Obsolete systems can be a liability, or they can be an opportunity to make improvements. Aging production equipment often has a history of increasing downtime that makes it obvious that there is an issue. Sometimes other business performance factors can lead to the decision to make improvements. More production from the same facility at a specific price is a good way to increase profitability.
In the packaging world everything is about throughput. Its not surprising that palletizers, for example, have achieved higher throughput rates. Since palletizing is often the last step in manufacturing, increasing process throughput requires, faster palletizing machines.
The problem gets to be that if the new machines are not the exact same footprint as the old, there will be problems with plant floor layout. In one project the customer was faced with market growth requiring increased output of 20-22%. Build a new plant or find a way to meet the demand with the existing facility.
Purchasing new palletizers was clearly the best option until the manufacturing team realized that the new machines would not fit. So the operations team got bids for a control system retrofit for the palletizers. Replacing the ac gearmotors and antiquated control system with closed loop servo motors and precision planetary gearboxes turned out to be a very economical option.
Regardless of whether the goal is to reduce downtime or increase production volume, both lead to reduced cost per unit of whatever product is being made. Less obvious is the aspect of newer control technology that saves electrical power in many machinery applications. Today’s state of the art in servos and stepping motors regulates electricity usage so that only the power necessary to move the load is used. Better torque to inertia ratios mean that smaller motors can be used in many applications, increasing acceleration and throughput and further reducing electrical power required by a particular process or machine.
Additionally the latest control systems all have Ethernet and other communications protocols which allow integration with existing plant floor networks. Operation Effectiveness and critical production metrics become available as necessary for business information systems throughout the company. Predictive maintenance algorithms provide reports anticipating component failure further managing downtime.
Control system upgrades provide significant benefit and return on investment for manufacturers with aging assets in all industries.