Implementing PC Intelligence to Improve Performance

By using industrial personal computers networked with intelligent I/O, Ford is realizing improved performance in an engine plant implementation.

With the installation of industrial PC-based intelligent device control, Ford Cleveland Engine Plant 1 (Brook Park, OH) personnel are optimizing diagnostics and leveraging process information to achieve unprecedented gains in production machinery runtime, quality and productivity.

Faced with the need to improve productivity of the plant's machinery, while decreasing production costs, a design team comprised of both hourly production and skilled trades personnel, along with salaried engineering forces at the plant, installed an industrial PC (iPC) controlled, intelligent, communications-based, machine supervisory system that uses smart field, input/output (I/O) devices to optimize production machinery diagnostics and process information.

With the system's ability to integrate machine control, with an influx of performance information from field I/O, machine performance issues are identified and resolved quickly. As a result, downtime is reduced to mere minutes. Through the use of smart, field I/O and a communication bus in place of traditional two wire on/off field components, the functional health of each device can be continuously monitored by the iPC. This enables users to note potential failures and deploy corrective measures before potential failures result in downtime.

The system's installation followed Ford's extensive investigation of emerging communications based control technologies. The company partnered with machine control supplier Cutler-Hammer (Milwaukee, WI) to install a beta test site which included an iPC-based machine control network linked via a communications network to intelligent field devices.

The system, which includes a DeviceNetTM network, industrial personal computers and intelligent Controller Area Network (CAN) chip-embedded field devices, was installed on a machine that performs a leak test on cylinder heads for 5.0-L, V8 engines. As an essential component of the plant's production operation, the machine's level of productivity is critical. It should be noted that this is not a new machine; it was installed in the late 1960s.

According to Dennis Baca, production equipment designer at Ford, "The key to Ford's success, in the automotive industry, is to enable our production system—people and machinery—so that it is entirely capable of producing a high quality product at a competitive price. The ability to quickly diagnose issues on production equipment, repair them and place the system back on-line is a critical factor in this equation. Rather than merely upgrading existing equipment with a regular PLC-based, traditional I/O system, we wanted a control solution that would enable us to continuously monitor our process' health and functional performance, on a real-time basis, so that we could proactively improve productivity. This we felt could be accomplished by adding new smart technologies that will make us the leader in low-cost production, while giving a greater amount of control to the operators on the production floor."

 

Technological Synergies Impact Diagnostics


In an effort to keep machinery running smoothly, the automotive industry has attempted to implement a variety of diagnostic systems into its processes. These methods proved ineffective, costly to maintain and limited in their ability to provide specific information.

PC-based intelligent device networks integrate machine control and information systems providing manufacturers with synergies that dramatically impact diagnostic capability and machine performance.

In an effort to keep machinery running smoothly, the automotive industry has attempted to implement a variety of diagnostic systems into its processes. These methods proved ineffective, costly to maintain and limited in their ability to provide specific information.

PC-based intelligent device networks integrate machine control and information systems providing manufacturers with synergies that dramatically impact diagnostic capability and machine performance.

The DeviceNet communication link is based on a broadcast-oriented communications protocol—the CAN chip. The CAN chip provides reliable real-time communication, at a low cost. Expensive, complex wire harnesses, used in traditional two-wire field I/O, are replaced with a single twisted pair of wires.

DeviceNet networks reduce the number of wires connecting all devices to one cable. This reduces the total number of required terminal connections needed to install an entire control system by approximately 70 percent. As a result, the time required to install and debug the system is reduced, thus paying big dividends during startup. Each DeviceNet network supports a multitude of smart field I/O. The network cable is attached to the PC through a scanner card, thus enabling the PC to increase system control through the ability to share data over one cable.

The CAN chip improves production's ability to monitor and maintain optimal machine performance while using the communications cabling system to detect faults. This increases overall reliability and uptime of the entire connected operation.

Intelligent devices with embedded CAN chips report their faults automatically. Fault information is displayed on a man-machine interface, providing the operator and maintenance personnel with a graphical representation of the machine's operational status. Operating information provided by the CAN chip set can be stored in the PC's memory and used to monitor and predict machine tool wear as well as other potential modes of failure.

Baca reports, "The benefit of using a PC is that it is so flexible that you can do other things with it. We have all this information coming out of the system and the PC allows us to digest it. The PC is a natural progression to higher level networks. Thus, when we need to send performance data, via the Ethernet to a central computer, the iPC platform provides a simple and cost effective method for compiling that information into a proper format which the network computer can use."

 

Diagnostics At Work


At the Ford installation, Production Operator Paul Arendash has used the system diagnostics to help electricians troubleshoot a problem with a limit switch. While modifications were being made to the new system, Ford activated the old control system. During that time, the production line experienced a problem.

Arendash explains, "After the electricians were called and spent 20 minutes unsuccessfully trying to identify the problem, we switched the machine over to the new control system and the diagnostics immediately identified a problem with a limit switch on the machine.

"Before DeviceNet, it was hard to find out what was wrong. If we had one or two switches off in a unit, it could take a few hours and maybe two electricians to find it. Now I just go to the screen on the operating console, touch it with my finger and it will tell me what part is causing the problem and where it is. Then, I can tell the electrician and he can make an adjustment or replacement in an instant."

In another instance, mechanical changes were being made on the machine. When they were completed, the machine did not run correctly. Arendash used the diagnostic screens to identify that a proximity sensor was out of range. The machine repairman, who had moved the sensor to reach into the machine, had not repositioned it correctly. According to Arendash, "A problem that could have shut down the machine for about half an hour was fixed in minutes because the system told us exactly what was wrong. It eliminated the possibility of a broken wire or failed electrical component. This in itself saved us money."

 

Improving Older Equipment


As manufacturers are challenged to find ways to increase productivity of older machinery, they will look to implement new technology that not only produces bottom line results, but will also be accepted by production personnel.

Open automation systems, technological advances in controls, and intelligent plant floor devices provide the solution to meeting these needs today. Distributed configurations of intelligent devices on an open network will be able to communicate with each other on a peer-to-peer level, bypassing host devices. Intelligent devices and device networks will deliver a wealth of data.

Diagnostics and troubleshooting functions will contribute to ongoing system performance improvements and reduced downtime, and embedded value-added functions will facilitate the customers' ability to meet documentation requirements in critical areas like product quality, yield, profitability and environmental performance.

With the installation of PC-based intelligent device control, Ford has already accelerated its ability to optimize diagnostics and leverage process information. In addition, the technology's inherent flexibility offers manufacturers like Ford the assurance that their investment will enable them to achieve ongoing improvements in productivity and profitability. AD&P