Shop floor smart app improving productivity and quality, while reducing overall costs.
Our client, a large manufacturer, engaging in producing and supplying alumina and primary aluminum, operates through several divisions and segments. It has a cast house where aluminium is casted into billets. One of the departments cuts these billets into smaller components. These components are intermediate products which can be used for a variety of end products, such as fire extinguishers. The components are then being sold to other manufacturers.
The application was originally designed to mitigate quality issues. The fault tolerance in the size and weight of the components was too high, causing customer complaints. The components are now being sold as high quality products, cut to customer’s specifications. The application is part of the production line that measures every individual cut component to identify whether they are in spec or not. This information is fed to the operator in real time, so they can adjust the saw’s settings in order to stay within fault tolerance without losing a single component. It also connects to the saw in order to turn it off automatically when too many faults are detected.
This system was initially designed 15 – 20 years ago is no longer maintainable. The goal of the project is to redesign the current application in order to make it future proof.
The solution consists of multiple parts: a TimeSeries Smart Mendix application that is used as front-end for the users, a scale with boundary detection capabilities and PLC connections with the production line, a tailor made data collector deployed on premises that allows us to integrate with the scale, as well as the TimeSeries IoT platform to store all measurements. Part of the scope of the project was also to replace the scale, in which TimeSeries assisted in the overall solution architecture (including the hardware integration and different configurations in the scale and connectivity with the PLC).
TimeSeries completely redesigned the process. Instead of many manual steps of entering specifications, copying data and having many forms, the process was changed into an integrated paperless process. In the business process the order comes in from SAP and is automatically converted into the right production orders that the saw operators can pick up. The Mendix application will push all required settings via the Java Connector to the machine that the operator is using. During this production process, the operator will be asked to enter necessary details for the quality report that the customer receives. In the end, the quality controller can confirm the production, view statistical information on the created batch, and generate a PDF for the customer to prove that the components are created within specs.
To design the front-end part of the solution in Mendix proved its value, since we could use it to really focus on the business process and the different steps. Once the heavy lifting was done, the integration with SAP, the different QA steps and paper forms could easily be added.
Our client now has a new way of controlling their production process. The new application can be maintained by the internal Mendix developers to add new features. On top of that, costly steps in the production process have been eliminated. Where it used to take up to five people and paper forms, it is now paperless and it only requires three people. No longer does the facility need to maintain different documents with product specifications, as these are now part of the SAP system. This makes the process even less error prone and allows the facility to focus on the core of the product: high quality components, tailored to the customer’s needs.
Among future improvements is an update to extend the local connector so it will even automatically operate the saw. That will eliminate waste material even more!