Knowledge is Power: Tracking Machine Performance

Co-authored by our editor, Christine Pietryla Wetzler & Jesse Rosenow, sales engineer at Totani

Many of you are investing in new equipment with improved diagnostics to hop on the automation train. This is a smart idea—there is less labor required, and in general, it’s easier to troubleshoot. If you’re on the fence or considering an upgrade, we’ll talk about why tracking machine performance is so important. If you’ve made the leap and own a new pouch-making machine, we are also going to cover what to look for and help you avoid a few challenges along the way.

In either case, consider that by monitoring machine performance you can find problems in advance and give yourself time to find a fix. Not only on the machine but on the upstream processes like laminating, slitting and printing. You’re looking for total management of the machine’s operating data to enhance product quality, enable remote maintenance and offer real-time troubleshooting. Many new machines are outfitted with automation controls that allow you to measure up against your individual KPIs for the machine you’ve chosen. Generally, and most often, these include measuring for increased efficiency, reduced downtime, higher quality and cost savings. With or without a data communication system, the basics apply.

Data collection systems are designed for the sole purpose of process improvement. Having the ability to analyze such things, for example, as running speeds, sealing temperatures and even error codes goes a long way to help improve the productivity of the machine. In addition, reducing downtime by being able to predict preventive maintenance requirements is a key advantage of utilizing a data collection system.

Basic data collection systems do this by storing straightforward production data like running speed, shots, total shots, film consumption, repeat length, mark pitch, heater temperature, running record and condition and scrap ratio. Additionally, they measure the production conditions, so you can tell if the surrounding environment impacted the resulting quality of the pouches.

You must couple this information with upstream data like how the film is printed, or how it’s laminated and rewound. This information can also be stored in a data communication system.

Together, the machine and upstream performance data can help you stay on top of equipment condition monitoring demands and help you ease the challenges associated with data integration and frequently changing project requests. Without a data collection system, the converter can still save job data to be recalled at another date. This eliminates any guesswork during set-up and greatly increases machine productivity. Alarm code history is also typically collected for better analyzation of recent stoppages. This data alone can go a long way in decreasing the time necessary to troubleshoot machine issues or resolving ongoing problems.

All is not lost if a machine does not have an integrated data collection system. Many new machines also have quality protections built-in that automatically help converters and end-users manage the quality of the resulting pouches.

Automation is about controlling and monitoring your job and making real-time adjustments while the machine is running. For example, if you’re running pouches at high speeds and they are really tight—let’s imagine in this situation things wander to the point where there could be a leak. Print registration sensors are used in this case to help properly align the seals and tack hole punches.

In the case that there is a defective pouch, sensors would be able to detect this and register the position, in the machine, of this particular pouch or range of pouches. Photo sensors are actively monitoring and are able to communicate with the program/PC in order to properly reject the pouches. These pouches get kicked out, and by the time they get 30 to 40 feet downstream, the knife would be held up and they’re ejected down a shoot and turned into scrap.

Here’s another example, there are machines that make pouches with spouts. These complete packages then get filled and capped. If the spout is improperly positioned it could leak. The machine can monitor that and kick those pouches out before they become a challenge.

When you’re considering how to track your pouch-making machine’s performance both in real-time and over-time, the same principles should be considered as you plan your data collection strategy:

Identify your KPIs—Many production teams will use key performance metrics like what they’d be asked to achieve in a FAT to begin tracking specific characteristics.

Define your success—What does total success look like? Work backward from these goals.

Where is your support—Companies like Totani have world-class support and laboratory technicians that can work with you to find and resolve any issues you’ve uncovered.

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