Industry 4.0 by design

Following my visit to the Hannover Trade Fair in Germany 2011, I was struck by the importance and relevance of the new buzzword ‘Industrie 4.0’. I knew that I had to ensure that Stuga products would be designed to allow our customers to make the most of this exciting revolution.

Following this, Stuga has been designing and developing features that are now standard on all new Stuga products. Connecting the Stuga fleet of machines – not only to the fabricator management team, but also via the internet to the Stuga service team – leads to improved reliability, improved up-time, and increased machine performance.

The concept of extreme flexibility (‘Batch Size One’) has always been part and parcel of our rotary tooling ring design and the on-board optimisation. Our machinery is flexible enough to produce one component or a full batch of any size or design of window, across multiple systems with no re-tooling. This is a key factor of Industry 4.0: fully automatic machinery that is completely flexible to any design or shape of window.

The Stuga machines constantly record performance including that of the operator. This information is displayed in a graphical format for production management. The data currently includes pieces cut, frames processed, running time, waiting time, loading time, and idle time. We also record all the data about the bars processed, including the quantity, measured length, and measured width of every bar processed. Following customer suggestions, the system also logs all remake pieces, along with an operator’s initials and reason for remaking the component.

A machine can only produce work as fast as the input is being fed, so our systems clearly show the efficiency of operation and the machine capability. Interruptions (eg, staff breaks or delays in loading the infeed table) are easy to see via their impact on production. It is very easy to compare operator performance as this can massively affect machine output.

The production and diagnostic data is uploaded to the cloud via industry-standard, fully secure IoT protocols and systems on Microsoft online cloud services. This enables password-protected access to individual machine performance data online. The fabricator managers and the Stuga service team can access this data to help diagnose and improve a machine’s performance, for example an engineer can interrogate the cycle times for individual operations such as drainage on individual profiles, and see if there are any unnecessary delays by comparing them to an expected value. All alarms and warnings are logged regularly for later interrogation to identify patterns of behaviour.

Stuga has always been keen to connect machine data to other parties – we regularly provide outputs to the major software suppliers (eg pieces are cut to link in with barcoding systems) and this has been recently extended to log bar usage for linking into a stock control package. All Stuga Machines benefit from using the same batch data, therefore we are easily able to set up systems where batches are ‘pooled’, and the data shared across multiple machines, with no risk of the same batch getting cut twice.

Stuga has been at the forefront of this revolution since it was first popularised. The future is exciting, and we could see new concepts in the industry such as ‘predictive maintenance’. In this scenario, the cloud database continuously processes the diagnostic data from the machines, sending a warning to the appropriate personnel and Stuga maintenance team when parts are nearly worn, over-temperature or not performing as they should. An intervention can take place before the issue becomes critical.

Stuga will continue to invest and develop in these areas, and will be making these enhancements available soon for new and old customers alike.

By Gareth Green, Stuga Machinery