Optimization

A window into extruder operations

Andersen improves extruder performance, integrating information and control in six months.

By Paul Studebaker

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A year ago, Andersen decided to build a new extrusion facility to meet increased demand and avoid the cost of shipping product from Minnesota to Texas. The new facility, which brought to 15 the number of manufacturing facilities for North America’s largest maker of windows and doors, offered an opportunity for the company to improve best practices, and would provide a template for future upgrades and rollouts.

“We were running out of capacity at our extrusion lines,” said John Wendt, manufacturing systems architect, Andersen, to attendees of his session at Rockwell Automation TechED this week in Orlando. “IT had been involved on the discrete side, but not on the process side. And we needed an ERP system in the new plant. But the major economic driver for involving IT was to provide real-time visibility to actual – rather than estimated – material consumed.”

At Andersen, extrusion batch recipes and orders are traditionally paper-based, and the plant was ready to order the same equipment yet again when IT sent Wendt in to review the plans. As an IT professional with a background in chemical engineering, Wendt suggested they add digital recipes and an historian to automatically record process parameters and better support the manufacturing execution system (MES).

Production could see the value, but the timeline was already set. “They knew they could run the plant with paper, and they were going to go live on time with or without IT,” Wendt said. They were also unwilling to go over budget.

Andersen uses Infor LN for ERP, and Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk ProductionCentre in discrete manufacturing. “We’d never used ProductionCentre in the process space,” Wendt said. So Anderson engaged system integrator Brock Solutions. Along with expertise in automation, MES and panels, Brock had experience with extruders, so it could talk to production in their own language.

The original plan was to add MES stations where operators could print out instructions and key in completions. “But we thought there had to be a better way,” said Brent Vanderspiegel, project manager, Brock Solutions. “We decided to hide the MES behind the controls, and put MES data collection on the HMI.” Instead of at a separate kiosk, the IT/OT interface now sits at the human-machine interface (HMI). “Now we can automatically download the 20 to 30 process parameters to set up the machine, and the operators can concentrate on production,” Vanderspiegel said.

Development started in November 2015, and the system went live in February 2016. “The Rockwell Software ERP Integration Gateway [EIG] tool helped a lot,” said Vanderspiegel. “The other critical piece is the Rockwell Software CPGSuite.”

A new era for Andersen extruders

Now orders and materials created in Infor LN can be grouped by color and type for maximum material efficiency. Infor LN drops the associated XML files to a network share, where the EIG processes the XML files to create materials and orders in ProductionCentre.

Once a campaign is started, orders are pulled into the line programmable logic controller (PLC). At the HMI, the operator can view the next or current recipe and material data, with the required setpoint changes clearly highlighted. On changeover, the operator selects the changes, then goes to the running state. “This really cuts down on setup time and improves productivity,” said Vanderspiegel.

During the run, the system collects data including production time, material, piece count and dimensions. Once the order is completed, the operator uses the HMI to close it out. Pallet labels are automatically printed by the line-side label printer, and standard activity sets trigger the EIG to issue consumption and production XML files to the ERP system.

“Adding FactoryTalk Historian and FactoryTalk VantagePoint adds value, and the standardized interface with the MES makes integrating legacy equipment much easier,” Vanderspiegel said. “All customization is below the control layer.”

VantagePoint enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) dashboards make it easy to see causes of problems and shorten diagnostic times from days to “pretty quick,” Vanderspiegel adds.

The ERP system gets production reports, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), quality, speed, schedule attainment, material used and material wasted – a better understanding of what happened.

The system provides Andersen process operations with a foundation it can apply to all its new plants, Wendt said. “It’s had a major dollar impact on material consumption, given visibility into operations, reduced setup time, and tightened control of key process variables, which raises quality.” And eliminating the MES terminals reduced space requirements and IT maintenance on the shop floor.

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