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How to establish a smart maintenance process in a foundry

The first step towards a smart metal casting process is the adoption of a modern, next-generation computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) to collect, store and analyse data which should be accessible anytime, anywhere and by any team member. The best systems should be able to seamlessly connect to all other company systems as ERP, all type of sensors etc. to provide valuable data to determine which predictive maintenance strategies can be created and applied.

Maintenance managers should rather spend their time on defining and classifying important data analysis than trying to integrate endless excel or even paper spreadsheets into an old-fashioned system, which usually causes delays and inaccuracies in the whole production planning cycle.

A smart CMMS would optimise the entire casting process by shifting maintenance from reactive to predictive. Companies can obtain a competitive advantage by investigating valuable insights drawn from spare parts inventory, equipment behaviour, team member performance, established processes at other company departments and many other sources.

There is never a right moment to start the digital transformation. At first glance, all available solutions and the endless information flow can be quite overwhelming, but once in place, data collection, remote monitoring and a smart CMMS are definitely worth it.

How can we utilise all the new technologies within the foundry industry? What are their benefits and the associated challenges?

Case study

FMGC is a European leader in the manufacture of cast iron counterweights. The company is the casting division of Farinia Group. Innovating continuously, FMGC has recently been diversifying its range of products to serve the marine renewable energy sector.
Regarding maintenance, FMGC wanted to use top-notch technologies. The maintenance team had purchased a conventional and expensive CMMS some time ago. It was found to be hard to implement, required a lot of long training sessions and was far from being user-friendly. The team very soon realised all the disadvantages and out of a genuine need started to look out for a new solution. They thus started work with Mobility Work, the next-generation maintenance management platform, three years ago.

The changes were tremendous. Anthony Blanchard, maintenance manager at FMGC said: “We were totally relieved to finally have a user-friendly solution, which everybody is happy to use. Our performance has significantly improved and thus the production cycle as well. We got connected to all other departments. The spare parts management has never been so organised. The tool gave us the means to immediately detect and correct insufficient actions, unassigned responsibilities and poorly established internal connections.”

The following points, directly linked to the adoption of the next-gen CMMS, created added value to the company’s maintenance process:

  • Managing maintenance interventions and purchasing requests and their follow-up.
  • Managing inventory, purchasing and renewal of equipment.
  • Creating a history of all performed maintenance tasks, following equipment and stock movements.
  • Creating alerts.
  • Managing meter readings, including in the field via a mobile terminal.
  • Easily changing maintenance tasks and operating procedures.
  • Performing self-help troubleshooting.
  • Scheduling maintenance operations.
  • Managing risks and regulatory constraints.

The following are two examples showing how the Mobility Work solution changed some established routines at FMGC.

Improved document management

Since Mobility Work makes all collected and stored data available at any time, sharing it with the relevant people and departments is fast and easy. When receiving an alert, if necessary the technicians can access the network from their home computers. They have access to all the documents integrated in the Mobility Work database as electrical plans, technical files, conformity certificates and even important emails. This availability of the information anytime, anywhere and from any smart device, helped the foundry to considerably optimise time.

Optimised asset management with a focus on spare parts

Some time ago the foundry used to manage the company’s spare parts inventory through an ERP. The accuracy of the process was insufficient. Very often spare parts were assigned to the wrong asset at the wrong time. Mobility Work solved all these issues. The description of the part contains all important information – internal reference, location, manufacturer’s reference and the place where it should be mounted on the equipment. This process eliminates all error possibilities. In this way the team can easily optimise the amount of the needed/purchased spare parts without wasting money.

Smart maintenance: the impact of Industry 4.0 on the cast metals sector

Industry 4.0 encompasses the latest phase in manufacturing digitalisation, involving the concept of the smart factory. At a smart factory, sensors are mounted on equipment and transmit data to a CMMS, which communicates immediately possible problems to staff and provides powerful analytics to create predictive algorithms. But this is not everything. By combining the Industrial Internet of Things with a next-gen CMMS, a company is basically tying all available data sources together. This includes machine condition data, machine history, all performed interventions, spare parts supply, availability of maintenance technicians and much more.

Smart maintenance is predictive and condition-based, which significantly prolongs equipment life and improves production.

The three pillars of smart maintenance

The main characteristic of the cast metals process is small but extremely various production batches. This means that the involved maintenance management system should be able to monitor the process route according to every single product case. When applied in such circumstances, smart maintenance would very quickly result in increased productivity and decreased breakdowns.

The three following features can be considered as the base of the smart maintenance concept at a foundry.

  1. A next-generation, Industry 4.0 CMMS

The adoption of a modern CMMS is a must on the route towards digitalisation. The system should run smoothly and everybody in the team should be keen on using it. A next-generation CMMS collects, keeps and analyses all relevant information for all pieces of equipment, accessible from any team member’s mobile device. All this data (meter readings, reported and fixed problems, uploaded visual support, intervention history) should serve for making fast and precise key business decisions as fixing or replacing an asset, interrupting or continuing production cycle and scheduling preventive and predictive checks. A good CMMS should allow users to gain time as well as efficiency. Some solutions such as Mobility Work go even further and offer a social network feature, allowing the users to connect with other professionals around the world.

  1. Hyperconnectivity

Smart objects can only be beneficial if they are fully interconnected and build a transparent network spanning across all business levels and accessible to everybody. This is the way the whole potential of the Industrial Internet of Things becomes unlocked.

  1. Integration of IoT and CMMS

The Industrial Internet of Things and all its smart sensors and meters can deliver tons of valuable data. But the true potential of this data is unveiled only if it is properly stored, analysed and applied in crucial decision making. And this is the moment where combining IoT with a modern, next-generation CMMS would completely revolutionise maintenance routines. An intelligent maintenance management system collects, processes and analyses the collected data, sends alerts, triggers preventive check-ups and creates predictive algorithms.

Proven benefits of smart maintenance for a foundry

Prolonged equipment life

The purpose of preventive and predictive maintenance is to discover and prevent problems before the assets break down. Machines that get ongoing preventive and predictive maintenance can last up to 30 per cent longer than assets that received only reactive maintenance.

Less energy consumption

Since all maintenance check-ups are scheduled and well controlled, smart maintenance promotes minimised energy consumption and thus environmentally efficient production.

Cost savings

The adoption of a proper CMMS and latest digital trends increases the overall performance and reliability of the system with significant cost savings. The regularly performed predictive and preventive maintenance significantly improves the MTBF (mean time between failures).

Centralised machine data and improved internal communication

The entire equipment data is now stored, processed and ready to use in the CMMS. Every company member can access anytime and from any smart device the needed information to speed up the fulfillment of tasks.

Reduction of WIP inventory

In-process inventory can last up to 30 days depending on the client’s requirements concerning alternations in part specifications. Digital integration can reduce this time to ten days.

Optimising employee productivity and performance

A CMMS can track and calculate the performance of every single team member. Certain tasks can be assigned to different people depending on their qualifications.

Challenges to be considered

Internet dependency

All smart devices need a good Internet connection. If a connectivity problem occurs at the factory, all systems would be out of order.

Vulnerability to cyber attacks

When the whole plant is connected to the Internet, there is obviously an increased risk for cybercrime. This is still an area where proper solutions are in high demand.

Qualified specialists

Although there are user-friendly CMMS, which don’t require training, profound predictive analytics and the IoT adoption require suitably-qualified specialists.

Future outlook

The concept of smart factory and accordingly smart maintenance, spanning across smart devices, next-generation CMMS and the Industrial Internet of Things represents a huge opportunity to improve equipment reliability and minimise maintenance costs. CMMS analytics turn Industrial Internet of Things’ big data into a powerful instrument, facilitating innovative business models that leverage advanced traceability, connectivity and intelligence.  For the casting industry in particular this means increased flexibility towards late product changes and supply chain disturbances.

Smart foundries are still quite a new concept but it is important to understand now what can be implemented to prepare for the future. There are already many solutions available in the market and starting with a sophisticated CMMS and a couple of sensors is definitely not a bad idea. Business owners who dare to follow digital integration will gain a competitive advantage and be far more reactive to customer needs.

About the author

Ralitsa Peycheva is a technical content manager at Mobility Work interested in latest machinery tools, technical maintenance, CMMS and big data; curious about new manufacturing methods; discovering, observing and admiring high-quality engineering. www.mobility-work.com