Bringing Industry 4.0 to Plastics Auxiliary Equipment

There’s a lot of talk these days about the potential of Industry 4.0, but many plastics processors are still wondering how that’s going to turn into something useful in their plants. Plastics auxiliary equipment manufacturer Conair has an answer for that with its new SmartServices initiative.

Unlike a lot of equipment monitoring systems today, SmartServices can bring virtually all your auxiliary equipment together into a single monitoring, analytic and predictive maintenance platform. Not only does it tell when your equipment is in good working order—and when it’s not—SmartServices provides the ability to benchmark your processes against a data pool of many other manufacturers. This intelligence delivers better uptime and reveals opportunities to optimize processes on your plant floor.

What really sets SmartServices apart is that it integrates with auxiliary equipment controls— both Conair’s and other brands—rather than just to individual sensors attached to equipment. It lets you follow what the operators are seeing in real time, all in one place, and even allows you to remotely adjust equipment settings where appropriate. For a process engineer or maintenance technician trying to keep up with dozens or even hundreds of pieces of equipment, sometimes across multiple plants, this visibility provides a new element of company-wide control, diagnostics and predictive maintenance that wasn’t available until now.

How SmartServices Works

The platform starts with compact wireless machine adapters (WMAs) that connect auxiliary equipment controls via the web to the cloud-based SmartServices software. Conair says SmartServices interfaces with virtually all Conair equipment and with many auxiliaries sold by other companies as well.

Upon login, users identify and configure their auxiliaries into the system, organizing them however it is most efficient—by equipment type, plant names, production lines, physical locations—whatever customized format fits their operation. Once enabled, WMAs automatically collect data from each piece of auxiliary equipment and transmit it into the secure, cloud-based SmartServices database where it is processed and stored for presentation to the user.

The data stream along with operator settings automatically establishes a baseline of performance data for each piece of equipment that will be used later to help define normal operating conditions and identify when equipment is trending toward an out-of-tolerance condition. This enables the system to provide real-time intelligence for predictive maintenance or process issues—for example, when to change a filter—or to signal alarms on conditions requiring immediate action.

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