Improving Machine Performance and Reliability With Predictive Maintenance

Few other industrial environments can match the diverse and difficult operating conditions found across the food and beverage processing industries, which can have an adverse impact on the machinery used on the factory floor and also on overall productivity.

With rising energy and labor costs, there is a need to optimize equipment reliability and to maximize uptimes so many operations are looking to maximize equipment output by extending the mean-time-between-failure and solving challenging application problems.

Reactive maintenance can be up to four times more expensive than planned maintenance, so many operations have moved to preventative maintenance strategies. Instead of carrying out repairs following a failure, regular checks and interventions are scheduled.

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Industrial Controllers: Past, Present, Future

Since the advent of the programmable logic controller (PLC), automation controllers of all kinds have made their way into industrial applications, including programmable automation controllers (PACs) and today’s edge programmable industrial controllers (EPICs). Users have many options in terms of cost, footprint, input/output (I/O) density, fieldbus compatibility, communication, programming options, and processing speed with competition among vendors looking to establish supremacy.

While it’s generally true diversity is healthy for the market, it also can be a source of frustration for engineers and end users. Selecting a control platform is often a long-term investment and carries related overhead like training and support contracts. Decision-makers want the reassurance they are putting their money to work in the right way.

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Should I Use An Edge Controller, PLC, or PAC?

Edge controllers can provide advantages in many applications where traditional industrial controllers have been used. For commercial and industrial computing products, software and hardware development progress proceeds in tandem, with the lead alternating. Sometimes the software complexity and features increase in a way that bumps into processing limitations; then there are times when hardware advances unleash newfound capacity for more sophisticated software.
It is easy to look at today’s traditional operations technology (OT) industrial controller options, represented most often by traditional programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process automation controllers (PACs), and see them as mature technologies with capable software and fast hardware. The challenge is identifying what comes next.

A few industry trends are pointing the way. Modern consumer and commercial computing experiences are ripe for merging into industrial products. Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming commonplace and many are looking at incorporating Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices into automation systems. Digital transformation requires connecting with many data sources, collecting and storing the data, visualizing and analyzing it, enabling optimized operations.

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Identify and Mitigate Robotic Hazards

In July 1984, an automated die-cast system operator died of cardiorespiratory arrest in a robotic accident. The operator got stuck between a steel safety pole and an industrial robot. The worker was an experienced employee trained on robotics for a week prior to this fatal encounter. It was later found he had entered the operating zone of the robot in an unsafe manner despite training, instructions, and warnings. A presence sensing device in such an application could have potentially averted the incident. 

This incident established the need to identify and enforce safeguards and practices to mitigate workplace incidents, especially in robotic process automation (RPA) enabled environments.

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Three Strategy Tips for Optimizing Your Next Energy Assessment

Industry leaders optimize their competitive advantage by committing to periodic reviews of energy usage. Such assessments involve in-depth critical thinking and analysis to mine the depths of the assessment’s opportunities to unlock value with efficiency optimization. A well-run plant often has a laser focus on their primary mission, but can benefit from a fresh set of eyes with a broader focus.

Three energy assessment strategies to consider

When it comes to performing an energy assessment, it might seem overwhelming at first glance. Following these three steps can provide companies a guideline to follow.

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Five Mindful Engineering Career Tips

I never could have predicted the path that I took to get where I am now, as I look back on the first quarter of my engineering career. That said, I am where I planned to be at this point in my life. I had a vision for where I wanted to be and where I want to be 10 years from today, and after another decade.

An engineering career vision is not a pathway engraved in stone, but instead should be approached as a series of goals to achieve, with a set of principles to stay on track. Five tips to help an engineering career follow.

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How Factory Workers Can De-Stress After a Long Shift

Stress is a productivity killer in virtually any industry, and this is no less true for factory workers engaged in physically taxing and oftentimes repetitive and monotonous work within manufacturing plants and warehouses.

Factory work tends to be physically demanding, repetitive, technically complex and potentially dangerous. It includes a range of tasks such as packaging, stacking, sorting, storing, filling, mixing, inspecting and assembling, which often require the use of complex equipment. Physical stressors coupled with productivity demands can prove difficult for factory workers and result in declines in productivity and employee morale. Add to that extended shifts due to staff shortages, increased product demand, or, in extreme cases, a pandemic, and stress levels can skyrocket.

So how can factory workers de-stress after long shifts?

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Ten Essential Maintenance Tips for Variable Frequency Drives

The manufacturing industry values variable frequency drives (VFDs) to maximize efficiency and productivity, but that appreciation may slip away when a breakdown occurs. A seamlessly functioning VFD delivers tremendous benefits, but it can falter when not adequately maintained. And when a production line or machinery grinds to a halt as a result, it’s essential to troubleshoot the issues and quickly resume operations.

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Nine Cybersecurity Strategies for Manufacturers

Did you know that manufacturing is the 2nd most targeted industry by hackers? With that in mind, addressing cybersecurity is more important than ever in the manufacturing industry. Although IIoT and Industry 4.0 in manufacturing create many positive benefits for operations, they also create vulnerabilities within systems. These vulnerabilities make it possible for hackers to gain access to an organization’s systems, equipment and critical data. Because smart manufacturing often connects entire systems, this often allows hackers full system access unless there are proper protections in place.  Companies have traditionally focused on information security in which vulnerabilities were introduced through desktops or server computing.    IIOT and Industry 4.0 have introduced an additional layer of vulnerabilities and threats.

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Top Five Industrial Robotics Applications

From food processing to automotive production, industrial robots are becoming ubiquitous. Highly-automated and programmable, these machines execute repetitive tasks with high precision, reliability and throughput.

Due to these features, industrial robots have become critical in many manufacturing processes. How do industrial robots work in manufacturing?

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