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Plant performance hits the real time

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A BETTER understanding of the performance of manufacturing plants can be achieved today via 'real time' production reporting system, according to Rockwell Automation .

The essential ingredient needed to achieve such real-time reporting is a new solution set launched by Rockwell in Australia in the first half of 2003 -- 'Plant Intelligence in a Box' (PI Box).

The cost-effective PI Box solution utilises leading e-manufacturing technologies to deliver information on production performance directly to the enterprise and the factory floor.

PI Box brings together state-of-the-art hardware, software, consulting and training services from Rockwell Automation into a single, pre-configured 'starter pack'.

This package can be rapidly deployed to interface with almost any control system, from which it will automatically collect and log data during production.

Key performance metrics are immediately reported to the company's intranet, allowing anyone connected to the network, and with the appropriate security, to view the information via a web browser.

According to Ron Turton, manager of Manufacturing Business Solutions, Rockwell Automation Australia, the product essentially provides a real time window into the production environment.

"Many companies have home-grown systems in which the data is collected manually. If there is underproduction, the reports are often analysed days after an event," he said.

"The advantage of PI Box is that it exposes what's happening instantaneously. Instead of waiting days to discover a production deficiency, you can find out as soon as the trend becomes evident -- in some cases it is minutes -- and therefore fix the problem."

The information reported by PI Box includes reasons and justification for equipment breakdown; historical trends of key production variables; and, most significantly, the operating efficiency of equipment (OEE).

Turton emphasised that even a small improvement in this efficiency measure can have a major impact on a company's return on investment (ROI).

"Production cost savings are often underestimated. A one per cent saving in OEE can translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars at the other end. This is where PI Box really adds value," he said.

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