Wonderware Corporation: Ethernet plus VPN boosts OEE

Ethernet connectivity and VPN access are among the tools used by Laticrete International to remotely monitor packaging machines in seven plants around the country. Among the goals: improving Overall Equipment Efficiency.

Laticrete is a manufacturer of tile and stone installation systems, including powdered grout that it packages in bags. The products are sold largely through a major retail chain. Laticrete is based in Bethany, CT. Laticrete's senior control system engineer Dr. Suresh Patel will describe his firm's automation implementation at the Packaging Automation Forum May 20 in Chicago. Here's a sneak preview.

All seven plants are on an Ethernet network. Corporate wide, Laticrete has a WAN [Wide Area Network]. Management at headquarters, or from anywhere in the world for that matter, can access the WAN via the VPN, that being a Virtual Private Network that uses a public telecommunication infrastructure, such as the Internet, to provide remote offices or individual users with secure access to their organization's network. The bottom line: Headquarters can continually monitor, modify, or troubleshoot any piece of packaging equipment in seven plants.

"Remote access to running conditions is a big help toward improving OEE," says Laticrete's Peter Wickenheisser, senior project engineer. "It helps us separate out the electrical from the mechanical from the procedural issues so that we know what really causes downtime in a given plant."

Helping with the implementation was Brian Romano of PACsys LLC, who will join Suresh Patel in the Packaging Automation Forum presentation. He says that Laticrete has made significant progress toward integrating the plant floor with the firm's Enterprise Resource Planning system.

"About five years ago we started putting Wonderware out on the factory floor to be the operator interface," says Romano. "Laticrete then said they wanted to do some recipe management. So we started interfacing data from their AS400 ERP down to the factory floor. Now a screen pops up on the machines on the plant floor so that the operator can pick the order that needs to be run. That selection comes up to the operations server computer—the intermediary between the factory floor and the ERP—and it grabs all the recipe information and pulls it down. With one click of a button the entire recipe for the process gets set up. We've also set up mail boxes, if you will, so in the future we can be setting up all the pieces of equipment with the same click of the button."

Don't miss the full presentation of this advanced plant-floor-to-top-floor implementation at the Packaging Automation Forum May 20 in Chicago. For details, visit www.packworld.com/paf.

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