In our last post, we shared suggestions for increasing bar production by upgrading your cutter or cutting process, a much more economical option than replacing an entire line. Another opportunity for improving production rates may exist in your existing controls system. Has your equipment recently failed from non-mechanical issues? Take a look at your control system. Is it more than 20 years old? Even if it is operating smoothly, upgrading it now will provide benefits such as more efficient production, energy savings, safer operation and easier maintenance.
“Dumb” Controls are Not Efficient
Like many of our “smart” devices, machine controls have become much more efficient over the last several decades. programmable logic controllers (PLCs) pack an incredible amount of power and functionality into a space a fraction of the size of old control systems. Just as smart phones have replaced the functions of music players, cameras, video recorders, calendars, GPS, gaming devices, watches and more – all while talking to other devices like thermostats, sprinklers and alarms -- new control systems offer increased flexibility to add equipment and devices and are connected with plug-and-play cables instead of multiple wires and terminals. Touch screen interfaces allow the operator easy, efficient control of the machine and provide process feedback to maximize production and reduce down time.
Control Your Energy Use
Newer control systems often include Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs). These devices can start electric motors gradually, instead of the full-power start and stop associated with motor starters. And you can operate that electric motor at the exact speed required to perform the work. Doing so saves energy. In fact, because every dollar of energy use, on average, requires $20 in revenue, you’ll save money daily on your operations. The gradual ramping up and winding down of systems also reduces the wear on pumps, motors, gears, belts and couplings, extending the life of your equipment and reducing the need for replacement parts.
What’s Your Risk of Ignoring?
While most manufacturers consider the return on investment for production improvement, it’s important to assess another form of ROI – the risk of ignoring. Your current controls may appear to operate now, but underlying, undetectable issues may be building to a safety risk or catastrophic failure. With the sensors built into new controls systems, operators can identify these issues while they are small, when minor repairs and adjustments can be made. They can also stop operation immediately when unsafe conditions arise.
And if your line goes down without a smart controls system, your mechanical team will spend significant downtime trying to identify the issue. This is an expensive guessing game, often followed by a lengthy search for a legacy part that is no longer in production. Can you afford this downtime? What’s your risk of ignoring this?
Call the Virtual Service Tech
In every new cabinet we build, Egan Food Technologies installs a device that allow us to remotely access control systems. When equipment failure occurs, our service technicians can diagnose the issue remotely. If program changes are needed, that too can be accomplished via remote access. The time and travel costs associated with traditional service calls are eliminated.
So take a look at your current controls. Are you dealing with old contactors and relays and push buttons? Perhaps you have a PLC, as well as I/O cards and variable frequency drives, but they are legacy products not supported by the manufacturer any longer and are becoming harder and harder to locate. It’s time to look at upgrading to eliminate potential headaches.
If you have any questions or are wondering what control system is right for your production line, please contact Egan Food Technologies today.