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Tetley GB slashes robot downtime with ABB

02 June 2008

Signing up to an ABB remote service agreement is enabling Tetley GB Limited, part of the Tata Group, to enjoy greatly reduced robot downtime at its tea production facility in Eaglescliffe.

Introduced following a spate of problems that affected production, the agreement is ensuring proactive maintenance and management not only of ABB robots, but also those of other robot suppliers.

Incorporating ABB’s remote robot monitoring technology, the agreement will enable Tetley to identify any potential problems with its robots before they escalate.

The tea packing plant, equipped with ABB robots, is the sole UK producer of Tetley tea bags. Previously, the plant’s maintenance manager, Colin Trevor, had been experiencing problems with the production line, with some robots occasionally tripping out on alarms and causing delays to the whole production cycle.

Colin comments: 'We had been experiencing a number of breakdowns during production with spurious alarms, causing the robots to periodically stop. This obviously caused some concerns with our engineers, who were not sure what the fault was and, because of this, we spent a lot of time re-setting the robots, hoping the next breakdown wouldn’t occur.'

Eventually, Tetley called an ABB engineer to the site, who helped to trace the problem to a fault with the alarm settings on the robots.

Colin continues: 'Although the problem was easily remedied within just 30 minutes, the downtime we’d incurred through trying to trace and rectify the fault meant that several hours of production time were lost. It was for this reason that we were keen to try out ABB’s remote service agreement.'

The agreement provides access to ABB’s remote monitoring technology, which uses a service box and system infrastructure installed into the robot’s control system. Using these tools, ABB can monitor and collect data on the wear and tear and productivity of robotic cells, which can then be shared with the customer if required. This helps to ensure stops in production are prevented rather than ABB simply assisting in recoveries.

To prevent future disruption to production caused by unplanned downtime, Tetley has now fitted ABB’s remote service technology to robots throughout the plant.

David Pownall, lifecycle services manager for ABB’s UK robotics business, underlines the value that a remote service agreement can bring: 'In today’s competitive environment, business profitability often relies on demanding production schedules that do not always leave time for exhaustive or repeated equipment health checks. Our remote service agreements are designed to monitor our customers’ robots to identify when problems are likely to occur and ensure that help is dispatched before the problem can escalate. In over 50 per cent of the cases we deal with, our robots can be brought back online remotely, without any further intervention.'

Commenting on the impact of the agreement, Colin explains: 'The remote service package has already dramatically changed the plant. We no longer have break-down issues throughout the shift, helping us to achieve much longer periods of robot uptime. As we have learned, world-class manufacturing facilities need world-class support packages. Remote monitoring of our robots helps us to maintain machine uptime, prevent costly downtime and ensures my employees can be put to more valuable use. I would have no hesitation in recommending ABB and its service contracts to other people and when we put other robots in, they will more likely be ABB’s, complete with full service contracts on them.'

Continues Pownall: 'With manufacturers needing to invest in robots to reduce labour costs while increasing productivity and quality, a service package is key to the purchasing decision process. We are determined that our commitment to service should be the reason why customers choose ABB and continue to partner with us in their future investments. Our service expertise, plus our wealth of experience in effective preventive, planned and scheduled service and support, means that maintenance should no longer be viewed as a high-expense activity. Instead preventive maintenance can help our customers ensure their production line runs according to plan and on time, every time.'

For more information on ABB’s remote service agreements, please email robotics@gb.abb.com or call 01908 350 300 ref. ‘Remote service’.


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