In this day and age, automation is high on the wish list of all forward-thinking automotive suppliers. They turn to us when looking to simplify manufacturing processes and boost productivity.
However, our latest client was different. As a Tier 1 automotive supplier, they were keen to take operations to the next level by getting us to develop and install a fully automated acid and alkali passivation line, as well as a material handling solution.
As an industry leader, our client wanted us to develop this innovative automation package as part of an ambitious £25 million automation scheme, with total project costs equating to £2.2 million.
With a comprehensive specification, we faced several high-level challenges. One such challenge was to create a sophisticated systems architecture, which provided extra flexibility for future additions and alterations.
Undeterred, our first port of call was to assess the existing working environment to develop a greater understanding of which automation systems would work best.
Working closely with the client in these key early stages was vital. It enabled us to provide the best possible design and engineering at the first time of asking.
Having these important early insights also allowed us to design a cutting-edge solution that incorporated only the highest quality control items. These included Siemens safety PLC, Siemens IPC and Balluff field modules.
Our complete turnkey solution had five distinct pillars that provided a logical structure, as we walked our client through their digital transformation journey. These included:
- A transporter hoist system
- A passivation process
- A material handling floor conveyor
- Robot interfaces
- IO4 data collection and monitoring
Combining each of the above, we were able to provide a fully automated system – designing, building and delivering a series of control panels to help streamline the process.
In fact, our innovative solution included a main control plant panel, conveyor panel, HMI Station and three transporter panels, which all worked in perfect unison.
To achieve this brilliant result, we designed an overarching architecture that enabled the transporter panels to share feedback with the Main 1550 Siemens PLC over Wi-Fi.
The beauty of this system is that it will provide our client with maximum usability, integrated system diagnostics and total scalability for the future.
However, our work isn’t done yet. We’re currently completing the fifth step of our process – collecting and monitoring IO4 Data.
After completion, we’ll provide our forward-thinking client with comprehensive data sets and system tracking. This will allow them to fully realise the system’s success, with live data being made viewable via the HMI terminals at the passivation panel and its twin-screen at the load-unload area.
In addition, the processing of this data is automated offline, making production analysis and the process of managing quality records much simpler.
Built to fit purpose needs, the bespoke solution was delivered on-time and on-budget. It has enabled our client to optimise their work environment, streamline its processes and transform productivity.
As a part of our ongoing commitment to developing healthy, long-term relationships with all our clients, we will be back to lend a helping hand and carry out any future maintenance work.
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We are delighted with the results of the automation package that Hills Electrical Group have provided us with. The new, fully automated passivation line works perfectly and will boost productivity levels to a degree that many would previously think inconceivable. Not only are we thrilled with the outcome, but the extra service that we have received from the team at Hills Electrical Group has been second-to-none. Their ongoing support to keep the factory thriving, during this incredibly difficult time, has been so refreshing and we hope to continue our successful partnership down the line.