Automation Zone developed Plant Tracker, an Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) solution for clients using InduSoft Web Studio
- Automation Zone developed an Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) solution named Plant Tracker for clients using InduSoft Web Studio.
- OEE solutions monitor three key performance indicators (KPI) availability, performance, and quality.
- InduSoft Web Studio was chosen due to its large number of native drivers that enable communication with many different PLCs.
- Using Plant Tracker, customers can decrease downtime and wasted materials, track costs, and increase output.
|Figure 1: The NEMA 12 Window - Dell PC Station is one of the ways Plant Tracker can be configured.
The greatest challenge of any business is remaining competitive among a sea of similar products. With the increased competition from worldwide manufacturing capabilities comes a greater need for plants and manufacturing centers to cut costs, increase quality, and improve production efficiency. To answer this need, Automation Zone, in Castalia, Ohio, began developing OEE solutions for customers who needed to track and monitor machine efficiency.
OEE is an acronym that stands for Overall Equipment Effectiveness. OEE dashboards, such as those created by Automation Zone, track important KPI, or Key Performance Indicators. These KPI include the performance of the machine, the availability of the machine, and the quality of the product produced. By visualizing and understanding this data with easy to digest graphs and charts, it’s possible for production managers to make quick assessments and timely adjustments to a production line. OEE dashboards can be critical to the success of a business.
Automation Zone offers far more than OEE Solutions. They are also a control systems integrator, and so they needed a powerful all-in-one solution that would give them the ability to develop SCADA and HMI applications that they could easily integrate with their OEE product. Unfortunately the initial search for solutions to OEE development turned up a number of inflexible and expensive options.
According to Ken Bragg, President of Automation Zone, “We saw early on Six Sigma and OEE Overall Equipment Effectiveness would be a major factor in improving performance of industrial machinery. We looked at a few off the shelf solutions and found very quickly there was a high upfront cost of ownership to get started; in some cases, over a half a million dollars. We knew we could figure out a cost effective solution that would provide OEE for our customers and not break the bank.”
Figure 2: The Plant Tracker can monitor rejects, downtime, and OEE percent for the current process, or see an average for recent batches.
The biggest challenge for Automation Zone in selecting an OEE development platform was finding a solution that could handle not only the SCADA and HMI needs of clients, but that also included OEE capabilities. Because most automation software is based around module pricing, finding one solution to do everything seemed like a tall order.
The variety of the work done by Automation Zone was also a factor. Working with many companies utilizing PLCs and controllers from a wide variety of different hardware manufacturers meant finding something with the capability to communicate with everything. Choosing a solution with limited flexibility would mean limiting business opportunities, and so Automation Zone needed software that could be implemented on a wide variety of devices, and easily customized to meet the unique needs of every customer.
The Plant Tracker needed to run on any existing machine in order for the business model to work. Sometimes Automation Zone would supply the PLC, and sometimes the PLC would already be in place. This variable setup required an HMI with the power to communicate to any PLC, regardless of manufacturer.
In the end, only one software solution could communicate with a range of hardware, was highly customizable, affordable, and fully featured. InduSoft Web Studio was chosen to serve as the development platform for Automation Zone’s OEE Plant Tracker software.
One key factor that influenced the decision in favor of InduSoft Web Studio was the wide range of drivers built into the software. With over 240 drivers available to use with all major hardware manufacturers, plus OPC support, Automation Zone could leverage the flexibility of InduSoft Web Studio to serve a wide array of customers. According to Mr. Bragg, “With InduSoft, we don’t get charged extra for PLC drivers. This helps us keep cost down for our customers. InduSoft doesn’t ding you for the extras.”
This solution can be placed on any machine. By inputting the cycle and fault signals and setting up a production schedule, the solution can be installed in a matter of minutes. This makes it an easily implemented solution that offers great value to customers.
Automation Zone’s OEE Plant Tracker runs on one PC, and can be added easily to a new machine’s PLC and PC if they exist. OEE can be tracked by machine, line, or station in a single graph. One PC can track the OEE for an entire production line, or, if needed, compare data between stations on the same line. For older equipment, Automation Zone provides an all-in-one box solution that consists of a PC and a PLC. After wiring in a machine cycle signal and any fault signals, setting a production schedule, the OEE will begin recording data and giving users the information required to improve the performance of the machine.
The Plant Tracker solution also offers an overall plant view, cost analysis of production, configuration, and reports that make it easy to view data over time, or replicate best known configurations. Specific details that the Plant Tracker provides include total number of parts produced, reject parts, downtime, cycle logs, event logs, archived data, and actual part cost versus quoted part cost.
The solution also takes advantage of InduSoft Web Studio’s remote monitoring capabilities, allowing users to make the data portable, or to place process data directly onto the desktop of plant managers and supervisors who can utilize it to make rapid decisions.
Figure 3: Users can view averages of recent values for different PLCs in the system.
The benefit of using the Plant Tracker is evident to customers, who can quickly isolate problems on the production line, make improvements that will decrease downtime and wasted materials, track costs, and increase output. This is a valuable tool that Automation Zone is able to provide due to the strengths of the InduSoft Web Studio platform.
For Automation Zone, the benefits of using InduSoft Web Studio to create their Plant Tracker OEE solution are clear as well. InduSoft Web Studio provides the ideal platform for a project like the Plant Tracker. It’s flexible, both because it offers hundreds of drivers to PLCs and controls, and because it offers a full range of tools that allow development of anything from small, single machine HMIs to full SCADA solutions and OEE dashboards. This makes projects easy to scale up or down, depending on the needs of the customer. InduSoft’s pricing model is also beneficial. By purchasing the software and then licensing based on the number of tags required for each project, Automation Zone can offer customers a huge range of services without having to tack on an additional fee for each component. InduSoft also gives Automation Zone a full scope of tools to explore without forcing them to commit to a limited feature list based on the version of the software they purchase.
InduSoft Web Studio also provides flexibility in terms of changing technology. Because the software was designed with backward compatibility, it works seamlessly with older InduSoft Web Studio applications, and connects to older equipment. That makes projects easy to upgrade, and easy to install, even on older machines that may need to employ an older PLC.
Figure 4: The Event Log displays event status, with time and date stamps.
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