Marc Williams Marc Williams
IOT Project Lead

Condition Monitoring Helps Metal Formers Drive Productivity

April 13, 2022

Metal formers and fabricators face consistent challenges to meeting production schedules and quality requirements, among them increased customer demands, supply-chain difficulties, competitive intelligence, increased costs and staff shortages. All of these force operations managers to develop more efficient strategies and tactics to address and prevent issues before they impact profits or reduce product quality. 

In an industry that demands precision, managers must have absolute confidence that equipment will continue to work at an optimal level. Such performance from presses, cutting machines and the like requires that hydraulic and mechanical elements maintain exact working temperatures and pressures to ensure the highest possible product quality. Any inconsistency in a production line can result in over-stressed equipment, inferior products and costly downtime. 

As a result, many metal forming companies have begun to rely on continuous conditioning-monitoring technology to optimize equipment throughput and consistency. This technology helps shops reduce maintenance costs by making accurate record-taking more straightforward and available in real time. 

With a significant number of moving parts on the metal forming and fabrication plant floor, it’s sometimes difficult to notice minor equipment malfunctions or compromised product quality. Even the most efficient manual data-collection processes can require significant labor hours and be subject to human error. 

From monitoring the pressure on a hydraulic press to the humidity level inside of the actual plant, advanced condition monitoring provides valuable data about how the processes are running. This allows workers and managers to address issues before leading to severe problems that could cost time and money. 

How Shops Benefit 

Condition monitoring for predictive maintenance gives operators increased visibility into which assets are not performing at optimal levels. Through wireless connectivity, plant managers gain access to a comprehensive snapshot of system performance, allowing users to: 

  • Identify issues before they escalate 
  • Reduce downtime 
  • Decrease maintenance costs 
  • Avoid dangerous situations 
  • Improve labor efficiency  
  • Keep assets at optimal working conditions  
  • Reduce scrap and redundant work 
  • Record better analytics to enable better decision-making 
  • Perform diagnostics without shutting down production.

parker-hannifin-iot-condition-monitoringWireless condition-monitoring systems rooted in the Internet of Things (IoT) reduce labor costs by allowing plant personnel to instantly access condition levels from wherever they can connect to the internet.  

Four common conditions essential to monitor in metal forming and fabrication applications: vibration, temperature, pressure and humidity. All can significantly impact product quality and equipment service life. If one or more of these conditions wanders out of spec–even by a little–the effects can be costly.  

Sensors placed at several points throughout a process allow users to simultaneously gather information for all of these conditions.

Pressure—Most metal forming assets are hydraulically or pneumatically driven, so ensuring the machines apply the correct amount of pressure can help avoid overloads or failures.  We see this technology applied to roll forming machines, stamping presses and CNC punching machines, cutting and bending machines and more.

Temperature–Monitoring inline and environmental temperatures of any metal forming asset proves critical to ensuring consistent adherence to specific tolerances, to avoid overheating and overworking machinery. Elevated hydraulic-fluid temperature, for example, can cause overheating. Early identification and troubleshooting of temperature issues preserves oil efficacy and protects equipment from damage.

In addition to fluid temperature, metal formers also can employ liquid-level sensors to continuously gauge the amount of hydraulic fluid in reservoirs, rather than performing manual inspections to determine when refills are needed. And, to avoid poor oil quality, which can affect product quality, metal formers can employ condition-monitoring technology to track fluid quality or ISO count and alert managers to declining oil quality before it reaches an unacceptable condition.   

Humidity—High humidity levels can cause premature corrosion and rust in equipment and in the stamped or fabricated metal products. Tracking humidity levels in the plant helps employees make the necessary adjustments to maintain humidity within acceptable levels. 

Vibration—Excessive vibration often will be the the initial indicator of an equipment problem or pending breakdown. Monitoring vibration and receiving alerts of issues helps pinpoint the exact cause and location of a problem, reducing maintenance costs and downtime.   

While some vibration may be natural for industrial machinery--in an automotive production plant, for example--excess vibration could mean faulty products coming down the assembly line. That could lead to costly rework that causes downtime and delivery delays. Here, a condition-monitoring system can uncover deteriorating process quality before significant problems occur. This allows maintenance engineers, tasked with preventing disruptions to the manufacturing process, to better plan the replacement timeline and make the necessary workarounds until new equipment can be installed. MF

Industry-Related Terms: Bending, CNC, Forming, Gauge, Hydraulic Press, Roll Forming, Scrap
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Parker Hannifin

Technologies: Sensing/Electronics/IOT


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