We speak to Essentra’s Divisional Managing Director Scott Fawcett about how Industry 3.0 changed their manufacturing processes for the better.
Industry 3.0 is the bridge between Henry Ford’s move towards greater productivity and the intelligent processes that we are now seeing arise under Industry 4.0. Not only were processes streamlined, as they were at Ford, but automation made vital parts of the production process safer and more efficient. We spoke to Scott Fawcett, divisional managing director at Essentra Components, to see how the move towards intelligent automation changed Essentra’s ways of working and how he sees it evolving further in the future.
|Scott Fawcett, Divisional Managing Director at Essentra Components|
How did the equipment manufacturing industry prepare for Industry 3.0?
The equipment manufacturing industry was naturally building machines driven by automation spawned by and for the emergence of Industry 3.0. We observed a number of different trends and changes.
The first was the automation of injection moulding machines. Material loading systems were heavily manual and required people to load the granules into the machines. We moved to automated injection moulding machines in the late 1990s, which created efficiencies in the production of customer parts and overall output volumes.
The second was that our key competitors were moving away from single and towards multi cavity tooling. We had to move quickly to keep a competitive edge in the market, which allowed us to enhance our proposition to offer scalable production volumes.
Which products within equipment manufacturing are a direct bi-product of the evolution of Industry 3.0?
The emergence of automated machinery drove a significant increase in the amount of electronics and electrical elements required to build these products. This, in turn, created a greater need to manage cables, wires and Printed Circuit Boards (PCB), to name but a few.
We saw a huge appetite for fasteners and fixings, cable ties and mounts, as well as standoffs, spacers and supports.
At what point during Industry 3.0 did Essentra and the manufacturing sector acknowledge that there was a new industrial revolution on its way?
As a business, we began to see massive automation and hydraulic applications driving the market and our organisation. This key trend drove our investment further into automated injection moulding machines; we now have more than 300 globally.
In our centre of global manufacturing excellence in Kidlington, Oxfordshire alone, we have invested around £14m in injection moulding machines, technology platforms and automated warehousing equipment. In tandem with the evolution of the injection moulding machinery on the production floor, tooling has also seen significant change and continued investment. Our Kidlington site invests up to £1m per year on automation, tooling and the replacement of old technology to drive efficiency gains. The use of hot runner systems, which inject liquid plastic at a constant temperature, has enabled us to increase efficiency in the production process even further.
Was Essentra involved in the creation of any products or technologies at this time that alluded to Industry 4.0?
Extensive investment in technology was crucial. Our manufacturing operations were underpinned by production management and monitoring, as well as warehouse management software, which has revolutionised our supply chain and service delivery.
We deployed Mattec, a production management software platform, which allows us to feed the production floor with key data to run the customer orders from the right materials to the tooling. The system also allows us to perform production monitoring and feeds this into our systems for continuous analysis, allowing us to improve and enhance productivity in real time. It gives us an accurate status of the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).
A number of the injection moulding machines we use are directly connected to our suppliers’ service cloud, enabling predictive maintenance. This technology analyses the performance of the machine’s outputs continuously and looks for variations that would indicate wear, potential damage or failure, thus providing us with advanced warning of a potential breakdown before the machine actually fails. Ultimately this drives efficiency and predicts and minimises downtime. It also enables us to order spares and plan labour in advance.
What were the necessary skills for engineers working in manufacturing during Industry 3.0 and what skills did they develop as a result of this industrial revolution?
As the industry began supplying more automated machines, training became integrated into our ways of working. The first stage was built around health and safety, particularly as tasks included lifting and slinging injection moulding tools. On average, each of our tools weighs 200kg and must be lifted and lowered into place with technical precision, using either a pendant or a remote crane. The benefits of this training is two-fold: it ensures the safety of our employees when operating machinery and increases the efficiency of the process.
Employees are then directed to further injection moulding technology training, which provides them with the skills required to set up the injection phase of the cycle, as well as to understand the relationship between injection pressures and speed. This is followed by power truck training, which involves equipping employees with the necessary skills to ensure the safe movement of tools around the mould shop.
What do you think the future of manufacturing looks like and what major changes do you envision?
Industry 4.0 will revolutionise the existing technologies and capabilities within the manufacturing and production industry, making them smart, integrated, connected and digitised. By incorporating higher levels of automation and digitisation at our facilities, we can meet the increasingly intricate and challenging needs of our customers.
For example, we are already using robotics in parts of our business to aid efficiency, drive production and reduce waste, ultimately passing time and cost savings on to our customers. We are also receiving increasing requests from customers to incorporate features into our solutions that communicate and cooperate with their existing supply chain.
Looking specifically at the reduction of waste, last year we implemented an extensive Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) programme for changing of dies and tooling. With the deployment of these new procedures, we can achieve 40-50 tool changes in a 24 hour period across our nylon fasteners ranges.
Customers are asking that their components are delivered and packed in specific ways that easily link with their existing supply chains. We are also seeing increasing calls for digitised approaches and data sharing. By collecting live manufacturing and production data, and continuously analysing production cycle times and adherence levels, we can provide stronger analysis and dramatically improve product consistency.
By sharing production data via the cloud, we enable our customers to collect insights and make informed decisions about their products. We also share stock information and future production planning with customers, giving them transparency across the supply chain. With the rollout of SO99, cloud-based demand planning software, it allows us to collaborate further on demand forecasts.
The advancements in data and powerful analytics mean that the systems in place can trawl through the huge sets of data and produce insights that can be acted upon quickly. Data sharing via the cloud vastly improves efficiency, allowing us to respond to our customers and their behaviours quickly, cost effectively and without ever compromising on quality.