Can Do: SCADA Update Eases Data Acquisition

In machine-heavy operations at multiple beverage can plants, new SCADA software helped the manufacturer modernize its 20-year-old equipment while customizing production metrics.

Producing aluminum cans is a machine-heavy application, and two plants have as many as 30 machines for one production line.
Producing aluminum cans is a machine-heavy application, and two plants have as many as 30 machines for one production line.

When management outlines major upgrades for multiple plants, compliance from plant managers and operators is a much needed element for success. To address this issue, an aluminum can manufacturer with plants in Australia and New Zealand enlisted a flexible supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to alleviate worries from plant managers and provide a uniform rollout to four plants.

The beverage can manufacturer hired U.S.-based system integrator Roeslein & Associates to install Inductive Automation’s Ignition SCADA software to three older plants and a new canning plant in Queensland, Australia. The new plant would include a new aluminum can line and data acquisition system (DAQ), while the older plants were in need of the latter.

The older plants were using 20-year-old machines with dated control architecture, and the undeniable issue was the inability for operators to view real-time production line data conveniently. Operators had to walk from machine to machine to monitor production lines and take data readings.

To solve this, the beverage can manufacturer began using the SCADA’s overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) downtime module, which provides real-time plant floor monitoring, either from mobile devices or large production monitors. The OEE module also removes the need for line operators to have programming skills through the software’s ability to produce production reports in a plug-and-play fashion.

For operators, the OEE modules help maintain focus on can production and the software-based SCADA platform allowed for quick integration.

“We used to custom write our own downtime tracking, custom tables and databases,” says JC Harrison, systems engineering manager at Roeslein & Associates. “If an operator wanted to add a reason code to a particular machine, it was a bit difficult. With this downtime tracking module in the SCADA software, operators can add it and it’s pretty seamless.”

The OEE module includes a built-in shift-tracking feature that handles rollover product counts for all equipment. Producing aluminum cans is a machine-heavy application and two plants have as many as 30 machines for one production line. These plants can now record all shifts for a production line and associated machine tags, and provide reports for a specific shift or weekly reports.

For this integration project, which included adding new 42-inch production displays, as well as viewing options for the eventual addition of mobile technology, only minimal OEE programming was needed prior to Roeslein arriving at the plants in Australia and New Zealand.

“The backend programming for the machine tracking was the same across all of these plants,” Harrison says. Roeslein made a first attempt on what production data should be seen on the plant floor based on its 20 years of experience. But the OEE module allows for display customizations as needed.

Corporate management originally wanted all four plants to have the same data acquisition setup and display, but local management asked for different production parameters. “One plant manager wants to motivate his staff by showing them numbers presented one way and another wants it a different way,” Harrison says. “Same production numbers, but small variations in how to present this data to operators so they can respond to how good or bad the line is running.”

Programming for these display customizations took a few hours, adding either new parameters or access to different information from the PLC.

As with most manufacturers, OEE calculations are usually a mix of data instead of the rigid, traditional formula of availability, performance and quality. “Tracking OEE for a production run is sometimes difficult because different parts of the production line will continue to run, even though some machines may be down,” Harrison says. “However, the OEE module is a great tool with so many different machines on a canning line.”

Most of the control architecture at these plants is based on Rockwell Automation’s ControlLogix system. At the older plants, an RSLogix gateway is used to create IP addresses and allow for Ignition, via tags, to find these older PLCs. Some of the older networks use a Kepware OPC server application to interface with the SCADA platform.

The beverage can manufacturer has been running the same version of the SCADA software, based on JavaScript, for two years now and relies on Roeslein to maintain the control platform. “That way we don’t worry about Microsoft updates, operating system service patches or Internet browsers,” Harrison says. “We just pay attention to the updates with JavaScript and its automatic updates related to past security issues.”

Also, the manufacturer relies on local electricians at these plants for updates to the HMIs and production display parameters, instead of integrator support from Roeslein. The electricians can do this effectively by using Inductive University, a resource library full of video tutorials on how to add new production parameters or attributes to screens.

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