Case Studies

New Controls, No Line Disruptions

Share
Goal

Change controls without stopping production.

Challenge

Upgrade all controls and operate new and old during transition.

Solution

Implement a zone-by-zone change strategy.

Results

Tens of millions are saved by not stopping production. All production machinery are refurbished. Process improvements include less PLCs and a new internal communications system. Once independent controls now form an interconnected functional network.

For the better part of a year a DataRealm field team spends its weekends meticulously swapping out the controls at selected assembly stations. There is rarely a hitch in a process that is so seamless the plant is able to restart each Monday for a five day production run without even a hint of downtime - exactly as planned and as promised.

This kind of innovation, which is built into the DataRealm DNA, will ultimately save the manufacturer tens of millions of dollars, avoid discarding still viable production equipment while upgrading to newer equipment for a new engine family and, most importantly, eliminate the need for a costly and extended production shutdown.

Most of the programmable logic controls (PLCs), CNC controllers, HMI and motor controls in use on the plant floor were at least three generations behind current technologies and no longer supported by their manufacturers. This gap became so problematic that plant engineers often searched the Internet to find replacements for modules well beyond their best before dates.

DataRealm started the project with a detailed study to find the best option and concluded that, when all was considered, replacing the controls while the plant continued to operate was not only feasible but technologically possible.

The study included identifying a PLC controls vendor with the ability to participate in such an ongoing program and an installation company to upgrade some of the plant\\\'s production zones. What clinched the deal were the multiple benefits of this unique approach. Despite the downturn in the North American auto industry, product demand limited the ability of the manufacturer to close the plant for a long and costly retooling.

There was somewhat of a sigh of relief from the manufacturer when DataRealm offered its solution. The few concerns that any number of factors could derail the effort have been proven to be unfounded. DataRealm attributes this to its understanding of the inner workings of a wide range of control devices along with its years of expertise in manufacturing IT systems integration and traceability. Another factor is the expertise of its team members to execute intricate installs under considerable time pressure.

When all the stations are complete, the plant will also enjoy not only a number of process improvements, including reducing the number of PLCs in play, but also a highly modern internal communications system that will turn once independent controls into part of an interconnected highway.

Our Partners