Squaring up newly made blocks, cutting and trimming foam into shape are operations offering opportunities for smart plant owners with the right combinations of software and machinery to reduce waste and improve efficiency. Francis Pinckers, vice president of Fecken-Kirfel explains.
Fecken-Kirfel and IPF have worked together to enable operators to use innovative integrated software products to monitor and control the elements of the production process.
By using detailed production data it is possible to actively intervene in production processes and to make them more efficient.
This can save money and clarify commercial opportunities for foamers.
The waste in typical foam processing companies is estimated at between 12% - 22% of total production weight.
Foam makers can use IPF’s MyFoamPlant software coupled with Fecken-Kirfel cutting machinery to check the material output and raw material input at any time in the production process and intervene immediately when waste levels start to rise.
If only 3 % of raw materials are saved during production, with constant output, savings of approx. EUR 300,000/year (figure 8) in plants producing around 10 kT/year foam and a market price of around EUR 2.0/kg of PU-foam.
Technology developed by Fecken-Kirfel together with MyFoamPlant software from key Fecken-Kirfel partner IPF, makes it possible to monitor and visualise all upstream and downstream production.
Fecken-Kirfel takes a collaborative approach and works with partners like IPF; specialist in handling systems and special machinery for managing polyurethane foam blocks both manually and automatically. This is to meet future market requirements.
Adapted machine controls and software modules have become standard equipment for high quality precision cutting machines which are increasingly used in smart factories. These are digitally networked production environments with a high degree of production automation.
They are becoming more common and we have enhanced our machines to gather data, monitor processes and network with other machines to considerably increase efficiency and resource optimisation. It is not sufficient to build only cutting machines for foam processors.
The system has user-friendly, online-compatible interfaces to visualise production processes. Machinery makers have offered software packages designed to help users to save material or simplify and accelerate production processes.
The new approach Fecken-Kirfel has pioneered with IPF is to marry the two ideas together with extensive production data collection.
Each day computerised cutting machines acquire and collate thousands of data points, giving users the ability to analyse processes considerably faster than was possible a few years ago. This data can then be used to continuously improve production.
The open system provides a wide variety of tools, simple graphics or complex data visualisations which can be tailored to individual customer’s specific requirements.
Efficiency indicators for cutting machines
Users of Fecken-Kirfel cutting machines can read out and as well as evaluate several types of production data.
• Production time – the machine is in cutting mode
• Setup time – production planning and down time between jobs
• Maintenance time – maintenance/service works
• Interruption time – pause/emergency stop/fault
• Free capacity – machine idle
This data can give information about whether a system is optimally used; if the operator is working efficiently or if the machine is susceptible to breakdowns. It is also possible to quickly diagnose frequent maintenance down-times, as well as over- and under-capacity.
Using monthly data for efficiency analysis it is possible to diagnose a number of situations and suggest remedies:
In this example (fig. 4) there is no free capacity available, but maintenance time, set-up time and interruption time are normal. Consequently the cutting operation is running at the limit. Action: optimise the process or invest in more capacity.
Production not working to capacity
In the second example (fig. 5) the process is not used to full capacity - the amount of free capacity is definitely too high. Action: Expand the product portfolio with products coordinated with the capacity utilisation of individual machines. Sales and marketing should simultaneously increase sales.
Setup and maintenance
The third example (fig. 6) shows excessive set-up and maintenance times. Action: A visit from a service technician could reduce the amount of maintenance time.
It may also be possible to insert other jobs during the ongoing cutting operations. The MyFoamPlant software already allows the creation of further jobs during ongoing cutting operations with minimum effort.
Annual data can be used to quickly see if there are opportunities to improve the utilisation of cutting equipment in the production process. In this example we consider a cutting line designed to trim long blocks and to process them over different stations to contour cuts is considered. The automatic cutting line consists of different branches of machines:
- one or two fully automatic cut-off and trimming machines (T 8);
- a fully automatic horizontal bandknife splitting and stacking machine (W 22);
- online with a vertical CNC cutting centre (F 62) and;
- a horizontal CNC cutting centre (C 67);
- a looper (H 32 LF), and;
- a carousel splitting machine S 24
Because these machines perform different functions they are differently used to capacity. The comparison of the average utilisation (current state) of all machines with possible utilisation (target state) immediately shows when there is the highest need for optimisation.
Looking at the cutting line it quickly becomes apparent that the contour cutting machines F 62 and C 67 are permanently working to capacity and over the course of the year these will become bottlenecks.
The factory owner should examine if more contour cutting capacity is needed and if that will increase the utilisation of the other cutting machines.
Alternatively it should be checked if, for example, the sale of flat, plate-shaped goods would enable an increase in turnover without increasing the load on these machines. This would improve the capacity utilisation of the Fully Automatic Cut-Off and Trimming Machine T 8 as well as of the Fully Automatic Horizontal Bandknife Splitting and Stacking Machine W 22.
All of the data from individual machines and plants can be aggregated by production unit and accessed remotely to give efficiency-indicators of the whole foaming company (fig. 7):
Together with IPF, Fecken-Kirfel has gone one step further.
The data collection and evaluation software MyFoamPlant makes it possible to control various systems remotely from any location. IPF’s software offers numerous possibilities of visualisation and monitoring, whether it will be material flow in block curing area, colouring tank fill levels of Milliken products or material output of traditional Mammut quilting machines.
The user can control exactly which raw materials are available and how much of them have been supplied to production. It is also possible to visualise the production volume of foams, current stock of curing blocks or storage racks, the volume of foam blocks already cut and the total waste quotients. In addition the waste quotients of the used cutting lines can be shown.
This gives foam plant owners the opportunity for far greater control of their production systems and production parameters than has been possible in the past with cost, performance and productivity benefits.