A wider view gives more accurate results
Taking a step back and analyzing processes from a larger perspective might take you to surprising places, such as a dinner table in a Chinese household, says Petri Asikainen, Director, Product Development at Konecranes. According to Asikainen, to get the most out of your production processes, having a wide view of the process in hand is crucial. By seeing the processes as a whole, monitoring them as widely as is possible and by adjusting the production facilities’ metrics accordingly, noticeable boosts can be gained in the total output.
Industrial monitoring is going through big changes. From the variety of ways in which equipment in an industrial setting can be monitored, to the new possibilities in remote monitoring and -operation, operators in facilities have gained new ways to operate efficiently. A great example of this can be found in the context of waste processing.
“We were asked to optimize the operating activities in a certain waste management facility. We noticed that once we installed a Remote Operating Station for the crane operators in the power plant’s main operating room, suddenly the old local operating room over the waste bunker wasn’t the number one choice for working anymore,” Asikainen says.
Having all the personnel operate the plant from one location allows for better communication between the operators in charge of different parts of the facility. It also offers noticeable savings for companies, as there’s no need to build additional local operating rooms just to be physically present for the operation of the cranes anymore.
Monitoring everything there is to be monitored
In many industrial operations, the crane is in the center of the production process. This unique position allows for the possibility to gain deep insight of the production process.
“The entire material flow in the facility might be dependent on the crane, and this gives us plenty of opportunities to create different types of insights for customer’s needs. One example, found in the context of the paper industry, is that we can better identify where reject appears. This is valuable information for the manufacturer, and if it can help to improve the material efficiency of the manufacturers process by half a percent – it might already cover the cost of the crane data gathering capability and analysis work with extremely short pay-back time,” Asikainen explains.
The cranes’ movement patterns can also be tracked in the production facilities, so that the biggest bottle necks can be found. This tracking also helps map the actual material flow. If a load is moved from one place to another several times back and forth, the whole process slows down.
“Existing manufacturing facilities continuously face the need to respond to the global race for lowering costs and improving efficiency. A thorough analysis of the material flow can help improve production. Through it, we can find out what kind of crane setup would suit the client’s process, a result which is based on the actual measured data. When one is considering rebuilding an existing facility, this kind of efficiency analysis is a good tool to define the profitable targets to invest in.”
As to why Asikainen ended up practically monitoring how a household dines, he uses it as an example of how processes can be optimized in various, wider ways.
“We discovered that the loaders used in the waste facilities in China were continuously moving heavier loads compared to their European counterparts. One reason for this was that the households use a large amount of oil in cooking. The residue ends up in the trash and then to the waste processing facilities. This has an effect on the raw material, making it finer and increasing its energy density,” Asikainen explains.
This has a direct effect on how the whole process is set up and the crane is optimized. When the operators have a better view on the type of waste coming in to the facility, the effect that the differences in waste have on the energy output can be taken into account better.
Benefits of monitoring
When asked about the benefits the increased monitoring brings for companies, Asikainen brings up the similarities between lift trucks and cars. Both have similar concerns, such as tire leaks. For both, leaks can be monitored and fixed faster through monitoring. Early reaction to low tire pressure decreases extensive wearing and improves safety.
The operability of cranes develops in similar trends as cars – functionalities which 15 years ago could have been sold only to extreme needs, are now common even in the most value-focused cranes.
“Snag prevention is an example of this. It automatically stops crane movement if a hook, a sling or a load accidentally gets caught on something. Having real-time information on both the environment in which the crane is operating as well as the loads that they are moving, has made it possible to halt the crane if something gets caught in the way”, Asikainen says.
Hook centering is also an effective technology to improve efficiency and safety. If you lift a load and the hook isn’t centered, the load starts to swing as it’s lifted off the ground. The hook centering positions the crane above the hook, eliminating a possible human error. The hook is where it is supposed to be before lifting the load.
Maintenance by demand
Another way in which the increased monitoring can be utilized by companies is by making maintenance more effective. When you have sensors measuring thousands of points of data, you can efficiently both prevent halts as well as optimize maintenances routes.
“With the increased amount of information, technicians can focus their attention to issues needing extra care. The crew can also receive info on which manuals, tools and parts they must have with them beforehand,” Asikainen says.
All in all, maximizing the improvement through monitoring is dependent on two things – both the gathered data and the insights. Through having both, companies can achieve a more holistic view of their process, one which is based more on the actualities of the operating environment, and not just on subjective, professional guesses. This makes the whole manufacturing process more reliable and transparent.
Petri Asikainen works as Director, Product Development at Konecranes.