For those looking to implement manufacturing intelligence solutions at brownfield sites, B&R now offers the Orange Box. Data acquisition and analysis solutions can be implemented easily by setting the necessary configuration parameters – without having to modify any existing hardware or software and regardless of who supplied the existing control system. We sat down with Ralf Hagen, E&A/MES engineering manager at Nestlé Germany and Thomas Rienessl, head of industry-specific business development at B&R, to find out more about how the Orange Box transforms brownfield plants into smart factories.
Ralf Hagen (Nestlé): In a smart factory, components need to communicate and interact in a much better way than what we're currently used to. There should be an unbroken logical chain for each customer order that can be executed automatically, start to finish. A machine should know when it needs to speed up or slow down – when it should request additional materials or refuse them. Currently, these decisions still require the experience of human operators, but in the future the machines should be able to handle them autonomously.
Thomas Rienessl (B&R): One characteristic of a smart factory is certainly resource efficiency – with reduced consumption and the resulting reduction in operating costs. Virtually all modern equipment is automated by intelligent components that produce enormous amounts of data. Manufacturers are therefore looking for ways to leverage this data to be more competitive. That can mean making production processes more agile and responsive, for example, or increasing availability by preventing unplanned downtime.
Hagen: No. That's in large part due to the size of our company. Smaller plants have less clout when it comes to innovations, market penetration and investments. Our plants vary greatly with regard to sector and size, so the level of smart manufacturing really runs the gamut.
Hagen: With regard to KPIs – yes. The most straightforward definition is in terms of overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE. We have set OEE targets and time frames for achieving them.
Hagen: There definitely are, because of the many correlations. If your machine has problems with unplanned downtime, for example, you also tend to have problems with operator safety. The more often they have to intervene, the greater the risk of injury. Another key aspect is energy efficiency. When a line is constantly starting and stopping and starting and stopping, that has a real impact on consumption. At the same time quality suffers, because of the waste that is produced when the machine is starting up or shutting down.
Hagen: Yes, those are the areas that are the easiest to quantify globally.
Rienessl: We do, but the landscape is extremely varied. Specific customer requirements depend heavily on the industry – whether it's discrete or process manufacturing and what the level of automation is. The challenge is always to figure out how to improve production with the means and equipment you actually have on hand. In theory, things like the RAMI reference model always assume that you have unlimited access to the latest technology. In practice, however, greenfield plants are simply far outnumbered by brownfield ones. The real challenge in terms of productivity is therefore to get more out of the assets that are already in place.
Hagen: We talked to many potential suppliers, but B&R was the only one who could offer the total package of structure, framework, applications and modularity we were looking for. We wanted someone able to encapsulate the necessary expertise in a thoroughly tested package that you can install, use and update with the push of a button like a smartphone app.
Hagen: We created a solution that evolves modularly and organically – that's really the art of it. After all, we live in a world of constant change. If you put a system in place and say "OK, that's it" – you're going to run into trouble when it comes time to migrate. So far, the B&R system is the only one that can do this.
Rienessl: The Orange Box is a very versatile, open solution for collecting, standardizing and evaluating data in real time. If the requirements change, the Orange Box simply changes with them. Essentially it is a combination of B&R's mapp Technology and Scalability+. The Orange Box allows machine operators to check relevant parameters on site and intervene immediately when necessary. When you're talking about high availability, it's essential that any deviations are detected early and the right corrective measures are taken right away. That's exactly what the Orange Box lets you do, which is why it has been so well received.
Rienessl: The Orange Box can be used in any industry, but it's particularly well suited for plants where there are large numbers of machines involved in the production process. Basically there are two types of customers that it appeals to: large industrial manufacturers and machine builders.
Hagen: Installing and configuring the prototype turned out to be even faster and easier than we expected. Now we're working on improving the analysis results and how they are displayed for daily use such as shift handover meetings.
Hagen: What we want to have is intelligent analysis that identifies the root causes of a problem before the problem ever occurs. Over the next four years, we want to get to a place where the machines warn us of an impending stoppage in advance, rather than having to troubleshoot after the fact the way we do now. Eventually, there should be no more unplanned downtime whatsoever, and the Orange Box will help us increase both machine availability and output.
E&A Engineering Manager, Nestlé
"Installing and configuring the prototype at the Nestlé plant in Osthofen turned out to be even faster and easier than we expected."
Head of Business Development - Industries, B&R
"The Orange Box is a versatile, open solution for collecting, standardizing and evaluating data in real time. If the requirements change, the Orange Box simply changes with them. The Orange Box allows machine operators to check relevant parameters on site and intervene immediately when necessary."