Historically in the corrugated industry the conveyor on the shop floor was used solely as the carrier for physical product units from one operation to the next. Factory automation was accomplished by attaching a paper tag with unit identification and characteristics, and a barcode. Integration with external systems for shipping, finished goods, and other parts of the process would be accomplished by scanning the unit barcode with separate individual interfaces whenever customization to the manufacturing process was required.
In short, the conveyor carried the physical unit, but the tag and barcode carried the associated information. Indeed, the conveyor itself might be aware that it was carrying a unit, but it would typically not be aware of which unit it was carrying.
iFAS changes this paradigm completely. iFAS communicates continuously with the conveyor PLC control systems, as well as with any customer-specific information system that describes how specific orders, and even specific units, are to be manufactured. Every change in every sensor and actuator on the conveyor line is communicated to iFAS. iFAS uses this information to know exactly where each and every unit is at all times. It also knows the specific behavior that should be applied to that unit at each step of the production process. iFAS additionally maintains an accurate to-scale visual representation of the entire conveyor line, which makes it easy for operators and maintenance personnel to understand why the line is behaving the way it is, and to know in advance the actions that will be taken for specific orders and units.
Triggers and Unit-Centric Behavior
As a unit traverses the conveyor, any sensor on the conveyor line can be used as an iFAS trigger point. If a photo eye is covered, or uncovered, that can be implemented as a trigger point. Any trigger point can be attached to custom business logic which references customer order or scheduling information, to force a decision. This is the heart of how iFAS factory automation functions.
In legacy conveyor systems, operators will historically press buttons or flip switches on an HMI panel to change product flow and behavior for a custom case. This includes commands like load building parameters, implementing pad insertion, strapping configurations… iFAS allows assignment of triggers and per-implementation business logic to automate each of these custom processes.
When a unit approaches a defined trigger point, the business logic looks at features on the order from ERP, or the schedule from the scheduling system, and automatically executes the desired logic. This allows us to have truly unit-specific behavior at each step in an automated line.
Because iFAS is designed to be the hub that integrates information and carries it with units throughout the production process, it has been designed to be integrated with a myriad of customer specific shop floor systems.
Contact WSA USA to learn more about how iFAS can help automate your factory to Industry 4.0 Standards for maximized productivity and efficiency.