Too Many Variables?

Keeping Control of the Process

If you have complex processes, you may find it difficult to maintain control of process variables.  Variables tend to be simple things that can have a huge impact on your product quality, or overall system performance. These can be both physical and digital. In this article I'll focus on the digital variables. These are often referred to as process setpoints, parameters or recipes. As such they can range from the filling capacity of a vessel to the speed at which an extrusion machine operates. Keeping these parameters controlled is critical in maintaining good quality and world class performance. 

Mistakes can Happen!

Mistakes can and continually do happen in the world of manufacture, that is until you change the cycle! Lessons learned and problem solving will always lead you to the right root cause if done properly. A previous manager taught me "Attack the Process, Protect the People". This is a philosophy I still work with today. It's not to say that people cannot be held accountable, but what it does do is look at how we can improve the process and prevent the mistake from happening again! 9 Times out of 10, the issues arise from a lack of experience or knowledge on the task at hand, it may be that the task is infrequent, so a 20 year experienced operator may have only carried the task out a handful of times. Policies and Procedures can only help so far, ensuring the right people are selected for the task and only those people are authorised to perform them reduces the margin for error! Thats why this year, I have completed numerous projects to protect these parameters and only allow authorised operators access to the parameters they are trained and competent to change. 

Machinery Safety

We all have a duty of care to our employees and colleagues but, mistakes can happen when machinery is not secured, with all the best intentions people may operate machinery without training in order to "get the job done". PUWER regulations covers this by requiring us to restrict access to people who are trained and appointed to use it. Using Keycards or Fobs is one way of meeting this requirement. Because of the user level systems, it's also possible to restrict the control of certain parts of the machinery or user parameters for trainees or unauthorised users. 

Secure Your Quality

There are several ways to lock a parameter down. Most of them rely on user authentication. That way, there can be traceability of who changed the parameters, why they were changed and more importantly, when they were changed. There are simpler methods like using key switches, or Siemens RFID keys (Pictured), but these don't capture all of the data necessary for true traceability.  

Siemens Sirius Key

We prefer access cards or tokens. They can be RFID name badges, Keyfobs or other style RFID tags. Each tag or token has a unique identifying number that can be allocated to a user. Meaning that every time that user swipes to gain access to the parameter, the change can be recorded. It also means that each user can be granted an access level. Meaning if they don't have sufficient authorisation to alter a parameter, they can be restricted from doing so! 

Siemens RF1000

Everything can be logged. Parameter changes, run rates, additive dosing rates and more. This allows your organisation to maintain true quality records and get to the root cause of quality issues faster, and even before it has an impact on your customers!

If any of these solution are of interest to you or your organisation, you can reach out to Leivers when  you are ready for a free quotation or estimate!