News & Knowledge

We’re your source for automation news. Keep up with the latest industry updates and E Tech employee spotlights, as well as tips and guidance from our manufacturing experts.  

Industrial Networking and Digital Transformation

The field of networking is undergoing a massive transformation as more artificial intelligence-based tools make their way into products and services. Traditional enterprise networks are immediately poised to benefit and grow as more tasks that used to require costly networking expertise are automated.

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Providing a Dedicated Packing Line Improves Scheduling Across Multiple Production Lines

A food and beverage client was continuously struggling with scheduling production lines. E Tech Group implemented a new system, providing the client with a dedicated packing line for their sterilizers. 

The Project:

A food and beverage manufacturing client required a dedicated packing line for their sterilizers that were added in 2019. 

They had previously been using their existing packaging lines which, due to the physical layout, were inefficient and placed continuous strain on scheduling for other production lines. 

E Tech Group’s familiarity with the client’s facility, vast skillset and expertise in the design and implementation of these types of solutions made it an easy decision for the client to contract our team.

The Challenge:

Before developing the required solution, the onsite team first had to address the challenge of determining the hardware/panel layouts, as well as a networking plan for what it would take to integrate the new system before further assessment and design could take place.

Because budgetary restrictions played a role in this project, the client’s plan was to repurpose old packaging equipment from one of their other plants and tie it all together with a new conveyor system.

This involved integrating the existing equipment, which included older PLCs, with a new line control PLC and remote racks.

The most difficult part in implementing the project was commissioning the recycled equipment. E Tech Group determined that due to its age and previous use, several parts were reaching end of life both mechanically and electrically, requiring the installation of replacement parts before the equipment would function as it should. The advanced troubleshooting to find these aging assets took the most amount of time. However, during this time the team was able to further investigate the client’s operation, allowing them to provide the most comprehensive solution for the client.

The Solution:

Once all equipment concerns were addressed, updated, and operational, the new line control system could be installed and commissioned.

This system utilized a new Allen Bradley L8x series ControlLogix PLC along with recycled Allen Bradley SLC and PLC5 plcs on the repurposed OEM equipment.

As originally planned, the main networking system was ethernet/IP. However, the team did have to install a DH+ network to integrate some of the older PLCs into the new system.

The main visualization software was the Wonderware System Platform, and the individual equipment used various forms of Allen Bradley Panelviews.

The Result:

From start to finish, the project took just a few months to complete, and stayed within the client’s defined time parameters, minimizing production disruption. When our team was through, the client had a dedicated packing line for their sterilizers and were no longer dependent on inefficient equipment that would interfere with the scheduling and operation of other lines. 

E Tech Group also provided an extended period of 24-hour startup support once the lines were running product, making sure everything stayed operational and maintained optimal functionality and performance.


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PLC Upgrade Improves Reporting, Visualization and Connectivity for Cheese Producer

E Tech Group was contacted to replace three PLC5s at a cheese production facility to remove the bottleneck for an expansion of ongoing reporting projects. The project team installed a new panel to house the ControlLogix PLC and associated communications modules to reduce downtime.

Challenge:

A cheese production facility had three PLC5s critical to daily operations at full capacity creating a bottleneck for an expansion of ongoing reporting projects.  Acknowledging there was an immediate need to remove the existing PLC5s for a ControlLogix replacement, E Tech Group was contacted.  Having worked with the customer on the CIP project, and their intimate familiarity with the three PLC5s, our team was already up to speed and could act quickly. 

Solution:

The project team had to determine physical and communication connections.  The challenge was the existence of multiple DeviceNet networks to existing MCCs with legacy VFDs.  Additionally, IO was dispersed over many areas, in multiple panels requiring process knowledge of the core of the facility.  To reduce the downtime needed to a minimum all PLC5 IO racks were retained in place and a new panel was installed to house the Controllogix PLC and associated communications modules.  

During onsite support, the project team was able to convert a PanelView Plus that had previously been overlooked to the updated application communications. Originally 12 hours were scheduled to complete the conversion (which involved taking over existing IO, doing point-to-point checks, and validating the HMI), this schedule allowed the client to begin their CIP process before production the next day, with the new ControlLogix installed. IO Lists were developed to help with commissions and detailed DeviceNet networks were documented.  The team also solved challenges from non-default DeviceNet Node configurations and transitioning RIO communications to remote racks. 

Results:

The existing Wonderware Applications used for SCADA were updated by E Tech Group’s engineering team and communicated on the first attempt. The project team was able to meet and exceed the tight conversion schedule, with the customer beginning CIP sequences within 10 hours. Following these updates, the project team provided 48-hour continuous onsite support, available to assist with any immediate issues. With this project completed, the customer was able to benefit from the improved reporting, visualization, and connectivity with the upgraded PLC system.


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