You have to update your mixer and you are full of doubts. This is understandable, because it is a delicate operation that requires days of plant downtime, with all the consequences of the case.
To help you make the right choices, I have compiled my own list of FAQs, born from years and years of experience.
You can imagine the dozens of questions that, during all this time, I had to answer; the legitimate doubts of those who have to decide what to do and want to be sure of making the best choice for their company.
Here are the main ones, the most frequent ones. I hope they also help you to clarify doubts, mystifications, fears (if you have any).
SHOULD I WAIT A FEW YEARS AND CHANGE THE MIXER OR UPDATE THE AUTOMATION OF THE EXISTING ONE?
This is a question to which there is no one-size-fits-all answer that is always good. The choice basically depends on the following factors:
- if you can support an investment of several hundred thousand euros
- if your current customers and those who may arrive with the new machine will allow you to pay back the investment within a few years
- if your current machine is at the end of its life or if, with good maintenance, you can still use it for several years.
If you can sustain the investment and if you think you can repay it in a medium short time (you have to evaluate the ROI), buying a new machine guarantees you high production, high quality for several years.
But if the current machine is still in good condition and only needs good mechanical maintenance, updating the automation (and maybe mounting an inverter if the machine is not equipped with it) guarantees you several years of production, having all the controls and functions of the new mixers but investing a fraction of the cost of a new machine.
If instead the equipment has reached the end of its life, you can also consider a rebuilt mixer (I recommend a real rebuilt machine, not simply painted) equipped with modern control software. The expense is about half of a new mixer.
I HAVE AN OLD MIXER THAT STILL WORKS WELL BUT IT IS WITHOUT PLC, CAN YOU DO SOMETHING?
Our software platform is developed to fit any machine on the market, also very old.
In case the mixer was completely electromechanical or even with pneumatic controls, so do not already equipped with a PLC, our technicians will install a new one.
In order to do this, depending on the mixer model, a panel board is supplied with a PLC already wired with all the necessary inputs and outputs. Analyzing the existing electrical cabinet and the available documentation (even if very old), connections are created to be able to do with the PLC what is now done by the relays.
We can do it because we know exactly how the machine works and because we have a lot of experience even on very old mixers.
I HAVE ONLY ONE MACHINE THAT I CANNOT STOP. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO INSTALL YOUR SYSTEM?
Once the study on the existing mixer and the documentation in your possession is completed, we are able to guarantee the days really necessary to perform the update.
There are three discriminators that affect time:
- if the machine already has a PLC (even if old and limited) that controls movements;
- if you want to make improvements, for example install an inverter;
- if the electrical-mechanical documentation of the current machine is available.
As a rough guide, you can refer to this table:
|Mixer already equipped with PLC and variable speed||2 days of complete stop
2 days for tests with limited production
|Mixer already equipped with PLC but without variable speed (to be added)||4 days of complete stop
2 days for tests with limited production
|Mixer not equipped with PLC or variable speed||5 days of complete stop
3 days for limited production tests
We can guarantee these timing because we have carried out dozens of interventions on various machines and because all the software components are already tested and ready to use.
The longer time usually takes to check that the machine responds to our commands (that the sensors work, that the RAM moves correctly, etc.).
MY WORKERS ARE USED TO WORK IN MANUAL AND HAVE NO CONFIDENCE WITH COMPUTERS. HOW WILL THEY BE CONFIDEND WITH THIS NEW SYSTEM?
The user interface of the software was developed based on the suggestions and reports of dozens of mixer operators. For this reason it is very intuitive and simple while ensuring complete control of the machine.
This is the screen that the operator will have:
The page is very simple but it quickly indicates all the data and parameters of the mixer.
When operators know the program’s features and the mixing recipes are tuned, they will hardly want to go back and the company will have gained in repeatability and traceability of production.
If you want to see a demo of the program, go to this address.
WE MAKE SMALL PRODUCTIONS AND CHANGE FORMULA EVERY 2-3 CYCLES. IS IT OK FOR US?
If you are in a niche sector and often change the formulations, a SCADA software can really help you because if you now work in manual mode and the operator must know every single formula and remember how to manage it, he can easy makes mistakes that you will notice only at the end of the process when you do the laboratory check.
Through the monitor the operator is helped not to make mistakes, he only has to follow the instructions to know which components to load. In addition, a barcode reader verifies that the components are those set in the production.
All other operations on the loading door, the RAM and the time, temperature and energy controls are managed automatically by the program.
Also the cooling of the chamber and the rotors is controlled by our program (if the machine is equipped with temperature controls), avoiding the overheating problems of the compound when it passes from a high Shore formula to a low one.
This guarantees greater repeatability, fewer errors and, therefore, less waste (with obvious economic advantages).
ALL BEAUTIFUL, BUT HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? NOW IS NOT THE RIGHT TIME TO INVEST
In the market there will always be threats that will make you say that it is not the time to invest, but there will always be great opportunities for those who will be able to seize them.
Every good entrepreneur should never invest a euro more than necessary but also never a euro less than necessary.
Updating the automation of the mixer, that is the key element to produce quality compounds, will allow you to have a real management of production times and costs (energy and personnel); to have more repetitive productions; and no longer have to depend on a single operator at the mixer.
Furthermore, thanks to traceability and reporting, you can demonstrate to your customers the quality of your production and convince even the most skeptical technician.
It is not possible to give a clear indication of cost, there are many factors to consider: from the state of the machine to the accessory options you want to install (belts control, raw material barcode reader, add an inverter, etc.).
In order to evaluate a first level of investment, the installation of our complete system on a mixer already equipped with a PLC (even if old and to be replaced) starts from € 30,000 turnkey and includes:
- an industrial PC to see the state of the mixer;
- a Siemens S7-1500 PLC latest model;
- our PC and PLC software module;
- activities to replace the old PLC and testing.
Did not find the answer you are looking for? Ask your question in a comment in the post. If you want more specific advice, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org .