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Packaging Molder Adopts Wireless Machine Monitoring

A molder of injection and blow molded packaging is outfitting more than 70 machines with a simple, highly adaptable system to monitor machine status and production.

A Dutch custom injection and blow molder has outfitted 40 extrusion blow molding machines with a wireless system for monitoring operating status and plans to extend the system to 30 more injection-blow and injection molding machines. Flestic in Dronten, the Netherlands, is now using the SmartMonitor system from Werma Signaltechnik in Germany (Werma USA Inc., Norcross, Ga., werma.com), which is described as a simple, cost-effective and retrofittable alternative to more complex monitoring systems. It’s designed to be ready to use “out of the box” and to quickly help manufacturers increase productivity and minimize downtime.

Flestic employs more than 80 people in a more than 75,350 ft2 production area devoted to producing bottles, tubs and closures for food, cosmetics, household and personal-care packaging, as well as some automotive applications. Says Bas van Nes, a safety engineer who has worked at Flestic for over 25 years, “Until now, we could only roughly measure productivity on the basis of the figures we determined ourselves. That was simply not enough for us. We wanted accurate, reliable metrics and also to see when a machine started and stopped, or what the reason was for that stoppage. This has been a gray area for us, but one we were eager to shed light on.”

The Werma SmartMonitor system, which has over 4000 installations worldwide on injection molding, metalworking and a wide variety of other machinery, consists of two main components. One is a three-colored signal light atop the machine, which signals red for a machine stoppage, yellow for temperature out of range (used by other molders to indicate an open safety gate), and green for normal operation. The second main component is the wireless monitoring system. Using what’s said to be a “robust and proven radio network” (868 MHz), a signal tower on each machine transmits data to a receiver that saves all data in a Microsoft SQL database. The system reportedly can be installed on any type, age or make of machine. It can report frequency and causes of downtime as well as production data.

Since installing the system, says van Ness, “We can see every start and stop of the machines—both on the screen and on the machine itself. It’s visually clear which machines are running. We can see immediately where there are malfunctions or a breakdown and can therefore react immediately.” He says the company plans to install a signal light in the employee canteen as well. “This should immediately inform our employees of a machine stoppage, even during breaks.”

Van Ness adds that Flestic moves its machines around occasionally, and thanks to the wireless SmartMonitor, he doesn’t have to worry about communications cabling to make such changes. Also, he notes, “We can network virtually every machine in our company with the system, such as chillers, compressors, and so on—I see a lot of possibilities.”

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