Manufacturing Automation and User-Friendly Machine Safety Focus to Reduce Machine Down Time

The Project

For Brita, this leading manufacturer of home water filters, keeping assembly machines up and running had become a hands-on, time-consuming task. Grantek took on the challenge of making the machines more reliable, introducing automated controls that would improve the effectiveness of the plant maintenance procedures.

The Opportunity – Increase Production Capacity, Focus on Machine Safety and Filter Out Inefficiencies

The reliability of equipment on the assembly line had been an ongoing concern. Machine down time was common and troubleshooting inefficient. The current software wasn’t operator-friendly, and the plant had no one on staff with the qualifications to make changes to the program. Grantek was engaged to upgrade the controls on five of the plant’s filter assembly machines to improve reliability, reprogramming the controls in a format that conformed to the corporate template.

Grantek’s Solution to Achieve Operational Excellence

The first step to improving in-house plant maintenance effectiveness was to create a more user-friendly functional description of how the machines operated. The real challenge was that no documentation existed for the current system. So, the Grantek team began its assessment by videotaping the equipment in operation and then analyzing the video in detail to construct a new program design.

In undergoing the analysis, each stage in the assembly process was treated as an individual module rather than looking at the machine as a single unit. By writing the program and the documentation from this perspective, the client could easily understand how the modules interacted to create a fully integrated system. Grantek redesigned and reprogrammed how each unit interacted with the others to create a more efficient, integrated system.

The assembly machine had been originally designed as a full-guarded system – doors completely surrounded the equipment for added security. However, the locking switches on the doors had been by-passed so that operators could interact with the equipment when troubleshooting was required. Following the installation of Grantek’s controls, the plant was able to put the machine safety locks back in and run the machine completely enclosed.

Grantek also developed a system for gathering statistical manufacturing data on each module to identify the source, type and duration of faults that lead to machine down time. The system is able to pinpoint the individual device within the module that is the source of the problem, and also track the accumulated down time that has occurred because of a failure of that particular device to provide the manufacturing intelligence needed to make smart business decisions and decrease inefficiencies.

At the completion of the project, the client had a machine with full documentation that operators could actually use, machine downtime was greatly reduced, and the plant was able to increase production capacity by at least 30%.

Grantek continues to work with Brita as it endeavours to make the assembly machine self-correcting. If a fault occurs, the program will launch into smart recovery without the operators having to shut down the line to take corrective actions – a significant time-saving feature.