Complex production processes and flexible manufacturing systems pose ever greater challenges for machine and plant construction businesses, as well as manufacturing companies. In addition to mechanical and electrical engineering, effective, reliable software and control technology are crucial.
To ensure that these run smoothly and that machines can communicate with each other, many manufacturing companies have their own software standards that apply to all machines used in production. When a new machine is ordered from a plant supplier, the supplier receives the software standard as the basis for their machine programming. However, this procedure is prone to errors because the software standard has to be fully adopted.
If various software programmers on the machine supplier side program a new machine over a period of more than a year, errors can occur. An automotive supplier who ordered a new machine came to realize this recently. When the programming stage was completed, the source code of the new machine had been modified to such an extent that insufficient error messages, problems with type changeovers and depleting runs led to entire system performing poorly overall. In the end, a machine was commissioned that did not meet the standards for production operation. Despite this, the manufacturer had no choice but to deliver quantities right from the start.
How do you fix programming retrospectively without causing extended downtime? At this point, SCIO group company tmp GmbH took over plant programming for the major client of the automotive supplier industry. Highly complex machine programming, optimization and software implementation – whether it’s custom-built, or set up as needed using SCIO’s own software framework - are part of tmp's core expertise.
"Every intervention is like open-heart surgery".
The solution to this is to work with the existing program structures, which are usually not as effective as they can be, and work with the manufacturing company to correct the errors. "First, we acquire the standard that runs on the machine. Then, we change the software as an initial step to ensure production can continue. Each intervention is like open-heart surgery. From the client’s perspective, they’re already in a great position if they can produce reliable quantities," said Project Manager Niklas Kurtenbach. On the one hand, there are programmers who ensure that production can be maintained, and on the other hand, there are programmers who optimize the software and restore the standard. The SCIO software developers look after basic programming, commissioning and recommissioning of the client’s machines.
They have all of the essential skills and expertise required to do this:
1. SCIO is used to working in third-party structures and in the client's interests. Programmers are aware how third-party equipment works. They recognize the source codes from different standards and are able to adapt them as required. They really know what they’re doing, as they have many years of experience, an extensive network of expertise and in-house products, which means that the developers can always track down the right solution for the issue at hand.
2. SCIO optimizes the source codes, thereby eliminating errors. SCIO’s clients also have their own employees in industrial engineering who are able to optimize the software standard. However, their focus isn’t usually on detailed basic programming and having to write a completely new source code. SCIO provides its expertise here and works alongside the development department for each client.
3. SCIO integrates itself into the existing structures on a technical and organizational level, and ensures that all levels are in close contact at all times. This enables SCIO to take the needs of production operations into account and to design the best solution available in terms of operability, cost and implementation time.
4. SCIO ensures that all work processes related to the project can be looked at in a transparent way by continually communicating and feeding back any required adjustments to the client’s development team and working with a list of outstanding tasks to assist with implementing them.
5. SCIO has the foresight to recognize feasibility and error sources in the software standard and to put appropriate measures in place to counteract them.
Software optimization throughout a machine’s entire life cycle
However, SCIO not only supports the production operation, but also acts as the interface between the manufacturing company and the machine supplier, which allows us to offer continuous support from a single source, at every stage of the machine’s life cycle. We work together to analyze the core issue and investigate how the machine can be integrated into the customer's process landscape. "We usually work on the machine builder's premises and are mindful manufacturing company’s concerns. We then continue to service the machine for the machine builder and make changes at the downstream manufacturing company. If a manufacturer approaches us directly for machine optimization, expansion, retrofitting or modernization, we also act as a middleman and contact the machine manufacturer," said Kurtenbach. This often involves making adjustments to ensure their production facilities can be easily maintained. From an economic point of view, it makes sense for production equipment to be used over a very long period. To do this, they must be state-of-the-art, and adjustments have to be made to guarantee a long service life. Due to the fact that production utilization is high-capacity, the crucial factor is how quickly faults are detected, as well as how quickly they can be rectified to improve efficiency. SCIO doesn't just carry out automation work themselves; they can also provide software design training for the client’s employees.
All in all, automation programming expertise, communication skills and organizational integration our part of the package – they’re a blend of skills that make SCIO group company tmp GmbH a real expert in software optimisation for production plants.
Find out more on tmp's website.