Automation systems: The nexus of Industry 4.0

Features - Automation / Industry 4.0 Target Guide

Integrating an automation system supports higher productivity, streamlined management of equipment, workpieces.

August 26, 2019

Liebherr RLS pallet system allows the user to construct highly flexible, productive machining center cells.

Turnkey integration of fully automated manufacturing systems includes input and output cells and flexible or lean automation, depending on manufacturing demands. These systems must also include data management for quality tracking, production management, and machine performance metrics. Technologies such as part marking (pin-stamp or laser) and data readers, cameras, scanners, and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are used to safely track all usable manufacturing data and provide it to plant management.

In terms of flexible automation hardware, linear and rotary pallet handling systems are typically used for the automatic loading of machining centers to reduce production costs and permit short-term and flexible responses to changes in market demand. Pallet handling systems are especially well-suited for machining with large payloads, 10- to 15-minute or longer cycle times, and difficult-to-handle parts. Pallet systems also prevent operator functions from having direct negative influences and impeding spindle uptime.

In addition to part handling, system integrators must include machine tools and ancillary technologies that contribute to quality production, including inspection of raw parts, machining data, and laser-marked traceability data. This level of integration optimizes spindle uptime, improves return on investment (ROI), and offers efficient part handling and valuable data collection.

Therefore, the automation piece of a cell or system is best positioned to implement Industry 4.0 initiatives through the collection of production data. Ideally, cell or system software, which supports integrated job planning and process management, is intuitive to use by means of drag-and-drop via the graphic user interface.

“For control system software, we partner with Soflex, the specialist for automation technology control systems,” says Kevin Heise, area sales manager for Liebherr automation, Saline, Michigan. “This has two crucial advantages: on the one hand, the production control software (PCS) is open and suitable for use by a broad range of machine tool manufacturers. On the other hand, the customer gets software that functions from the start and is simple to use, since it has already proved successful for years. Thus, software problems rarely occur.”

Like the entire automation system, the software is modular. Various add-on packages are available in addition to the basic package. To facilitate and customize the collection and management of manufacturing data, the Liebherr manufacturing system (LMS) 4.0 allows customers to choose between individually configurable software packages that meet their requirements.

Liebherr’s four packages include:

Production schedule app (PSA) – Determines workpiece flow and production orders, includes production order management. The operator can create production orders for loading unmachined parts considering part type, quantity, and delivery date. The system processes these orders statically (according to sequence) or dynamically (according to delivery date).

Part tracking app (PTA) – Logs workpiece data in a production cell before each workpiece is loaded into the system. Users can easily adapt and configure data structure with an Excel template and can define and generate workpiece lists based on priorities.

Production monitoring app (PMA) – Records production and operating data, allowing data evaluation. System availabilities and downtimes can be determined and visualized so that weaknesses can be detected and optimized accordingly.

Predictive planned maintenance app (PPM) – Allows intelligent maintenance planning and generates maintenance logs. The self-learning system registers wear curves of individual stations and creates intelligent maintenance plans to reduce, plan downtimes.

Large screens and mobile devices are considered for the display and are controlled via the Info Board App. This allows the user to have the operating status displayed on the machine, cell, station, or component, call up workpiece counters, and monitor data remotely.

Liebherr Automation Systems