Flestic, a flexible packaging manufacturer, relies on modern, standardized, but highly flexible machinery in its production process. Today, the company now has 40 extrusion blow molding machines, 35 of which were developed and built in-house. The problem with this is that no precise key figures can be determined for capacity utilization, order status, or productivity.
Bas van Nes has worked as a functional safety engineer at Flestic for more than 25 years and describes the problem as follows, “Until now, we could only roughly measure productivity based on the figures we determined ourselves. That was simply not enough for us.” He continued, “We wanted accurate, reliable metrics and also to see when a machine started and stopped, or what the reason was for that stoppage. This has been a grey area for us so far, but one we were eager to shed light on in the future.”
However, the engineer was not satisfied with the situation at hand and started to gain insight into the pulse of the machine himself. “From this pulse, I was able to build a database and extract information from it,” said van Nes. “But in the long run, this was just not professional enough for us anymore.”
So, the company went looking and found an article about a new machine monitoring and data collection system (MDC system). The “SmartMONITOR” system described there immediately excited van Nes: “What a clever, and at the same time, simple principle: a signal light that is supplemented with a corresponding module and then immediately sends all the data from the machine to a central database. I was immediately convinced.”
Bas continued, “Our general manager was also enthusiastic because this way we could see every start and stop of the machines — on the one hand, on the screen, but on the other hand, also on the machine itself. We have about 40 machines in the factory. Since installing SmartMONITOR, it’s visually clear which machines are running.”
Flestic attended an information event organized by the wholesaler itsme. Here they came into contact with a company that was already a WERMA customer and had SmartMONITOR in use. “That gave us peace of mind,” said van Nes.
Everything moved quickly from there. “I contacted WERMA, and just two days later, the free test box arrived with everything we needed.” Flestic installed the demo equipment on three machines and was immediately enthusiastic about the results.
Flestic has been using the simple, radio-based MDC system “SmartMONITOR” from WERMA Signaltechnik for just over a year. The SmartMONITOR system consists of a radio transmitter, radio receiver, and software. The radio network (868 MHz) for the production environment searches itself for the best connection and thus ensures the most straightforward integration into the user’s production process. The radio transmitter is simply integrated as an additional element into the existing WERMA signal tower using Plug & Play and monitors the status or number of pieces of machines, plants, and manual workstations. These states are transmitted by radio to the radio receiver, seamlessly transferring all data and saving it in a Microsoft SQL database.
With SmartMONITOR, it doesn’t matter what type of machine, age, or manufacturer; the MDE system only needs a WERMA signal tower as an interface. This was also an essential argument for Flestic, “Our machines come from different years of manufacture — we were thrilled how easy it is with SmartMONITOR to nevertheless network them all together.”
The three-level signal columns visually indicate the status of each machine: The red light indicates that the machine is at a standstill, yellow lights up if the temperature difference is too great, and green signals smooth operation. In addition, these are, of course, transmitted to the SmartMONITOR software. “This provides information about the process stability of the machines,” said van Nes. “And of course, we discuss the values every morning at our store floor meeting in production.” Here, the number of failures per machine is discussed, and targeted activities are coordinated. “We were very surprised when we realized that it’s often not technical problems that lead to the stoppages or breakdowns, but organizational reasons behind them.”
Van Nes sees further advantages in the flexibility of the system, “We move our machines from time to time, and so it may be that a machine has to move 10 meters. With SmartMONITOR, I don’t have to pull any extra cables because the signal tower is already mounted on the machine.”
Flestic is completely satisfied with the MDE system. When asked what’s next, van Nes replied, “We want to analyze the data further and refine our key figures.” In addition, the company plans to install a signal light in the canteen as well. “This should immediately inform our employees of a possible machine stoppage, even during breaks. This is the only way they can react immediately.”
Van Nes concluded by saying, “We will equip about another 30 machines with this system. Because with it, you’re not just limited to production machines, we can network virtually every machine in our company with this system.”
Filed Under: Lights • signal lamps • indicators