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Production capabilities abound

May 11, 2020
In a crisis changeover, don’t let perfect systems stall the work

Some concepts and technologies from some industries apply very well in others. Manufacturers retooling to make different products in emergency situations is a great example of this. A system integrator (SI) can be a good option for projects like these due to their experience across different industries. “We see the process nuances from a variety of different industries, giving us perspective into many different applications and products,” says Chris Tury, Jr., general manager of Outbound Technologies, an SI in New Hudson, Michigan. “We know what works well with so many different processes, and we are adept at applying it to others.”

Another key factor in production changeovers is whether or not you have to consider any FDA regulations that require compliance and traceability in the manufacturing process, says Ranbir Saini, director, digital product management, GE Digital. “If that is the case, manufacturers need to validate the process for consistency and keep electronic records for compliance reporting and process improvements. By leveraging standard operating procedures (SOPs), manufacturers can guide operators through process steps to drive product consistency and quality and lead to improved safety.”

Manufacturers will need to modify or build new HMI/SCADA screens for the operators, adds Saini. “By leveraging modern rapid-application-development tools, they can speed up the process and ensure high-performance HMI screens are created for operators. This will ensure ease of understanding and adaptation to the new process, minimization of errors and improved safety for operators.”

Building remote accessibility into the HMI/SCADA solution is also mission-critical for both line changeover modifications and operations execution, says Saini. “This capability enables plant personnel to provide remote guidance to operators who are less experienced or in the situation seasoned veterans need to isolate themselves while other operators are on the factory floor,” explains Saini. “Additionally, organizations are better able to implement social distancing by having a minimal number of staff on the plant floor while other team members work from home through remote capabilities.”

A potential tactic to address any physical-layout issues would be to use to use a pre-existing material staging area as the exit from the assembly line rather than the usual entrance to keep things flowing and reduce the time needed to move product long distances, says Jim Davis, director of advanced solutions & technical support, Allied Electronics and Automation. “If an assembly line approach is not compatible to the new product you’ve transitioned to, then one can move to manual conveyance or to a top-to-bottom work cell approach having one employee or team take each finished good from raw components to completion,” he explains.

In a crisis changeover, don’t let perfect systems stall the work; again PLCs are flexible, you can run production and adjust them at the same time, particularly with high-volume, low-cost goods like PPE, says Davis. “Reworking an assembly line can look impossible, and it truly may be in some cases,” he explains. If a company is planning on expending capital in this switchover in any case, much of what is installed in the control systems is most likely outdated, notes Davis. “To make creating this new system easier, you could take an emergency changeover as an opportunity to update your processor and eld devices to new IIOT and edge devices,” he suggests.

About the author: Mike Bacidore

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