Weighing up the benefits of seamless integration

06 May 2019

When a Canadian manufacturer of bricks set out to increase production of its heritage brick range its first requirements was  a high-efficiency, automated production facility. 

The first step of the brick making production process is to crush the shale and clay products. These ingredients are then mixed together and blended using equipment supplied by J. McCoy Equipment. Oshawa Bearing provides the plant automation component, integrating electrical and mechanical equipment into control systems, and it relies on Siemens automation and weighing technology. 

The mixing and blending operation using continuous weighing systems installed on conveyors that feed the mixer. Water is added to the blend within the mixer and the resulting dense slurry is then formed into the rectangular brick shape with a 400hp extruder. After the extrusion significant automation is applied to cut, condition, stack and bake, and finally package the final brick products.

Oshawa  has been using Siemens automation technology for many years, since a Siemens PLC was specified by a customer many years ago. Since then the company has adopted Siemens as its automation supplier to provide multi-vendor integration of motor drives, weighing technology, instrumentation, and PLCs within the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portal programming interface.

The TIA Portal has allowed Oshawa Bearing to seamlessly integrate the following technology into the brick-making process SIMATIC S7-1200 and S7-1500 PLCs; SIWAREX weighing modules Siemens Milltronics MUS belt scales, along with  a variety of third-party devices.

The SIWAREX WP241 weighing module for weigh belt applications integrates onto the bus of the SIMATIC S7-1200 PLC.  This gives operators at the plant easy access to all weighing information and calibration settings within the automation programming.

For the physical measurement of the material on the belt a Siemens Milltronics MUS belt scale with a modular design was chosen. This scale has a modular design which can mount to any width of conveyor up to 1.5m. With corrosion-resistant nickel-plated alloy steel load cells, the scale is said to provide operators with an accuracy of ±0.5%.

Time savings
With the SIWAREX weighing module capabilities and integration into the automation system, operators also save on calibration effort when compared to the use of previous systems that included analogue input cards, specialised displays and which required manual adjustment. 

With Siwarex and a little programming operators no longer need to physically zero and calibrate the scale. Instead they can diagnose issues and calibrate the scale from the control room or a local user panel.

In addition, usable information such as instrument diagnostics and plant status, is now quickly and easily accessible to operators. Drive performance, conveyor belt speed, material flow rates, and a host of other crucial information can be observed in the control room.

If a problem with a piece of equipment or a certain process occurs, operators are instantly alerted so are able to more quickly address problems before they impact plant performance.

Commenting on the use of Siemens automation technology in its control solution, Barry Thompson, president at  Oshawa Bearing Service, said: “Siemens Totally Integrated Automation has provided us and our customers with a flexible solution. The time savings are substantial with the integration of SIWAREX WP241, and weighing applications have become a breeze and have added significant value to our customers.”

The biggest impact of projects  such as this are the resulting operational efficiencies enjoyed by end-users  enjoy with the speedy, simple calibration process and availability of information throughout the plant. The brick production facility, for example, is now benefitting from a full and instant view of its manufacturing process which gives it confidence in its processes.

Matt Morrissey is product manager at Siemens Milltronics Process Instruments in Canada.

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