The latest upgrade to the SmartServices monitoring platform for auxiliary equipment from Conair (Stamford, CT) gives users greater control over what they see and how they measure performance. The new centralized machine control and programmable performance indicator features were shaped, in part, by the experience and input of plastics processors running six-month trials with the program, first announced by Conair at NPE 2018.
A web-based portal supported by cloud-based data processing, SmartServices helps plastics processors manage data generated by dozens—and into the hundreds—of pieces of plant equipment and produce actionable information. The system collects machine data through a network of compact hubs and transmits the information to the secure, cloud-based SmartServices database for processing and presentation in the user’s HMI, where it appears in a dashboard format.
“Now, through the portal, authorized users can access the complete control system of individual auxiliary machines and execute functions from a remote location the same way they would if they were present at the machine itself,” explained Alan Landers, SmartServices Project Leader. “This capability is valuable not only to a manager monitoring processing operations, but is of particular value for maintenance and service personnel. For example, the system can page a maintenance supervisor anywhere, even when he is at home. The supervisor can launch the portal, open the machine control, clear the alarm, figure out the problem and correct it without leaving his home,” said Landers. “One supervisor called this feature ‘a godsend.’ And when Conair service personnel use it to solve a production or maintenance problem remotely, without making an onsite visit, processors think it’s a godsend, too,” said Landers.
The programable performance indicator feature lets users customize and program key performance indicators (KPIs) to alert them to anomalies. “Through the portal, you’ve got the capability to reach into everything and look at all of your machines. Some of our users do exactly that on a daily basis,” said Landers. Other users, pressed for time, would rather have the portal reach out to them, he added. For that cohort, "Conair now offers user-programmable KPIs. They can choose a specific KPI, set custom performance thresholds, and ask the portal to notify them, or others on the team, only when a machine performs outside that threshold.
“If a SmartServices user wants to keep a close eye on dryer dew-point readings, he can customize the dew-point KPI to specify a high and low limit. If any dryers vary outside that range, the portal will send him a notification indicating the variation, with a link to the dryer that is involved,” said Landers.
At present, Smart Services can operate with and control Conair blending, drying, temperature controls, and downstream equipment. But, said Landers, the program has the flexibility to go further, right up to adding and monitoring customized KPIs on non-Conair equipment. This includes not only competitive auxiliary equipment, but other equipment types, as well.
“Say that there’s a customer with a cleanroom operation that relies on a blower to maintain a specific air pressure. SmartServices has the capability to monitor that blower. We simply add a sensor or two to monitor blower performance, connect the sensors to SmartServices, then customize KPIs to track the equipment output,” said Landers.
Because all SmartServices software and data are web-based, all users have immediate access to the latest program features and updates, without the need for manual updates or concerns about introducing potential hardware or software incompatibilities.