A major textile firm, a producer of bed linens, had a problem. They were experiencing unscheduled downtime of 40 percent in their 20-year-old production line, requiring considerable overtime to make delivery commitments. As you would expect, this was having a huge impact on their bottom line, and they needed to upgrade their control systems to correct the problem. But there was a catch.
The demands for their product, coupled with the unscheduled down time, meant that they could not build up much more than a two-week inventory of product. Therefore, any cutover from their old system to a new system had to be completed within a 14-day window in order to avoid delays in product shipments. They turned to us for help.
The machine in question was the sole unit handling all fabric as it came from the loom, using a proprietary technology for a multi-step process to remove chemicals and impurities to bleach the fabric. After comprehensive analysis by technical staff familiar with the machine and the process, we concluded that a 14-day cutover was feasible.
One aspect of the system design that helped achieve that goal was the use of an E-house to contain all of the dozens of drives, PLCs, and other electronics required to complete the system. The blank E-house was delivered to our Birmingham location where we built the complete system. This allowed for thorough testing of hardware and software prior to shipment.
The E-house was large enough that it had to be shipped in two pieces. It was reassembled at the customer’s site, where we conducted tests of the field I/O. Only after all the field I/O was verified and other electronics were tested again, were we ready to begin the cutover.
In addition to this being a large control system project, it was also a large installation project. We were responsible for the electrical installation as well as the control system. This meant that our installation team was on site rewiring the electrical systems prior to the delivery of the E-house. Included in that work was addressing all of the arc flash considerations and accommodating the space restrictions for the E-house.
The cutover was completed on schedule, and according to VP of Sales & Marketing Greg Graves, the entire team felt tremendous satisfaction and experienced a real sense of pride in the accomplishment. Thirty days after start-up of the new system, the unscheduled down time had fallen to less than 10 percent, and process line speed had increased by 30 percent.
Said Greg, “In all my years of experience in this business, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a customer so effusive in their praise.” This included personal thanks from the company’s CEO for what the team accomplished. “They were a great customer to work with,” said Greg, “and the project was a real collaborative effort.”
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