As global competition increases, the pressure to create a competitive edge grows with it. One possibility for asserting one’s self on the market is to consistently collect, evaluate, and efficiently use data from the manufacturing level in order to optimize production processes, to offer products at lower costs, and to ultimately increase sales.
OEE Uncovers Potentials
Machines from the most recent generations are designed to exchange information; thus, they optimize the calculation of the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and therefore improve the efficiency of production processes. The problem remains that systems, even those developed a few years ago, still operate as closed units. This means that most of the equipment currently in operation may be equipped with sensors that record temperatures, setpoints and cycle times; however, they lack the ability to forward this valuable data. How can companies bundle the data collected from their different types of machines and convert it into information in order to logically and cost-effectively visualize and optimize operating processes?
Up until now, there were only a few conventional approaches for solving the problem of efficient data exchange, and they were technically complex to implement. For example, if a machine already has a modern, integrated controller, important data can be forwarded via a network following reprogramming. What appears straightforward at the beginning in many areas often ends in frustration: a person with programming skills must be hired to update the controller or to rewrite the program. If the program’s documentation is lacking, then the programmer may have to “re-engineer” the code in order to copy the desired data into a memory that the control system can access. This process can be time-consuming and expensive.
Another approach is to fit each machine with an individually-designed control application. If, however, there are several machines in one manufacturing area, or the equipment pool includes systems from multiple manufacturers, then the possibility arises that suitable applications may need to be developed for each one – an enterprise that is linked to high labor costs. It is then additionally necessary to program the control system so that it can extract the data from the respective applications on the machine level. In addition, each application must be maintained and documented. Does this sound cumbersome and tedious? It is indeed – however, there is also another way!
Easy. Independent. Efficient.
One universal, standardized machine language – for detecting and processing data from different types of equipment – simplifies the workflow. MTConnect provides this solution: the opensource, license-free standard leverages proven Internet protocols to convert data from manufacturing equipment into a standardized format. The application collects the machine data, translates it into readable measurement data, and thus facilitates remote monitoring about the status and activity of the equipment.
Secure Acquisition, Translation, Presentation
MTConnect is purely a read-only standard. This means that information is securely acquired, transmitted to an application or an MES system per request, and evaluated there. However, no control access to individual machines is possible. The MTConnect standard is based on the HTTP protocol and uses RESTful web services. The digital interface consists of three components: the two specified functional components, application and agent, and the non-specified adapter. The adapter collects machine data, standardizes it and then transfers it to the agent. The agent follows a prescribed XML schema that organizes the data in a standard format, no matter what type of machine is being monitored. The agent buffers the data and forwards it upon request to the application. The application subsequently stores the data in a database and can display it in a way humans can understand. The machine output data is visually displayed in diagrams or tables for engineers and supervisors.
This method can be illustrated using a metaphor. The machines in a manufacturing area are maple trees, and the operating data is the sap. It is easy to lose your orientation in this “maple forest”; however, the MTConnect technology can help you maintain an overview. The MTConnect adapter and agent can be used like a spile, in that they are tapped into the interior of the tree to allow the sap to flow out. The application is then a combination of the collection bucket and the evaporator, in which the collected sap is boiled to form syrup.
MTConnect can thus be viewed as a universal, digital interface, which can be easily integrated into current equipment without causing process interruptions. It is a standardized platform that “taps”, records, and collects information and forwards it to software for analysis. Continuing with our maple syrup metaphor: MTConnect is integrated as an interface into the tree, and connects the data collection bucket with the application, and then links the application to an HTML website. The website displays how efficient this tree is, in comparison to other trees in the forest. A simple concept, which supports companies with complex machines and processes in easily digitizing their manufacturing environment.
MTConnect is therefore easy to install and to integrate – so far, so good. However, what about actually using it? As already mentioned, it is decisive for each company, regardless of sector, to create a competitive edge. The technological trend for industrial and manufacturing corporations has been digitalization. It is becoming increasingly important to be able to monitor, adapt, and control every aspect of a manufacturing area in real time. Those who closely monitor their machines can uncover and report a multitude of problems, before expensive failures occur. MTConnect provides specific numbers about the cycle times, and also supports planning and logistics. The digital interface essentially enables companies to visualize and optimize work flows in manufacturing areas in order to reduce costs – an economic use that anyone can support.
Many machines are not equipped to connect directly to the MTConnect adapter and agent. However, a solution has been developed for the WAGO-I/OSYSTEM for enabling a seamless transition to a digitalized manufacturing area. The Linux®-based PFC100 Controller forms the interface with the MTConnect adapter and agent: programming is not necessary. Machine data, like temperature, position, power consumption or motor speeds, can be called up, inputs can be configured using a web browser, and real time analysis can be initiated. Analysis and evaluation software with corresponding MTConnect interfaces, which is currently on the market, then converts the data into comprehensible diagrams or tables. MTConnect provides specific machine data that enables companies to monitor and track overall efficiency in their manufacturing areas. Implementing this tool would thus be the next logical step in optimizing processes, and for easily configuring the transition into the digital future.
Text: TEXT BENJAMIN BÖHM, WAGO
Photo: ADOBESTOCK, WAGO