Save the Beer, Save the Day: Utilizing Machine Health in the Beverage Industry

— Read Time: 4 Minutes–

The line was running at full capacity, pushing out cases beer in anticipation of game day. The Superbowl was right around the corner and product demand was rising as quickly as the excitement of the thirsty Rams and Patriots fans. 

As he logged in to the platform to check a machine health alert he received that morning, the Plant Maintenance Manager was a bit skeptical. He’d initially doubted the investment in the continuous monitoring machine health program that had been paid for by corporate. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) maintenance recommendations had worked fairly well in keeping their assets more or less functional through preventive maintenance tactics—and most problems were simply worn bearings from lack of lubrication or misalignment here and there. He didn’t really see the value in dealing with anything more complicated. As long as the assets in his care didn’t critically fail unexpectedly and interrupt production, everything would be fine.

But today was different. The alert he received pointed to a bigger mechanical issue than normal—signaling a possible emergency within the plant’s filler and seamer equipment. This malfunction could bring down the whole line for hours or longer. This couldn’t happen at a worse time. Right before the Superbowl—management would get involved and he didn’t need the scrutiny.

Using his remote monitoring platform, the Maintenance Manager confirmed that the sensors were correct. They had to act fast. He alerted the repair team to the problems with the filler/seamer and they quickly diverted production to another functioning line. By shifting as soon as the problem was detected, catastrophic failure was avoided and the equipment repairs were made without expensive, unplanned downtime. Soon, the production line was back at full capacity, overtime costs were mitigated, and the beer was saved. 

The plant avoided a catastrophe that would have lost 960,000 cans of beer by fixing the filler and seamer malfunction before it halted production. The unscheduled downtime for their 24/7 operation could have lead to reputational risk with long-time customers—in addition to profit and production loss.

“It certainly would have taken the whole machine out, which would have halted the line for eight hours or more,” he later recalled.

Canning Concerns

Beverage manufacturers choose aluminum cans because they’re airtight and light-proof, ensuring product quality while still being lightweight, stackable and recyclable. But packaging success still depends on plant equipment working flawlessly

The seamer is one of the most critical parts of a can production line because the double-seaming process ensures the package is sealed completely—and it has to happen as soon as the can is filled. When misaligned rolls or eroded chucks in the seamer equipment don’t fold the can body flange and top curl together accurately, the result is incomplete seals that lead to leaking or spoiled product. 

Variations in temperature, machinery looseness, and wear can all cause problems with seamers on a canning line. Toolings can be loose or the chuck and roll can be set up too close or too far apart—resulting in split seams, low or high free space, or high seam gaps, among other problems. Issues may also rest with the aluminum can bodies themselves—because the material is easily bent and microscopic differences can result in inaccurate seaming. 

Sometimes, a problem in the seaming is detected at Quality Control, giving technicians a heads-up that values are out of specification, and that equipment needs to be adjusted. But manual tests take time and expertise, and minute issues that can’t be detected by the human eye can be easily overlooked. 

The margin of error was huge that day: nearly a million cans of beer were at stake and more if there were issues responding to the repair process after a breakdown. Besides the lost product and repair costs, eight hours of unplanned downtime would lead to unanticipated labor and shipping costs as delivery schedules could be thrown off. And if some of the product made with the malfunctioning seamer was accidentally shipped, it might spoil—leading to expensive, and reputation-damaging, product recalls, or even legal action. 

Trusting Technology

For beverage manufacturers working on tight timelines while prioritizing product quality, it’s clear that machine health plays a crucial role in their success. Smart and advanced sensors can monitor and protect the canning process at every step. Monitoring the main drives on core machines, pumps, packers, fillers, seamers, conveyors, and labelers can ensure that even the earliest developing machine faults are detected the moment they arise—and disasters can be averted. 

After this save, the Maintenance Manager was sold on this continuous monitoring machine health program. Not only had he kept the line running, but he’d saved an estimated $300,000 in unplanned downtime expenses. That, plus the saved product, added up to an ROI that was 10 times greater than the initial rollout cost. Corporate was pleased to hear about the great success.

As a result, the sensors were later extended to the plant’s other can and glass lines to provide further machine health insights that had the potential to save even more time, money…and beer.

Click here to learn more about continuous machine health monitoring

The Competitive Edge in Bottling: Digitizing Machine Health in the Beverage Industry

— Read Time: 4 Minutes, 30 seconds–

When the alert came, the site reliability leader knew he had to act fast. A sensor had diagnosed misalignment in a critical cooling tower pump — and the timing couldn’t have been worse. The bottling plant was already operating at full capacity, preparing to meet rising demand as temperatures increased, and summer approached.

There was no doubt. If the cooling tower went down, the entire production line would have to be taken down until it was repaired.

He started to mentally calculate the potential cost of a critical failure while he rallied his repair team: around six hours of unplanned downtime, plus an unknown cost in repairs. They’d have to ship product out-of-network, at triple the cost—if the product wasn’t ruined while waiting. Failure wasn’t an option, but at least they knew exactly what was wrong with the machine.

Heeding their condition monitoring system’s early warning, the repair task was booked as the priority for the next scheduled downtime later that week. The early detection allowed the maintenance team to plan beforehand and pull the spare parts needed. They repaired the machine with the advance knowledge of exactly what was wrong with the cooling tower pump, installing a new motor and coupling to prevent further malfunctions. In the end, the cost was a fraction of what it might have been and they avoided unnecessary downtime — needless to say, the entire team went out for celebratory drinks after work.

Over the next few weeks, three more of the company’s plants avoided similar shutdowns, strengthening the business case for digitizing machine health management. At another plant, a misaligned reverse osmosis pump was quickly detected and realigned, saving eight hours of full plant shutdown. And at two more plants, early detection of worn bearings in crucial production components helped avoid hours of line downtime, huge repair expenses, and as much as 24 hours of full plant shutdown.

Planning Ahead with Machine Health Monitoring

Not every bottling company is as lucky or as forward thinking. Even though the bottling industry is growing fast—the bottled water market alone is expected to be valued at $307.2 billion just five years from now—it isn’t capitalizing on opportunities to improve overall machine health. Rather than focusing on universally digitizing machine health, the bottling industry has focused on sensors that just detect general breakdown in a few select process machines, such as fillers or blow molders.

This presents the bottling industry with a huge opportunity for better productivity: by monitoring the overall health of both utility and production equipment, facilities can greatly reduce outages, downtime and associated losses. OEMs may step in to solve performance issues with their own production equipment by providing green light/red light alerts, but more sophisticated root cause analysis (RCA) can help predict and solve malfunctions before they cause problems and production interruptions. Not to mention that having RCA helps you from preventing that malfunction from recurring in the future.

Current industry competition means bottling operations are striving to produce more, in tighter time frames, with fewer resources at their disposal. This pressure to produce creates risk — one overlooked or downplayed issue in a system working at full capacity can lead to disaster. The need for machine health initiatives that affordably protect production capacity has never been more urgent.

Machine health solutions are the foundation of a successful digital transformation strategy. Our expertise in the bottling market has supported digitization efforts at six of the top ten bottling companies worldwide. We’ve implemented machine health initiatives facility-wide across plastic, glass, and can lines on both process and supporting equipment. Our success comes from working hand-in-hand with corporate and facility leaders to drive value at the site while also tracking and quantifying the gains towards a larger machine health monitoring implementation. Combining the work we do at the facility level with corporate oversight and sponsorship has been critical to our bottling industry success.

When assessing a bottling facility’s needs, it’s important to consider how digitizing machine health contributes to an effective and scalable solution. The health of every asset in a production line contributes to the health of the facility and downtime-free operations and it’s important to understand the similarities but also differences in production. For example, a general bottling operation requires sensors on the main drives of core machines and pumps. Fluid movement monitors would also be installed, as well as sensors for packers, fillers and labelers. For a plastic bottling line, it’s important to also monitor the blow mold equipment, while for glass bottling, it’s the capper, and for can lines, the seamer.

The Value of Digitizing Machine Health

In a fast-growing and highly competitive industry like bottling, digital machine health delivers a competitive advantage. We’ve boosted the productivity of half a dozen leading bottling companies by implementing digitized machine health management — thereby increasing their operational efficiency and uptime.

The elimination of unplanned downtime plus the early detection on repairs delivers fast ROI, with payback typically coming within the first six months. With better Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), more product can be made and shipped, significantly reducing or eliminating the risk and cost of expensive out-of-network shipments and third-party transportation.

The bottom line is that investing in digitized machine health pays for itself, and it pays fast. In a facility operating three plastic lines with annual cumulative mechanical downtime of 500 hours, and a conservatively estimated cost of at least $500 per hour of line downtime — eliminating downtime would save $250,000 in the first year, easily paying back the initial investment.

When it comes to the effectiveness of machine health initiatives for bottling plants, the numbers speak for themselves.

Click here if you want to talk about machine health at your bottling facility.

The Three Flavors of Digital Transformation: Digitizing Machine Health

— Read Time: 4 Minutes 30 seconds–

When manufacturing companies embark on their digital transformation journey, they come to the marketplace with real needs. Despite their best efforts to implement traditional reactive or preventive maintenance, their operations are still plagued by random machine failures and costly unplanned downtime events. The first logical step toward digital transformation—and avoiding these problems altogether—is to optimize asset management by digitizing machine health. This is because machine health is the heart of industrial digitization.

Within a manufacturing company, in order to set digital transformation up for success, it’s critical to have a formal evaluation process for new technologies. This evaluation process will help you select the right technology partner to reduce unplanned downtime, leading to higher throughput, better profit margins, reduced risk and reduced stress for maintenance teams.

Each organization approaches evaluating digital technologies in different, but similar ways. Some approach this by developing a group of internal experts to leverage as consultants, some from a top-down methodology, and some from a bottom-up methodology. Below, we’ll explore these three common approaches to digital transformation and the high-level impacts of each from a machine health/predictive maintenance (PdM) perspective:

Approach 1: Create an Innovation Group

This approach treats digital transformation as an experimental process where many types of technologies are evaluated by an internal coordinated group of experts. These companies typically adopt PdM in small, tightly controlled pilots, which focus on a number of “bad actor” machines that cause the entire organization problems.

Working towards scalability, the innovation group typically runs quick pilots that take 6 months or less. During the pilot period, the innovation group gathers data to report back to decision-makers with recommendations regarding if and how to scale the technology. Generally, these groups do not control budgets; they act as internal consultants who evaluate technologies against a predefined set of criteria and report back to decision-makers.

The innovation group approach to digital transformation can be slower than other approaches because the group evaluating each technology often won’t make the final call on implementation. Their recommendations, even ones that point to quick action, may not be adopted with urgency, if at all.

Corporate culture can be the key differentiator in the innovation group approach. A company that prioritizes and empowers innovation may give the innovation group more authority. These companies are more likely to put systems in place to support adoption through quick decision-making and appropriate budget allocation.

For example, a facility management company that Augury works with placed innovation at the forefront of their corporate mandate, making it their key market differentiation through automation.

As a result, they created an innovation group with broad organizational access and significant decision-making authority. The group included a dedicated Project Manager who worked closely with Augury to track and quantify savings. This group quickly discovered strong ROI results and communicated their findings across the organization. The innovation group subsequently received approval to scale the solution rapidly.

Approach 2: Digitize the Supply Chain

In this approach, companies tend to prioritize efficiency in the supply chain and take a macro approach to digital transformation. Their internal digital transformation teams are typically led by operations executives with a broad focus on high-level operational KPIs across several areas of the supply chain, including transportation, logistics, sourcing, and go-to-market strategies. These executives generally control a healthy budget that can be leveraged to create efficiencies through digitalization.

These companies tend to favor solutions where a single platform can visualize all necessary data–creating informational efficiency as well as operational efficiency. This, however, is difficult to achieve and most discover that not all data can be combined in one single “source of truth.”

Another common issue is that supply chain professionals are typically not reliability or manufacturing experts and are not used to analyzing detailed mechanical data or diagnosing machine malfunctions. In these cases, including a reliability engineer on the assessment team can help improve project outcomes by providing insights from a subject matter expert.

This top-down approach benefits from ease of adoption because supply chain efficiency is considered an organizational priority. When teams have decision-making power, budget, and motivation — it tends to lead to a faster return on investment. However, to ensure successful expansion, it is critical to receive plant buy-in in addition to corporate support.

Approach 3: Start with the Shop Floor

In this approach, companies take the experts-first approach to digital transformation by allowing reliability engineers and maintenance teams to be the first evaluators of the system and weigh its pros and cons.

The key benefit here is that reliability leaders and field reliability engineers have intimate knowledge of mechanical data and site processes; they quickly understand the value drivers of machine health solutions. They also typically have the authority to launch pilots on various sites and can easily identify the benefits and barriers to implementation.

The main drawback, however, is that although maintenance teams have strong technical expertise, they often don’t have the budgetary authority or organizational access for expansion, which can add delays to any larger initiative. The recommendations and approval from teams on the shop floor will generally still need buy-in from senior management. For successful scaling, it’s important to have these senior managers in the conversation from the beginning.

Conclusion

Whether your approach to digital transformation is to leverage an internal innovation group, focus on overall supply chain improvements, or leave the analysis to the experts on the shop floor, machine health solutions for the IIoT need to have a meaningful place in your digital transformation strategy.

To learn more about how machine health is at the heart of digital transformation — drop us a note.

Alluvium has been acquired by Augury to provide unprecedented transparency into the health of your operation.