“We have enhanced the consistency of our customer’s processes and the quality of their products. We now provide our customer the ability to react more quickly and flexibly to changing market & consumer requirements,” reports Shailendra Kumar Singh, Director at Robolac Mechatronics India Private Limited. “This was only possible with the help of B&R technology and solutions. B&R’s integrated solution allowed us to minimize the risk involved in system migration.”
Robolac Mechatronics (I) Pvt. Ltd is a Gurgaon-based system integrator working closely with various well-known brands from the automotive industry. Robolac offers solutions to automotive and automotive ancillaries and general industry with special capabilities in smart factory automation and Industrial IoT solutions, energy and condition monitoring solutions, paint shop, material management solutions, manufacturing process control solutions and maintenance, consultancy and system integration.
Quality starts with pretreatment
The exterior shine and luster of a car, motorcycle or bicycle is its first opportunity to capture attention and convey value. The quality of the finish is crucial not only to the visual appeal of these steel products, but also to their durability. Before it is time to apply paint, however, there are a number of important pretreatment steps. The 10-tank pretreatment process begins with removal of contaminants and grease from the steel surface in preparation for a chemical process that creates a non-conductive, inorganic conversion coating. Conversion coatings serve two key purposes in preparation for paint finishing. They increase the overall surface area to promote adhesion and change the chemical nature of the surface for increased corrosion resistance. “Painting is just one part of the lengthy process of manufacturing bicycles. In order to achieve a proper coating, it is important to follow a number of defined process parameters,” says Shailendra.
Robolac has supplied one such high-end yet cost-effective pretreatment line to an Indian-origin bicycle manufacturing plant in northern India, belonging to one of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturers who produces more than 19,000 bicycles per day. The purpose of the pretreatment line is to produce a phosphate conversion coating on the steel surface of the bicycle to enhance paint adhesion and improve corrosion resistance. Key requirements for the automation solution included monitoring the entire process and providing notifications for quality management in the pretreatment line and surface coating paint shop.
It is extremely vital to control concentration, pH and temperature throughout the entire process. If any of these parameters is not maintained within the tolerance values, then it severely hampers product quality and leads to rejections and wastage. With product quality at stake, it is essential for factories and manufacturing plants to monitor these parameters round the clock. The phosphate concentration, for example, must remain within a range of 4.0 - 4.4%. If the concentration is too high, a phosphate residue will remain on the surface, subsequently affecting paint adhesion. If the concentration is too low, the process will fail to produce an adequate phosphate conversion coating, resulting in poor paint adhesion and flash rusting on the component surface. “Incorporating B&R in our solution offering has helped us achieve and maintain the concentration, pH and temperature of the process at the desired levels – and thus enhance product quality. Moreover, with the help of B&R’s scalable hardware and software we were also able to integrate energy and condition monitoring with real-time as well as historical monitoring of process parameters,” explains Shailendra.
Customer delighted with increased efficiency
During the pretreatment process, the temperature in tanks 1 through 10 needs to be maintained between 60°C and 90°C, and the pressure needs to be maintained at 2 bar. Prior to using our solution, this bicycle manufacturer’s pretreatment line didn’t track any processing parameters, which resulted in huge loss of resources. Moreover, in any plant, energy consumption must be tracked, equipment must be quicker and easier to service, and it must be possible to measure and compare asset performance,” adds Shailendra.
With these goals in mind and to enable its customer to overcome existing challenges, improve efficiency and reduce wastage, Robolac used B&R’s APROL solutions to streamline the entire 10-stage process of the pretreatment line. “The advantages of B&R’s solution are its scalability, modularity and ease of use. Apart from the monitoring solutions, B&R’s technology also allowed us to create a control solution which is capable of adapting quickly for guaranteed high availability. I am proud to say that our customer is delighted by the way our solution, with its backbone of B&R technology, provides savings through improved operational efficiency,” asserts Shailendra.
Comprehensive dashboard for well-informed decisions
B&R’s APROL process control system is a powerful and scalable factory automation solution able to control the entire production process as well as monitor critical parameters. It helps optimize performance throughout the process by tracking raw materials, ingredient composition, operational steps, workforce attendance and quality gate results. By providing essential features such as report aggregation and historians, online trends, user management, run-time redundancy and long-term storage, the APROL solution is a perfect fit for well informed decision-making.
APROL accumulates data from the entire plant data on a local server, from which it can be shared with the central enterprise system for further analysis. It supports LDAP for authenticated access to directories and maintains a secured database for historians using TLS encryption. An efficient APROL-based compliance management solution brings significant benefits to business operations. It helps mitigate risks during operation, improve product quality and optimise process performance. Integrated APROL PDA (Process Data Acquisition) features make it easy to manage operational and production data from processing lines seamlessly in a central location. The APROL solution is able to generate historical reporting based on data records that shows the chain of events involved in the manufacturing process. It helps factory and plant operators locate key events in the supply chain in the event of discrepancies and track them with ease.
Added value through predictive maintenance
Together with APROL, B&R’s X20 system helps the plant monitor the energy consumption and vibration of exhaust fans, oil skimmer motors, dosing pumps and conveyors used in the 10 tanks. B&R’s vibration sensor together with its condition monitoring module X20CM4810 help to continuously monitor the health of motors. The APROL ConMon (Condition Monitoring) solution offers a preinstalled and preconfigured package that makes implementing condition-based maintenance exceptionally easy. APROL ConMon helps plant managers prevent line failure through real-time analysis of vibration data from critical points in production. The measured data helps to identify patterns and predict issues before they happen. Condition monitoring helps to optimize maintenance activities and provides real-time alerts to operational risks. It ultimately helps manufacturers lower maintenance costs, maximise uptime and improve production throughput.
Condition monitoring of the entire pretreatment line is based on vibration analysis performed locally on these modules. The results provide detailed insight into the system mechanics and allow efficiently targeted optimization of existing processes. B&R’s solution reads and evaluates values such as vibration, torque, temperature, humidity, oil quality and flow rate, as well as all the data from the control cabinet. With the X20 control system, B&R offers excellent performance with a virtually limitless range of options. “B&R’s APROL solution helps us monitor and analyze data from the entire process plant. By identifying when and where maintenance is required, condition monitoring helps avoid replacing healthy components prematurely, while at the same time ensuring that worn components are replaced before they fail and cause unexpected downtime. The APROL solution has offered us a comprehensive set of options for condition-based maintenance,” confirms Shailendra. This has ensured reduced downtimes and improved productivity and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
“We are thoroughly impressed with B&R’s integrated single-system approach. B&R’s APROL has made our solution not only efficient and productive but also cost-effective. Encapsulating energy monitoring, condition-based maintenance, process data acquisition, control, trending and reporting in a single system was previously unthinkable for us as well as our customer, but APROL made it possible. Partnering with B&R made executing the project easier and quicker, and our customer was delighted with the system performance. We look forward for increased collaboration with B&R in future projects,” praises Shailendra.