One Software Fits AllMarch 25, 2013
Distinct from machine-brand focused maintenance systems, 5ME, provides products and services that represent a unique approach to machine data collection and management. Pete Tecos, Executive Vice President, Marketing and Product Strategy, said, “The goal was to create a comprehensive suite of modular and scalable software tools that could facilitate manufacturing and maintenance excellence.” The concept of collecting data from the plant floor is not new, however it has typically been provided by a machine tool builder or control manufacturer in an effort to extract data from their specific products. Additionally, these tools have been narrow in focus and capability. That approach, he said, is not practical, as it minimizes the set of assets from which data can be extracted and does not incorporate all of the tools necessary for analyzing and improving manufacturing processes and maintenance strategies. The 5ME software package (branded as eWARE), Tecos said, is “target independent,” which means it has the capability of collecting and analyzing data from any industrial asset. The eWARE Suite has a central control-resident software module called eCONNECT. “I call it the Connect and Collect™ interface,” he said, “If you have the software loaded on your control system, you simply plug in an Ethernet cable and you’re ready to collect data.”
Tecos said eCONNECT can be implemented on any modern controls that have a PC front-end, such as Siemens 840D, Fanuc XX0i, OKUMA, and Mazatrol. “For older or legacy control systems as well as semi-automatic or manual machines, we’ve developed a hybrid solution that enables connectivity to the eWARE Suite. It utilizes a small DIN Rail mounted PC with discrete I/O connections to specific points in the machine’s electrical cabinet. While it doesn’t obtain data quite as rich as that of the software interface, it still provides a critical bridge to legacy or manual shop floor assets with enough pertinent data to make it strategically useful.”A series of five software modules dock to the central eCONNECT module. The eVIEW module is a detailed machine diagnostics and monitoring utility developed specifically for maintenance. It permits visualization of machine data and data analysis tools and features user-configurable trigger points for diagnosing problems. A module called eMONITOR displays and analyzes conditions related to machine or process “health,” Tecos said. Via reports regarding spindle or axis current, vibration, temperature, pressure, and other machine conditions, the module enables condition-based maintenance. Available in a software solution in addition to a combination of software and sensors mounted on the machine, the shop can tell if critical machine components, such as the spindle or ballscrew, are in good operating condition, if they’re trending toward failure, or if they’ve become defective. Access to this type of data and the associated analytical tools enables predictive or condition-based maintenance.The eLOG software module processes the data from eCONNECT to allow analysis of manufacturing processes and facilitate decisions regarding machine availability, utilization, and performance. Through a series of insightful web-based reporting tools, information can then be viewed and analyzed in a perspective that helps identify the root cause of inefficiencies. Additionally, the information can be filtered and formatted for specific viewers – such as maintenance, production, and planning.
Real time views, in addition to automatic notification of delays or other significant events via email or text messages enables proactive management of manufacturing processes and complete visibility to the shop floor.
Data collected by the eLOG software, analyzed in conjunction with that from eNERGY, the energy-consumption module, allows plant management to better understand energy consumption trends as they pertain to specific machines, part programs, and tools. It can even alert manufacturing teams of peak usage thresholds and ultimately provide the insight to reduce piece-part costs as well as Total Cost of Ownership. The remaining eCELL module is a cell controller designed for automated palletized manufacturing systems and parallel processing of parts − it creates a foundation for lights out manufacturing.
Regarding candidates for use of the software, Tecos said, “If you consider all the applications, any shop with ten machines or more can benefit from implementing eWARE .
With respect to transfer, storage, and analysis of the machine data, Tecos said, “eCONNECT pumps out data to a server. The user can have the server on site or remotely located. We are totally flexible to accommodating the unique needs of each client”. He noted that MAG couples the software products with back office services. “We can take all of the recorded data and work collaboratively with our customers to analyze it, and then engage in six sigma or lean manufacturing initiatives to help them identify bottlenecks, streamline processes, and maximize profit.”
Tecos admitted that some users are very guarded about their information and skeptical about having it leave their facility in any form. “I can certainly understand how some companies initially feel uncomfortable with the notion of their machine data residing in a server that’s located off-site, or allowing a team of consultants to access it,” Tecos said, “However, there are ways to make the exchange of information consistently reliable and safe”. In fact, 5ME has worked consultatively with several companies across the globe. In each instance, security was never compromised, and productivity was always optimized. “I believe companies that are committed to aggressively pursuing continuous improvement through strategic use of productivity / performance enhancing software tools will ultimately emerge as the new leaders in the global manufacturing arena. Our portfolio of products and complementary services makes 5ME the ideal partner”.