Delta Systems & Automation, now part of Ilapak Group, is a manufacturer of integrated packaging systems that has grown organically and through acquisitions since the early 1990s. The company’s evolution not only reflects the way industrial business has changed since the company’s inception, but also how automation technology has been driven by and is driving these changes.
At the Schneider Electric Innovation Summit held in Atlanta this week, Daniel Harr and Brian Kyles of Delta Systems spoke about how advances in automation technologies have changed the company—advances helped, in part, by working with Schneider Electric to integrate their software into Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure platform and by continued adoption of new technologies, such as EcoStruxure’s Machine Advisor.
Delta Systems’ progress
Delta Systems is known for making packaging systems to order, Harr said, adding that from the company’s early days it differentiated itself through the development of its proprietary SoftFlow PC software. This software system uses one central programmable logic controller (PLC) to control an entire machine by connecting its I/O, servo drives and servo motors with a SoftFlow touchscreen featuring integrated human machine interface (HMI), PLC and motion control. With all of the machine’s control centralized in this way, the operator has a single reference point on which to focus, Harr said.
The company’s build-to-order approach with its SoftFlow system served it well for decades. But by 2013, Harr said, “We realized with the move toward the Internet of Things—with all the different protocols and connections that would have to be supported in that environment—we were going to need a technology partner that could keep us at the top level of performance we were known for and take us beyond what we could do on our own.”
Following Delta Systems’ acquisition by Ilapak Group in 2008, the company was introduced to Schneider Electric and liked the way they worked. “[They] approached us the way we approach our customers,” said Kyles. “In 2015 we moved our SoftFlow software onto Schneider Electric’s PacDrive 3 and installed our first system with it in 2016.”
Beyond the move of the SoftFlow system to the PacDrive 3, Delta Systems also relies on Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Machine Advisor platform. Designed for OEMs, this platform is used to connect machines to on-premise edge control for advanced onsite analytics as well as connections to digital services via the cloud.
According to Schneider Electric, Machine Advisor is a connected platform that allows OEMs to track, monitor and fix machines remotely. The software provides a connected framework across three areas of functionality:
- Track: OEMs can visualize the location of all their machines, with real-time access to documentation and history, such as bill of materials, manuals, maintenance logs and task management schedules. This capability is a “repository service for OEMs to track their machine fleet and document the history of their machines,” said Carlos Villa, vice president of U.S. Industry Business at Schneider Electric. “It allows localization of an OEM’s worldwide installed base to manage machine data and log service and maintenance activities.”
- Monitor: Through the Advisor’s cloud-based software, OEMs can collect and visualize machine data in real time to get a comprehensive analysis of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The software also includes widgets for performance tracking against key performance indicators (KPIs) and other trends, as well as dashboards to monitor machine availability and output quality. Villa described the monitor function as “an analytics service for OEMs and end users to remotely monitor and analyze machine health and performance. It starts with descriptive analysis of equipment and moves into predictive.”
- Fix: This is a mobile app service that uses EcoStruxure’s Augmented Operator Advisor technology to provide maintenance and operations workers with contextual information about equipment as well as step-by-step repair procedures and connections to remote expertise. With remote access to the engineering software in the cloud, service technicians can always have access to the right version and libraries, Schneider Electric said. (See this related video for more information.)
“The benefit of Machine Advisor for OEMs is to ensure they can capture new revenue streams from their machine data,” said Villa.
“50-70 percent of downtime is not spent in recovery, but in understanding what needs to be fixed,” said Kyles. The augmented reality capability of Machine Advisor reduces the time it take to recover—and that increases uptime. "It’s also key to reducing the complexity of operating the machine," Kyles added. "The advisor will tell you what’s wrong with the machine, how to fix it, what parts you’ll need and even walk you through the repair process with instructions or links to videos.”
“IoT is more accessible than you think,” said Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman and CEO of Schneider Electric during his keynote at the 2018 Innovation Summit. “And with it [IoT] typically delivering a return on investment within three years, digitization is not a big investment. Especially when you realize that much of what you have is already connected [or is capable of being connected]. You just have to take the next step to move toward analysis. Taking that step will move you from reactive to proactive, onsite to mobile and remote, from working by yourself to working with new partners and move you from a limited scale [of computing and operation] to a new scale with artificial intelligence.”