ERC Machinery introduces 'WorkFloorAutomation' (WFA)

ERC Machinery has been working on a completely new project over the last year. This new product has been named "WorkFloorAutomation" (WFA) and is intended to ensure the processes on the workfloor run more efficiently.


ERC Machinery has been working on a completely new project over the last year. This new product has been named "WorkFloorAutomation" (WFA) and is intended to ensure the processes on the workfloor run more efficiently. At most onion processors, the integration of machines in the processing line goes no further than the so called enabling paths. This means that a machine stops automatically when one of the machines behind reaches the enabling path. Every machine has its own control and when the processing line stops, the operator has to go to the machine causing it to determine what the problem is.

We go a step further with WFA. The operator can see instantly on their tablet why production has stopped. All alarms from all machines are presented in an oversight with a graphic presentation of the processing line. In this graphic representation of the line WFA indicates what machine is causing the problem. Besides this, the receipts are linked in the machines and information relevant to the maintenance of machines (such as running hours and activations per motor) are collected centrally. This will be extended over the course of 2016 with various other modules such as production planning, label control and track & trace.

WFA works with so called production plans. This was done to stay as close as possible to the reality for the production company and keep all relevant information together in a certain order. In a production plan it is indicated how much has to be produced, with which machine it is to be done and which recipe has to be used per machine. When a label is integrated, it is also possible to indicate what label is to be applied to the packaging.

Various production plans can be active within WFA at the same time. The system checks that the product streams do not cross each other. As soon as a production plan is activated, all machines that are part of this plan are set to the correct setting for that plan. Then all machines are started one by one (starting with the output). When the production plan has been started, it is shown per machine how many units it has produced so that there is insight into progress at any given moment.

The WFA consists of a small industrial PC that is installed with the customer. This PC functions as a central collecting and controlling unit. Of course the machines have to be suitable or made suitable in the processing line to be able to communicate with WFA. The control of the WFA is web based. This means that nothing has to be installed on your tablet or smartphone. An internet browser will suffice.

WFA can be applied in a processing line for bulk production, but is also suitable for a small packaging line. Because the machines are automatically emptied and then set to the correct settings when switching to a different product, mistakes are prevented and a lot of time is saved.

Because all relevant information from every machine in the processing line is saved in the WFA database, a wealth of information is created. This makes it possible to further optimise or compare individual machines. This can determine what error messages occur a lot on which machines. The information can also be used to determine trends and so plan the preventative maintenance better. In this way the machines are safeguarded to function optimally in the processing line.

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