Rubber processing challenges
Ecore International is a US company, active in the rubber industry, which traces its roots back to 1869. At its manufacturing plant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, reclaimed rubber is recycled into commercial flooring, surface, and insulation products.
The Ecore team were challenged by the need to reduce machine downtime and increase productivity. They also wanted to improve product quality monitoring during the production process and keep batch production records as a reference should quality issues arise at a later point. Crucially, they understood exactly what they needed: ‘more data, more data, more data’, as championed by Wanda Welch, Ecore’s Research and Development Manager.
innius in the USA
Ecore turned to Blue Fox Automation, Innius’ US based partner to assist them. Ron Stuver, Managing Director at Blue Fox Automation leads the consulting efforts around Industry 4.0. Ron’s starting point was to understand the needs of the different players in the Ecore team, the Plant Manager, Research and Development Manager, Process Engineer and Director of Continuous Improvement.
Applying the Blue Fox Automation and innius maxim of ‘start simple, start small’, it was quickly decided to start by focussing on the Banbury Mixer machine, a critical part of the production process. The needs of the team were then translated into specific data points from the Banbury mixer machine, relating to time, temperature, motor amps, speed etc.
Retrofitting a Banbury mixer with Industrial IoT
Blue Fox Automation easily connected the Banbury mixer to the innius Industrial IoT platform with an industrial modem. The innius Insight app and dashboards were then configured. The next day they came back on site, only to find the machine was down. But for the first time, the production team had the insight they needed via the innius Insight app and dashboards to analyse what the problem was. By examining the data about the machine’s behaviour just before it broke down, they were able to quickly diagnose the root cause and solve the problem.
This deeper insight into the Banbury mixer machine’s behaviour has helped them to increase productivity by between 10-20%.
‘We have a vision to be world class and with the integration of innius,
it really took us to that next level as far as Industry 4.0.’
Shane Volchko, Ecore Process Engineer
‘The right data, to the right people in the right way.’
Blaine Pennypacker, Ecore Director of Continuous Improvement
‘We think we’re only just getting started’
Brett Anderson, Ecore Plant Manager
‘Looking ahead we can start to analyse the process, analyse the data, find out where we can improve it,
and make a better product, and happier customers!’
Wanda Welch, Ecore Research and Development Manager
Product quality monitoring
As Wanda Welch explains the data gained via innius also helps maintain and monitor quality, ‘When there’s a problem… the first thing that we always want to do… is to go back to the data from the moment the material was made, or the lamination happened, or the PDM was cured, and see that everything looked right. And we were never able to do that before.’
Industry 4.0 roll out
With the Blue Fox Automation approach quickly proving successful, other machines were connected to the innius platform in quick succession. They now have a much deeper insight of the manufacturing processes and machine behaviour across two plants.
And what next? Wanda Welch says, ‘Looking ahead we can start to analyse the process, analyse the data, find out where we can improve it, and make a better product, and happier customers!’. Plant Manager, Brett Anderson adds, ‘We think we’re only just getting started’.
3 reasons for success:
- Ecore understood they needed data to solve their challenges.
- Blue Fox Automation started by understanding what data each team member needed and why.
- A step-by-step approach was taken, starting with the Banbury Mixer.
- 10-20% increase in Banbury mixer productivity.
- Product quality control both in real-time and longer term historical analysis.
- Process and machine insights across two plants.
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