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Remove the Stack Lights

Jack Chopper, Chief Electrical Engineer

 

Here’s my challenge: Remove every stack light from every machine on your factory floor, make your machines smart enough and build your plant infrastructures such that those lights are unnecessary. Does that sound possible or feasible?

Given the very attractive price points of industrial-grade networking hardware, the range of selection, and the ease with which many things now connect—think wireless here— why aren’t more machines “aware” of their own surroundings? The hardware to do it is available, and the majority of it works very well. From sensors to devices to controllers to safety components, the problems associated with exchanging data and sharing information are largely solved. That is, at least from a hardware perspective.

Consider this: Isn’t it better for upstream equipment to know that the downstream palletizer has a pusher jam, rather than just knowing that the out-feed conveyor is backed up? With having the knowledge of the pusher jam, the other equipment can make better decisions on what to do or what not to do. This decision may be as simple as each part of the line using all of the conveyor buffer space in order to continue producing. Or, based on production data, units left to produce, and current raw material remaining, it may be best to immediately send a text message to maintenance personnel, so that they arrive prepared. Armed with good data, it may be the machine that tells the operator or service folks what to do next, rather than the other way around.

Author: Jack Chopper, Chief Electrical Controls Engineer, Filamatic

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