Ethernet Transforms Material Handling

April 30, 2012
While motor driven roller (MDR) technology has been around for a few years, Ethernet allows Wynright Corp. (www.wynright.com) to leverage it in a way that “exponentially increases design freedom and operational flexibility” for material handling systems, according to Wynright CEO Kevin Ambrose.

Wynright’s Autoroll+ MDR connects all MDR conveyors in a specific area of a warehouse or distribution center through an Ethernet network, instead of having to hardwire each zone back to a programmable logic controller (PLC). Using Ethernet connections offers several advantages, including simplified installation, more flexibility and control over the entire conveyor, as well as providing greater visibility into the status of each individual MDR for preventative maintenance.

“If there is a problem with a traditional MDR conveyor, discovering the source is a matter of trial and error,” says Ambrose. “You have to guess whether it’s the control card, the rollers or something else until you discover what is wrong. By connecting all the cards together via Ethernet and Autoroll+, an operator can plug a laptop into the system and instantly see precisely what is wrong and what needs to be corrected. It reduces mean time to recovery, and also reduces costs since you’re not replacing components that are still in good working order.”

As for greater operational flexibility, one example is that the speed and/or acceleration of every segment of the conveyor can be changed at the same time by sending one command from a laptop or PC touchscreen, rather than having to remove each individual card and manually set it with a screwdriver. This method not only saves time, it ensures that all units in the conveyor are matched exactly, says Ambrose.

“Organizations today are trying to maximize the efficiency of their operations, which means re-using the same conveyors for different configurations of cartons,” Ambrose explained. “A speed that’s optimal for the throughput of a short carton might cause a top-heavy carton to tip over. By being able to make changes quickly via an Ethernet connection, a warehouse or distribution center can improve its efficiency and maximize its use of resources while taking a more intelligent approach to material handling.”

The use of Ethernet to connect the control cards saves money on installation since the organization only has to run one network cable rather than hard wiring each control card individually back to the PLC. This factor also makes it easier to change the configuration of the MDR conveyor since an area can be easily unplugged from the Ethernet connection, moved and then plugged back into the network.

 “Since Autoroll+ uses networking technology, it also future-proofs the warehouse or distribution center,” added Ambrose. “With the Ethernet connection, new capabilities can be easily added by updating the firmware on the control cards from our support center in Oak Lawn.” 

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