Tired and worn-out machinery can become the stuff of nightmares
ROBOT sales have increased by a dramatic 68% over the last year, according to the latest statistics compiled by the British Robot and Automation Association (BARA).
The trend was evident across the board in British manufacturing with the most dramatic growth in the automotive or automotive components sectors of 235% and 176% respectively. Somewhat surprisingly, however, food and drink, pharmaceutical, health and medical sectors reported decreases but did little to persuade Mike Wilson chairman of BARA that automation is not very much a part of the modern manufacturing landscape.
He said: “Most sectors have experienced increases and this represents the best growth statistics since 1997. Average growth is nearly 70% year-on-year which represents strong sales for most of the robot manufacturers.”
Industry’s increasing reliance on automation is well documented and for the most part welcomed as a way of boosting efficiency, cutting costs and limiting human error. Even so, while most businesses view automation has a problem-solver that does not mean it comes problem free.
Over years of production it’s possible for manufacturers to end up with a huge collection of machines, often by various brands but all doing the same job.
Although this can work to a certain extent there inevitably comes a time when compatibility issues arise and the need to simplify and reassess what’s on the factory floor becomes a priority.
That was the scenario facing OCS Checkweighers Ltd when it was invited to work with a large multinational corporation looking for a way to standardise its existing weighing systems.
Ingolf Latz, the firm’s international sales director, explained: “The project itself was started as a simple extension of the existing lines, however during the first meeting it quickly became evident that the company was also facing compatibility issues.
“The number of different checkweighers in use, all supplied by different brands, resulted in largely varied operator interfaces and made many aspects of the weighing process far more complicated, in some cases impossible. For example, one operator might be able to operate checkweigher A but may be unable to operate type I or M next to it.”
Weight readings often vary when the machines are not from the same supplier resulting in different feedback even if producing the same product on two different lanes.
In this case the machine variations also prevented easy maintenance and made servicing much more complicated and costly. When spares are incompatible and need to be ordered individually from separate vendors, untold problems are created.
Other factors such as additional costly administration and handling fees, internally and externally, was also a major headache.
“The standardisation of checkweighing machinery not only makes the process easier, increases reliability and improves accuracy, but also offers you a quick return on your investment,” continued Latz.
“The reductions in down time, give away and product return quickly build up and not only pay for your initial investment, but also continue to save you money year after year.”
With a proven machine concept and a single source for the design and manufacture of all machines at its factory in Kaiserslautern, Germany, OCS was able to offer a high level of vertical integration and total in-house development which eventually convinced the client to implement a replacement concept to all its existing lines.
Latz explained that OCS’s AME family range is based on the same weighing technology known as ‘electro magnetic force restoration’.
He added: “All machines use a single operating concept and an industrial PC as control, resulting in much easier operation. It doesn’t matter whether the customer is using the Avantgarde, with its performance of up to 600 packs/per minute, the Medium model of up to 250 packs per minute or the Essential, designed for the small business looking for a high quality but low care checkweigher, with up to 150 packs per minute, this flexible and efficient range is fully compatible and naturally also gives you the benefit of a wide range of common parts.
“Furthermore, this also counts for the unique x-ray inspection technology made by OCS. The number of suppliers and the cost of ownership are both dramatically reduced and a more efficient product inspection solution is implemented.”