems have allowed the machine builder to standardize much of its machine design process. Up to 80% of the database content can be standardized on EPLAN modules.
With more leadtime in the early design stages, customers benefit too. They have more opportunity to refine system features, ensuring greater satisfaction after delivery. It also gives Joa’s mechanical engineers more time to perfect their designs.
One of the biggest benefits of improved workflow is Joa’s ability to compress delivery times. Faster delivery and commissioning is a competitive advantage for the business.
Looking ahead, Joa plans to build on the synergy between EPLAN and Rockwell Automation as their global-market footprint grows and more customers embrace big data. Most of its customers now have some cloud-based capabilities, and they are looking for more ways to capture key data in smart machines.
Filed Under: Design World articles