Improving Productivity Through Smart Manufacturing

Thursday, November 16th, 2017 | 270 Views

 

Robots and automation have transformed manufacturing in almost every industrial sector, and have increased efficiency and product consistency. By Farah Nazurah

In today’s competitive marketplace, food producers need flexibility in their manufacturing processes, especially with consumer trends constantly changing in the food and beverage industry, thus the need to produce goods that align with current trends. Markus Brettschneider, head of global food and beverage, ABB, shares more with APFI on how automation can help benefit manufacturers.


Would you share examples of how fully automated smart factories have helped food manufacturers?

 

Fully automated smart factories are a clear goal for many manufacturers; however most are not there just yet. We do see more automation and robotics being integrated into production, as well as a growing interest in digital technologies and how all of these—automation, digitalisation and robotics—can be used together to help that manufacturer get to that fully automated smart factory. 

The simple fact is that there are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions for getting to a fully automated factory. Each factory is unique, the customer has their own goals and schedule, and that’s why we begin the journey with a full factory digital assessment. That way we have the baseline data for analysis, and provide our customer with recommendations. Then we plan together on an implementation schedule. 

We also recommend the type of training or talent the manufacturer should bring on board. To have a fully automated smart factory you also need to have the right IT infrastructure and people who are trained on the technology. 

 


How would you encourage smaller companies to automate their manufacturing processes, seeing as automation costs can be high?

 

The biggest encouragement for companies is in understanding the benefits that automation brings. There are four key performance indicators that most manufacturers track, no matter how big or small the company: cost, quality, safety, and sustainability. Even small investments in automation and robotics will begin to have positive impacts on each of these KPIs. 

For example, one of the most common areas we see, especially in smaller plants, is the potential for energy savings, which not only helps improve the sustainability KPI, it also reduces costs. Pumps, fans and other motor driven applications are the ‘low hanging fruits’ for energy savings using variable speed drives. 

Drives also bring additional automation possibilities through their built-in software solutions. Drive series with anti-cavitation control offer a concise solution (as it is just the drive) that not only helps save energy, but also helps to improve product quality. Also, because it can detect and resolve when cavitation happens, it helps keep production on schedule. 

It is also important for the companies to know that it is not an ‘all or nothing’ investment in automation, and it is important that manufacturers know they can automate in steps. They can make these changes and have those improvements essentially pay for the next ones. 

 


What is the market adoption rate of fully automated factories in Southeast Asia?

 

Southeast Asia is for sure a booming market in terms of automation, but this does not mean that the rate of fully automated factories is high. On the contrary, due to the very competitive labour costs in some countries of this region, it is not uncommon to see a very high amount of manual labour done behind products that we normally consume every day, be it famous local brands or sometimes even regional or global products. On the whole, the level of automation of factories in the region can be improved. 

However, while automation in the food and beverage manufacturing in general needs to catch up as compared to other industries, the adoption of technology in Southeast Asia today is still much higher than it was five years ago. Many companies, especially MNCs, started adopting robotics solutions for the packing and palletising of their products, repetitive tasks, heavy lifting, or uncomfortable working conditions due to the temperatures of this region. 

One example is a plant using a robotic palletiser to lift 72,000 eggs per hour and reducing the amount of broken eggs as compared to its previous manual palletising method. This allowed factory workers to dedicate more time to safer and more value added activities.

In terms of control technologies, there are also heaps of opportunities. It is not uncommon to find factories with a manual, semi-automatic or island control system in place, and it is very challenging for these manufacturers to have a clear view of process data and almost no chance to optimise their full process. Instead, fully integrated automation using a distributed control system can easily track the energy consumption and increase operations efficiency, bringing immediate advantages.

 


Where do you see the automation and digitalisation markets in Asia Pacific in five years’ time?

 

Automation will be more widely used and at a faster pace, not only due to the increasing cost of labour, but also because mindsets are changing and factory owners now understand that manpower can be better utilised for value added activities, rather than assigned to repetitive tasks. They also see the benefits of automation as tangible and enabling them to be more competitive on the market. 

Automation, digitalisation and robotics are the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution, and our customers are already beginning to think ahead.

One of the initial technologies we see being adopted more and more is remote monitoring of processes and equipment. Sensors—such as the Ability smart sensor from ABB—for low voltage motors are opening up new opportunities to better understand the health and operational readiness of plant equipment. This is also bringing in a shift from reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance, instead of repairing once something breaks; manufacturers can now know ahead of time when equipment will need servicing and plan for it during scheduled downtime. 

These smart devices—motors, transformers and switchgears—that now are talking to the maintenance personnel and stating their condition, constitute a brand new opportunity in addressing major savings of costs and time, and show the great advantages of preventive maintenance on a scale never thought of before. 

Contrary to what some people may think, there are different possible approaches on how to upgrade a food factory, not necessarily limited to greenfield projects. Clearly, the higher the level of digitalisation, the higher the effects on cost savings and increased revenues. 

However, the transition can also be done in brownfields step by step, application by application, normally understanding first the current digital priorities, then performing a digital maturity assessment, developing a roadmap and meeting experts for best practices sharing.

 


Where do you see the automation and digitalisation markets in Asia Pacific in five years’ time?

 

Automation will be more widely used and at a faster pace, not only due to the increasing cost of labour, but also because mindsets are changing and factory owners now understand that manpower can be better utilised for value added activities, rather than assigned to repetitive tasks. They also see the benefits of automation as tangible and enabling them to be more competitive on the market. 

Automation, digitalisation and robotics are the foundation of the fourth industrial revolution, and our customers are already beginning to think ahead.

One of the initial technologies we see being adopted more and more is remote monitoring of processes and equipment. Sensors—such as the Ability smart sensor from ABB—for low voltage motors are opening up new opportunities to better understand the health and operational readiness of plant equipment. This is also bringing in a shift from reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance, instead of repairing once something breaks; manufacturers can now know ahead of time when equipment will need servicing and plan for it during scheduled downtime. 

These smart devices—motors, transformers and switchgears—that now are talking to the maintenance personnel and stating their condition, constitute a brand new opportunity in addressing major savings of costs and time, and show the great advantages of preventive maintenance on a scale never thought of before. 

Contrary to what some people may think, there are different possible approaches on how to upgrade a food factory, not necessarily limited to greenfield projects. Clearly, the higher the level of digitalisation, the higher the effects on cost savings and increased revenues. 

However, the transition can also be done in brownfields step by step, application by application, normally understanding first the current digital priorities, then performing a digital maturity assessment, developing a roadmap and meeting experts for best practices sharing.

 


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