Moving away from paper-based dockets and towards digital solutions for production planning and process optimization: Clouver SmartKits by ProCom Automation now ensure that at the Vita Group site in Maastricht the production data of all cutting machines are digitally recorded and evaluated.
Paper dockets: plenty of work and time for little benefit
The Vita Group is one of Europe’s leading suppliers when it comes to flexible polyurethane foam, latex, and flooring products. In Maastricht in the Netherlands, the company is one of only two in the world to manufacture Talalay latex. This special latex provides not only more breathability and elasticity but is also antibacterial. The production area used to foam the latex is highly digitalized. However, this is not the case for the area where the latex blocks are cut, glued, and packaged. Until recently, employees recorded production data manually on paper based dockets. These were then manually transferred to Excel spreadsheets. This took a lot of time, roughly 30 minutes per machine operator per shift, which was more than 1,000 working hours per year. In addition, the data in the Excel tables was analyzed inadequately. The findings were not very robust and left considerable room for interpretation. To achieve sustainable improvements in the production process, however, it is an important prerequisite to systematically record and analyze the production data.
Collecting data digitally: for quick access anywhere
The person responsible for process optimization in this Vita business area is Adam Gittins. “We can only make production processes better, more efficient and safer if we reliably measure and evaluate how good we are at cutting,” says the Operational Excellence Manager. Maastricht’s challenge: The contour cutting machines are equipped with a CNC control system made by ProCom with an integrated interface to Clouver, enabling the machines to send their production data directly to the Clouver production monitoring platform. This is not the case with the two vertical and horizontal cutting machines which are 25 years old. What could be done to digitally record the data from all cutting machines? In search of a solution, Adam Gittins got in touch with ProCom Automation.
Small Clouver SmartKits, big impact for everyone
As experts in control and IoT solutions for the cutting industry, ProCom has the right solution at hand: SmartKits as a supplement to the Clouver IoT platform. At the heart lies the Clouver GateWay with smart software, which implements digital data acquisition via interfaces for current and voltage measurement with galvanically isolated sensors. With the “little black box”, the connection to the Clouver Cloud can be established easily and quickly.
In spring 2021, the SmartKits in Clouver’s basic version were installed at the Vita site in Maastricht. The operating states of the cutting machines are now read out, evaluated, and displayed graphically. Clouver enables access to the digital image of the production at any time for the production supervisors and the management at Vita’s headquarters in Manchester, UK.
Easily IoT-ready instead of a costly retrofit
Without the Clouver SmartKits, digital data acquisition would not be an option for the two old machines in Maastricht. Preparing them for IoT would have required a major retrofit with manual intervention in the hardware and a high financial investment. The SmartKits, in conjunction with the cloud solution, are an easy-to-install and cost-effective way to integrate sensor technology even in old cutting machines and to digitally map production. In addition, there is no need to replace any hardware. This not only minimizes investment costs, but also avoids the risk of unstable production and prolonged machine downtime.
If a machine switches to standby or off mode, the touch display (which can be configured individually) asks for the reason for the standstill. The machine operator only needs to select on one of the listed reasons. “Child’s play and user-friendly!” says Adam Gittins. “All Vita Group employees benefit immensely from this. For the machine operators, this provides more freedom and additional time that they can use to focus on other tasks that optimize production.”
Following the digital path
„This is our first step towards digitalization. But there is still a lot to do, in Maastricht and in other Vita plants,” says Operational Excellence Manager Gittins. In addition to a Vita plant in France, where Clouver was installed via OPC-UA on one brand-new and three older cutting machines, and the site in Maastricht, Gittins is considering the mattress factories in Poland next. The mattress products manufactured there are so similar that it is very easy to compare the productivity of the three sites. The teams stand to benefit from shared learning and regular exchanges, thanks to information from Clouver. Gittins: “If everything works out as expected, we’ll see a lot of potential for Clouver and the SmartKits in a number of other Vita plants, especially in plants where mattresses are produced.” At any rate, the initial results are encouraging.
About ProCom Automation | https://procom-automation.de/en
ProCom Automation is a specialist for automation solutions in the cutting and separating industry. For more than 35 years, the experts at ProCom have been developing high-tech control solutions featuring CNC and CAM software as well as high-quality hardware adapted to the drive technology of renowned manufacturers.
Machine builders all over the world benefit from the cutting-edge automation solutions for a wide range of cutting processes such as knife, laser, waterjet, plasma, and foam contour cutting. With product development focused on market and customer needs, ProCom Automation delivers unique features with significant added value to provide customers with a key competitive advantage for their success.
Clouver, the IoT production monitoring platform, connects heterogeneous machine parks and brings transparency to production processes. With the targeted data evaluation of Clouver, unused potentials become visible, and productivity is optimized sustainably.
The company with its headquarters in Aachen is well established in the European and Chinese markets and continuously invests in the ongoing development and expansion of its product portfolio as well as in future-oriented technologies for maximum efficiency and flexibility.
Following the announcement of the takeover of the energy division of ProCom GmbH (ProCom) by the investor Volue ASA, the separation of the two company divisions “Energy” and “Automation” is mandatory. ProCom’s automation division will operate as an independent company in future, with its market positioning as an expert for control and IoT solutions being sharpened significantly. Consequently, the company returns to its core business of more than 40 years of company history.
Volue ASA (Olso, Norway) announced the acquisition of ProCom Energy on July 7. The automation division is to be continued as an independent company under the name ProCom Automation. Preparations for this event are in full swing, as of September, both divisions are expected to run their businesses independently. “We are looking forward to establishing ProCom Automation. This will take us back to the roots of our long-standing corporate history, which began with the development of control software for the cutting industry. We are nevertheless looking to the future: we will use this opportunity to drive the ongoing development of our products and solutions in the field of CNC control software and Industry 4.0 in a more targeted manner,” Dr. Max Scheidt, Managing Director of ProCom, announced.
With its strategy geared towards growth, the company intends to respond quickly and flexibly to new future trends and developments such as digitalization in production and to expand its position as a specialist for the cutting industry.
Bernd Göttgens, Division Manager Automation of ProCom: “We are expecting the formation of the new company in September. This will be an exciting and eventful time for ProCom Automation, which the entire team is eagerly anticipating. We are looking forward to the developments of the coming weeks, months and years!”
About ProCom Automation | https://procom-automation.de/en
ProCom Automation is a specialist in CNC and CAM software and hardware for a wide variety of cutting technologies such as knife, laser, water jet, plasma and foam contour cutting.
“Clouver”, the intelligent production monitoring platform, connects heterogeneous machine parks. The targeted data evaluation of the production processes makes unused potentials visible and leads to higher productivity.
The company has established itself with its products in the European and Chinese markets and continuously invests further development and expansion of its product portfolio as well as in future-oriented technologies in the field of IoT and Industry 4.0 for maximum transparency and flexibility.
Equipping medical staff with suitable protective clothing is one of the most important success factors in coping with the corona crisis. However, the lack of protective suits and masks is still huge. For this reason, i.a. the consulting company Gherzi Group, the manufacturer of orthopedic products Sporlastic, the film manufacturer RKW, the nonwoven fabric machine manufacturer Reifenhäuser, the textile technology institutes in Aachen and Chemnitz, as well as other partners have joined forces in the “FIGHT” consortium in order to set up a production of FFP2 protective masks. The cutting of the textile parts for the protective masks is carried out on cutting machines equipped with the professional CNC control systems of the development specialist ProCom GmbH in Aachen.
“The cutting for the protective masks with the ProCom controller runs with a very high throughput and excellent quality. We were supported by ProCom very quickly and unbureaucratically during the implementation of the project, so that we were able to start production immediately”. (“Fight” Coordinator, Adjunct Prof. PD Dr.-Ing. Yves-Simon Gloy, Gherzi van Delden GmbH)
The production of the masks, which was launched within only two weeks, is already in progress and will initially achieve a volume of approximately 750,000 masks per week. The masks are approved and certified by Dekra and the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The longer-term production goals are many times higher.
Adjunct Prof. PD Dr.-Ing. Yves-Simon Gloy, Gherzi van Delden GmbH – Member of Gherzi Textile Organisation
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all confronted with a dynamic and difficult situation. Our families, friends, customers, employees and communities have been dramatically affected by the impact of the virus and its impact on the global economy. We would like to share with you how ProCom is responding to this new situation.
We have installed a prevention team at an early stage and have started to provide employees with advice and measures to protect themselves and others in the best possible way.
On 12 March, ProCom rehearsed the expected emergency and sent all employees to their home office. As the résumé of the day was very positive, our teams have been working from home since 16 March. We have reduced business trips to an absolute minimum until further notice. This means that our contact with you in the near future will be by telephone and digital – definitely but not less. We have adapted our working hours to the situation and made them more flexible. ProCom works less in absolute terms, so that parents, for example, can supervise their children more easily. The planning of the teams guarantees continuous availability and coverage of all customer needs. In these times, ProCom thus focuses even more on its core tasks and issues. We let rest processes that do not serve the concrete operational business aside and the reduced travel activity helps to increase time reserves in order to maintain smooth operations despite reduced working hours for our customers and partners.
At a glance:
- Customer appointments take place virtually – we use tools that allow convenient face-to-face meetings.
- Availability of employees by telephone or e-mail is guaranteed at all times, as before.
- Support for our customers is fully available.
- Seminars/trainings are offered as webinars in small blocks. Offers are in coordination.
- Production: Our production team works in isolation at the company headquarters and our production facility allows a sufficiently large safety distance between each other.
- Software development runs as usual.
- Consulting from our side remote and/or via video conference possible.
- New installations are possible via the usual remote maintenance access.
We hope that you and your families, employees, and all other partners are and stay healthy! We would be happy to discuss with you the effects the Corona pandemic may have on you and our joint business. Our employees have started to contact customers and partners personally. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at any time.
Your ProCom Team