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Machine builder design efficiencies increase when core machine components are easy to select and simple to wire and install. Thanks, in part, to fast moving technology trends such as Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), OEM workplace simplification in on the way. Until just recently, for example, it would never have occurred to most machine builders that they would have the ability to connect motors or other loads to the internet in order to instantly access data required to make better design, installation and machine maintenance decisions.
Manufacturers, such as Schneider Electric, are now producing digitized solutions targeted at improving OEM workplace efficiencies. Consider some of the recent progress made in the areas of motor starter and motor load management technology. Some of the new fully digital and object-oriented load management systems offer efficiency gains at every stage of the machine life cycle:
- Configuring and building – When configuring a motor starter/load management solution, machine builders would traditionally access a number of physical catalogs to look up the types of contactors needed and then write down the proper part numbers for ordering. Once the components were delivered, they would need to be properly mounted, connected to the PLC and then programmed. New technologies such as Schneider Electric TeSys island ship with an online configurator tool that is built around the concept of avatars, which are digital objects with pre-programmed functionality integrated. The knowledge needed to build an application is integrated within the avatar. The machine builder simply selects the appropriate avatars that represent the functions he needs and the configuration tool automatically generates the appropriate bill of materials. When the machine builder starts programming his solution, the file created by the configuration tool, and all the settings that were indicated in the selection process, are automatically imported. The time-consuming task of dual or triple entry of specifications is avoided.
- Installation and commissioning – Traditional motor starter installation and commission work is often tedious and involves spending considerable time wiring and testing for manual errors. New, modular motor starters are designed for installation and commissioning simplicity as they are light in weight, small in size and modular in nature. During installation, the various sections (modules) snap together and are mounted onto a DIN rail within a cabinet. Only one connection to the field bus is required to manage up to 20 starters. No auxiliary wiring is needed as the modules are interconnected with a ribbon cable. All the intelligence is centralized in one of the modules, called the bus coupler, that acts as the brains of the unit. The programming is performed within the bus coupler itself and through the avatars selected via the configuration tool.
During commissioning phases, both software tools (like EcoStruxure Machine Expert) and hardware design help to simplify the commission task. The system requires only two LEDs, one which indicates that the device is functioning properly and the other that indicates whether the connected load is functioning. Individual avatars can be quickly tested, even without a PLC.
- Operation – Intelligent motor starters and motor load management machine components make it much easier to optimize machine performance. These systems capture a rich set of machine asset data. The machine builder will know, for instance, precisely where at the end user site a particular machine is located, and can determine with accuracy the projected end of life of that machine. Other examples of the type of load level and system level data that can be gathered include motor starter statistic data (health data, product identification data), energy data (power available, power demand), motor performance data (load status, thermal capacity), motor protection (temp), and upstream protection data (phase and ground current data) to name a few.
- Trouble shooting and maintenance – Digitized components such as intelligent motor starters free up maintenance personnel who no longer need to be in close proximity of the machine in order to troubleshoot. If the system detects an overheating situation, for example, because a preset threshold has been crossed, a warning gets issued before the machine experiences any downtime. The data gathered is combined and analyzed so that the future performance of the machine can be predicted. This data is viewable from any browser and even from mobile devices.
The new digitized components are simplifying machine builder workloads because of built-in open communication capabilities. Thus, OEMs can work with several leading brands of motor starter equipment and still benefit from productivity enhancements without having to invest considerable time working out interoperability issues. Open architectures such as Schneider Electric EcoStruxure Machine facilitate OEM implementation work by connecting intelligent devices, regardless of manufacturer, with edge control and software-based analytics, all within a cybersecure envelope.
To learn more about how Schneider Electric digitization solutions can drive OEM workplace efficiencies, download our eguide titled “Unprecedented productivity: how smart machines modernize the food & beverage and packaging industry” or visit our OEM resource site.
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