EDC Earns High Marks for VFD Preventive Maintenance and Service from Chief Engineer at Premier NYC Commercial Office Building

In a client interview conducted by an independent third party, Chief Engineer of 52 Broadway, Kevin Ridder spoke about the challenges of managing a New York City high-rise commercial office building and how working with EDC, an expert VFD full-service provider, has given him peace of mind.

As the first line of communication when it comes to tenant-related complaints, a day in the life of a Chief Engineer can be unpredictable. “I am the head of the engineering department for the property, with four people directly reporting to me. We basically operate eighteen-hour days from six in the morning until ten or twelve at night, Monday through Friday. On the weekends, I have an eight-to-four shift on Saturday and Sunday.” In addition to cosmetic repairs and general maintenance, his team is responsible for operating, repairing, and maintaining all of the equipment related to heating and air conditioning, as well as responding to any complaints that come from the office facilities.

Kevin described a typical day, saying, “We handle a wide variety of tasks, basically anything that’s a complaint on the property. It could be anything from bathrooms to air conditioning or heating, to electrical issues. We would be the first people to go check it out and most likely the ones that are going to take care of it as well.”

With all of this to manage, the last thing a Chief Engineer wants to worry about is an equipment drive failure in the mechanical room compromising the building’s heating and cooling systems and inconveniencing tenants. Having a trusted and reliable vendor to handle drive maintenance and emergency issues is key.

Having worked with EDC for 18 years, Kevin originally hired EDC to perform regular preventative maintenance (PM) services for 52 Broadway’s drives after a referral from a colleague. “I had spoken to the Chief Engineer for 85 Broadway, which was Goldman Sachs’ headquarters, asking him for a reference. He referred me to EDC because they did all of the variable frequency drives (VFDs) for him, and he was very satisfied with them. I gave them a call, we discussed what our needs were, and we’ve been using them ever since,” recalls Kevin.

As is the case for many older commercial buildings in NYC, the building had older drives from multiple different manufacturers on the property and Kevin needed an expert who was capable of servicing a wide variety of drive brands. EDC is a factory authorized/factory trained service center for over 40 drive brands eliminating the need to coordinate and rely on multiple vendors.

When asked how they usually go about sourcing vendors, Kevin responded, “With many of these properties, the equipment that’s used is rather specialized. So, a lot of times a referral works best when trying to find the right person or company for the equipment you’re trying to repair or maintain.”

Before hiring EDC, the property’s previous vendors had lacked the necessary expertise and communication regarding proposals, and lining up work schedules had been overly complicated. Kevin described the relationship with his vendors prior to EDC as “difficult,” noting that making a service call shouldn’t be more aggravating than the actual loss of service from the equipment.

“Since we hired EDC, we’re getting exactly what we need. Their service department is excellent. I can call anytime and they’ll accommodate us, whether it’s an emergency repair or a scheduled repair. Their time to order parts, get them to the job and get the repairs done is really good,” said Kevin.

This positive relationship created with EDC proved to be especially valuable when the building suddenly suffered a critical failure of their motor control center (MCC) equipment in the mechanical room causing electricity to feed back into the variable frequency drives (VFD), destroying the majority of them. As a complicating factor, the property was in the process of upgrading the building management system (BMS). At the time of the loss, two different systems were affected: a legacy Honeywell system and a brand-new ALC system.

Kevin and his engineering team again turned to EDC to help quickly replace the control center and compromised equipment. Having worked with EDC for many years prior to this event, they knew that EDC would not only rebuild the damaged parts but would continue to provide support with excellent response time and a diligent work ethic. With commercial tenants temporarily displaced, the utmost professionalism and expedient response were vital to remedy this difficult situation.

EDC ultimately provided a turnkey rebuild of the lost VFDs, including a plan for running new main power and control wiring. After assessing the site in its original damaged state, EDC supplied a quote for repairs and then immediately pulled the right team together and dispatched them to disassemble and remove the damaged equipment. The EDC team then designed a plan to run new main power wiring, provided and installed the new VFDs, and interfaced with other on-site contractors, as needed, to ensure a successful installation on budget and on time.

In Kevin’s role, the most important thing is to avoid disruption to the tenants, and EDC provides that peace of mind. Kevin describes working with EDC, “It is more like working with a partner that truly cares. I know the service people by name because they have been there for many years. Some other vendors have been hit or miss, sometimes providing experienced technicians and sometimes not. EDC always responds as quickly as they can, rising to the occasion when there is an emergency. They don’t try to upsell a new drive, and they try hard to find the most economical solution to meet their clients’ needs.” When Kevin picks up the phone and calls, he knows EDC will do whatever they can to ease the burden, so that his engineering team can focus on everything else.

“In these big properties, when something goes wrong or we lose a critical piece of equipment, it can be very difficult to try and provide services that are necessary without affecting the tenants. It can be daunting at times. I know that when I pick up that phone and call EDC, I’m going to get somebody that’s going to handle it – that will be there as soon as they can, and is going to take care of it with the best solution possible. I can’t give them a higher rating than the highest rating. So they were a hundred percent. They are excellent,” said Kevin.

With over 50 years of experience in the industrial automation and service industry, EDC has the capacity to take on the toughest challenges, with the expertise to design, build, integrate, and start up even the most advanced systems. Contact EDC today for more information.

 

5 Controls-Based Causes of Scrap

Often, when people think about causes of scrap, they think about something like a damaged fixture, or worn-out tooling.

Those examples are both mechanical issues, and can contribute to a large amount of scrap being generated in a system. Now the real question is, are there any other areas that can contribute to scrap?

The answer is yes, and one of those main areas is on the controls side of the system. While frequently overlooked, controls related scrap can start as soon as a system is installed.  Below are 5 sources of scrap and how they can be solved with controls solutions.

Analog

Certain devices, like many analog sensors, can be very sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity and other weather conditions. Not using a sensor in its correct environment can lead to inconsistencies in the feedback generated by the device.

Having the right type of device for the job is important, but making sure that the device is able to work accurately in your environment is crucial.

Electrical Noise

Electrical noise occurs when there are unwanted disturbances in an electrical signal. This can become a major issue, especially with analog signals and cause a system to react in un-intended ways.

Using the correct type of cable and shielding can help to reduce the electrical noise created in the system. It is important to not only look at the signal cables, but the communication and power cables as well.

Outdated Programming

Over the years, and sometimes even months, the conditions can change in a system. Maybe product was sourced from a new supplier, or a whole new product type was added to the line. It may seem more appropriate to make a series of quick patches to get the system back up and running, but you need to also look at the long-term implications.

Properly updating software for new changes and added complexity can help reduce the amount of time spent on adjusting just to make things work. When qualifying the added expense of the software updates, make sure to include the reduction of scrap in the ROI.

Inconsistent Hardware Controls

A lot of hardware in a system can have some degree of variability such as the speed of a motor, the pressure for a pneumatic line, or the amount of product dispensed per cycle. Improperly monitoring or controlling vital pieces of hardware can greatly increase scrap, especially between multiple shifts and newly trained operators.

Recipes are a great way to collect setpoints that can be used to drive the automation. With the added ability to save changes and load different recipes, you can reduce the amount of scrap between product changes.

Tension Control

Variations in the tension of your product can lead to rips, wrinkles, and/or printing issues. Not only can this lead to an increase in scrap, but also downtime to get the line back up and running.

Consider adding in one or more tension zones including a load cell or a dancer to gain greater control of your product and reduce the amount of scrap created. Making any adjustments to a tension process can be a trying process and, in most cases, it is beneficial to seek expert opinions on the subject.

 

EDC can help you diagnose your causes of scrap and create a solution to provide you with a more efficient process. For more information, contact us.

7 Common Problems with Slitting Machines in the Metals Industry

EDC Slitting Machine

Having decades of experience helping clients in the metals industry, our engineering team knows the slitting line process inside-out and are experts in automation and control system technology specific to the industry. Typically, when we start with one slitting line retrofit, the success of that first project leads to retrofits of their Metals converting equipment at multiple plants for the same client across the country.

Having implemented control systems for both new slitting lines and retrofitting a countless variety of older slitting lines, EDC has developed deep domain expertise to help our clients optimize production. Because of the complex and nuanced processes for this type of production equipment, there is no universal cookie cutter solution. Each new and retrofit project needs to be developed according to the manufacturers’ unique conditions and production goals.

EDC collaborates with plant managers and operators to evaluate the slitting line from loading the coil and set-up procedure through to the slitting and recoil process to tailor the optimal solution to improve production performance. Although each project is unique, there are 7 common problems we have encountered through the years which are triggers to consider a control system upgrade. In no particular order, here is our list of common problems and examples of solutions we deploy to solve these challenges:

      1. Tension Problems Create Quality Control Issues

        For slitting lines, tension is an important variable. If the tension is not controlled properly, material defects become a problem. Often the material is too taut going in and out of the slitter resulting in a host of quality issues from burring to scratching of the material. A slitting line makes a much better-quality cut at controlled low tension at the entry and little or no tension at the exit of a slitting head. To achieve optimal cut quality, adding a loop going in and a loop coming out of the slitter can solve the tension problem. If you have an entry and exit loop currently and are experiencing quality issues, the control system should be evaluated for potential adjustments. No matter what your problem EDC can help to improve your Precision width tolerances.

        • EDC’s Entry Loop Solution – To solve for taut entry tension problems, EDC can implement controls to provide an entry loop section to the machine allowing for low tension slitter entry, which will assist in making a better split off. We can also add a sonic sensor above the loop for feedback to the control system to adjust the speed of the motors to maintain optimal loop position.
        • EDC’s Existing Exit Loop Improvement Solution – In many of the facilities that we have visited, an operator is manually manipulating the exit loop which is an art and a nuanced talent. As many longtime operators are approaching retirement, the knowledge and know-how is hard to replace. If an operator is not experienced or not paying attention, either they might run the take up too fast creating a taut web on the exit, or they might run it too slow causing the slit metal to become scraped up at the bottom of the pit. Leveraging the control system, EDC can provide a loop position feedback on the exit loop, eliminating the need for the operator to have to constantly make adjustments.
        • EDC’s No Exit Loop Solution – If you do not have an exit loop you would have to dig a pit that’s 30 feet deep which is not practical in many cases. Although not optimal, EDC can provide a controls solution to operate in a slip core configuration. Another solution can be the implementation of Traverse winding.
      2. Slow Slitting Line Setup

        Traditionally, slitting line setup is not a quick process and can hamper your ability to meet production goals. Setting up automated recipe management can significantly reduce setup time. Operators can easily select the appropriate recipe from a user-friendly touch screen, significantly reducing the setup process and improving product consistency between shifts.

      3. Extended Downtime for E-Stop

        There are cases when an e-stop is required during an operational anomaly. When this happens too quickly and is not controlled properly, it can cause extended recovery time and possible damage to the line.

        EDC can incorporate a coordinated, rapid stop utilizing safe torque-off, web break sensors, and control algorithms to maintain web integrity, saving valuable minutes in setup recovery.

      4. Difficulty Hiring Operators

        The National Association of Manufacturers’ 1st quarter of 2021 survey of manufacturers report ranked the inability to attract and retain talent second place behind the rise in raw material goods on the list of top challenges. It was noted by 65.8% of those completing the survey. Previously, the labor issue was the primary concern in 11 of the past 13 quarters prior to this release. With approximately one quarter of the manufacturing workforce being age 55 or older, the skilled labor shortages are very real and not likely to improve anytime soon.

        If you are too reliant on aging operators who have been with your company for a long time, it’s time to simplify running your manufacturing lines by leverage automation technology. Automating previously manual tasks (i.e., automating loop tension) will enable a less skilled operator to quickly complete training and smoothly transition into taking ownership of running the line. Automating allows new operators to achieve the same or better results of the retiring operator. Modern user-friendly touchscreen operator interfaces with built-in troubleshooting diagnostics will also help attract, train, and retain the younger generation of workers who have grown up with intuitive smartphones and computers.

      5. Bearing Wear in the Slitter Head

        Bearings in the slitter head will start to wear over time, causing loss of precision and other operational difficulties and quality degradation. To help our clients resolve this issue, EDC works with slitter manufacturers to facilitate an upgrade of the mechanical portion of the slitter to bring it back to original tolerances needed for precise slitting.

      6. Edge Trim Control

        All slitting lines produce some scrap due to edge trim. Whether you are using a scrap baller or a scrap winder to collect your edge trim, proper control of your edge trim motor can limit the amount of scrap produced. Limiting the amount of scrap adds to your bottom-line profitability. EDC can address this often-overlooked inefficiency by fine-tuning the motor and controls in your scrap winding section.

      7. Legacy Control System

        Many of the first six problems we have discussed could be related to operating your equipment with legacy controls. Slitting lines are true work horses; the physical equipment well exceeds the operating life of the control systems that run the equipment.

        Running your slitting line on a legacy control system retired by the original manufacturer is like dancing with the devil – you never know when you will get burned. The longer the control system has been retired by a controls manufacturer, the higher your chances of extended downtime. If you have resorted to looking for parts on eBay, it is only a matter of time before unexpected downtime will translate into a costly emergency.

        Legacy control examples include Allen Bradley’s PLC5, SLC-500, Siemens’ S5 and S7-300, GE 90-30, as well as many other obsolete AC and DC drives.

Evaluating a retrofit is highly recommended and you may be surprised at how the advancement in technology can offset the cost, yielding a favorable return on investment. In one case study, our client reported a 40% improvement in productivity after replacing an outdated General Electric control system. EDC can help you evaluate and map out the highest value retrofit.

Contact EDC for a slitting line evaluation

Featured in Processing Magazine, EDC Discusses Upgrading to Digital Controls

In a recent article for Processing Magazine, Bob Pusateri wrote an article titled Is it time to abandon your analog controls?

Even if legacy analog controls are still running your manufacturing process, upgrading to digital can be a game changer, he says.

In his signature relatable style, Bob thoroughly considers the pros and cons of analog vs. digital controls, including capabilities, time requirements, and cost, complete with pictures and diagrams.

You can read the full article here.

 

3 Recent Manufacturing Intelligence Projects

Several manufacturers have reached out to us recently wanting to implement Manufacturing Intelligence in their facility.  This has been called lots of different names – Industry 4.0, IIoT, cloud computing, etc. – but we don’t care much for just the next trendy topic, or implementing new tech just for the sake of it.  What’s interesting to our Systems department at EDC is finding solutions that help our customers solve their problems.

Manufacturing Intelligence is not just gathering data but doing something with that data.  Manufacturing Intelligence projects contextualize the data so that it is meaningful and helps manufacturing teams make better decisions.

Alerts for Consistent Product Quality

A recent project featured collection of process data for a company that extrudes a non-woven web of absorbent padding, then cuts it into sheets for use by industrial customers. A data historian was created to capture and store 200 data tags for temperatures, line speed, motor speeds, and the status of safety devices such as interlocking door switches, e-stops and cable pulls.  Alerts were set-up for out-of-range process parameters, which will trigger e-mails and text messages to warn key plant personnel.  Actionable information such as this can be used to prevent product scrap, downtime and component failure. For this customer, a simple blower air temperature that was too low was their largest concern. The project was so successful that it was implemented across their other three production lines.

Downtime Monitoring

A metals converting customer wanted to easily monitor and display their production rates.  EDC utilized encoders and variable frequency drive (VFD) data from our previous slitting line upgrade to calculate line speed in feet per minute and display it on large character rate meter so it could be seen from across the plant floor.  The cloud-based solution also made the production rate and other contextual process points available wherever the plant manager had internet access and the proper authentication. Production managers use this information to help them monitor their plant by simply walking around.  They also receive text alerts if downtime is more than they expect so that they can troubleshoot in a timely manner.

Critical Sensor Monitoring and Alerting

A NYC high-rise needed to alert their maintenance staff when the level of their domestic water tank was too low. Usually, the facility will utilize a building management system (BMS) to perform the monitoring function. However, this building’s BMS was obsolete and adding the necessary system upgrades to accomplish this seemingly small but important task proved to be too costly. EDC installed a Samsara cloud-based data collection gateway and set-up text and email alerts for the low-level condition. A trend line graph was created so the facilities personnel could check the tank level anytime, anywhere they had internet access. The project was performed at a fraction of the cost of the BMS upgrade.

Ready to Implement Manufacturing Intelligence?

The above are just a sample of manufacturing intelligence projects EDC has performed as an end goal or as part of a larger systems integration project. EDC is adept at utilizing a variety of platforms and techniques including Samsara’s cloud-based gateways, Rockwell’s Factory Talk or simple data arrays in customer HMIs that operators can view or download.  These solutions provide actionable information that can help you increase uptime, reduce scrap and transform your production facility, no matter how large or small, into a state-of-the-art efficient operation.

Let EDC help you with your Manufacturing Intelligence project
Contact Us 

Spotlight: Zack Fischer

Zack Fischer has been with Electronic Drives and Controls for almost 8 years, starting with the Drives Service team in October of 2013, and then moving over to the Systems Integration team in 2016. Asked about how Zack started in Service, Chuck Dillard, vice president of EDC, said, “He took the initiative to buy his own PLC. He bought an enclosure and mounted the PLC in the enclosure, wired it all and then started programming PLCs just because he wanted to. And it’s still there in the back of the office. People still use it today for training.”

While working with the Drives Service team, Zack consistently showed that he would be a great systems engineer and an asset for EDC. On one project, Zack developed an idea for a modular rack that could be made utilizing Versabar, then mounted and wired all the drives to it, which Chuck said “came out so beautiful.” He then took it to the job installed the entire system with no problems whatsoever. And Chuck, referring to customers, summed things up by simply saying that “People love when Zack comes.”

Like any great systems engineer, he also wanted to make sure he was prepared with whatever tools he might need for any type of job, even if it meant buying the tools himself prior to EDC implementing a tool program. When buying his own tools, Zack always made sure he had the best tools available. He didn’t take shortcuts or buy cheap or poorly constructed tools.

One of Zack’s favorite things about working with the systems team is the variety. Zack said, “You get to see a lot of different things.” Zack enjoys working with all of the different applications and learning about different types of production machinery. He has worked on projects including improving the manufacturing of potato chips, stranding of large power cables and slitting of steel strips, all very engaging projects. In addition to all the different applications, machines, and even wire and cable lines Zack gets to work with, this job also gives him the opportunity to see a lot of different places in the country.

Zack attended New Jersey Institute of Technology, receiving a degree in Electrical Engineering. Outside of work, Zack enjoys hiking and travelling with his fiancée Laura, and recently was helping to plan their wedding, being held July 22nd, 2022. He has also been helping out his future father-in-law with projects around their house, including rebuilding their back deck. Zack also helps out with electrical work because his fiancée’s father does not enjoy doing electrical work.

In addition to always being prepared for any job, the hallmark of a great systems engineer, Zack is a natural when it comes to documenting his work. Even more, he is an example of what you would expect from a great systems engineer –  solid electrical designs, accurate Bills of Materials (BOMs), and an excellent practitioner of EDC’s standards. Bob Pusateri, Director of Business Development for EDC, said that Zack has “an incredible attention to detail and a tremendous  level of high-quality standards.” In fact, Zack finished the Siemens Solution partner certification, or in his case, recertification exam. When asked how he did and what he scored, Zack humbly said “Pretty good. Ninety-nine and a half.”

Case Study: Upgrading an Obsolete Coating Line

PROJECT SUMMARY

A specialty media print company was having issues with one of their tape coating lines. The line had obsolete equipment as far as the eye could see. As problems with the line arose over the years, the issues were resolved with a quick fix rather than fixing the root cause. This triggered a loss in functionality of the line which ultimately led to automatic functions being controlled manually for the last decade.

As with most customers, there was a major concern with the amount of downtime that the upgrades would cause. The decision was made to split the system into two separate projects, to be able to break the downtime into more manageable chunks along with spreading the cost over a greater period of time.

CHALLENGE

The customer finally decided that they could no longer run the line the way it was. Long down times due to compounding problems were losing up to half a day in production. With minimal diagnostic information, inexperienced operators could spend hours trying to fix a simple issue.

The line was plagued with constant tension control problems as each of the 20-year-old drives had their own self-contained PID loop. The system was controlled by two separate controllers trying to work together to run the same line, which added to the unnecessary complexity of the line. Overcoming these issues became the target of the first project.

As this project was the first of two projects completed on the same line, EDC had to do more upfront planning. The upgrades completed in this project had to work with the equipment that was remaining on the line.

SOLUTION & BENEFITS

Since only some of the components were being replaced in this project, EDC could not build and test the full system offsite. The new equipment was prepped before installation so that it could be installed next to the existing components that were remaining. The prep work completed offsite ensured that the deadlines for the installation could be met on time.

EDC simplified the controls of the line by replacing the dual PLC controllers with a single Allen Bradley GuardLogix L81 PLC. This allowed for a single controller to run everything with integrated safety. EDC was then able to add in run permissive messages and safety alarms to ensure that operators had a clear understanding of what steps needed to be taken to get the line back up and running.

A full mechanical retrofit was completed for all of the motors. New AC Powerflex 525 and 755 drives replaced the existing DC drives. The tension control which was originally controlled in each drive individually, was centralized into the new PLC. With the updates in technology over the last 20 years, the amount of time to calculate the tension requirements in the PLC and transmit the speeds over ethernet to the vector drives was a fast and robust solution.

RESULTS

The amount of downtime of the system has been significantly reduced. The run permissive messages and safety alarms allow the operators, at all levels of experience, be able to diagnose the issue and recover the system at a much faster rate.

With the upgrades to the PLC and the tension control, the unwind tension is now an automatic process again for the first time in over a decade. This has also helped to reduce the overall runtime of the machine, as the operators do not have to manually step through the process.

The line now runs better than it has in a long time. EDC was able to use their extensive experience with these types of lines to understand what needs to be done and what resources need to be available in order to get production running again in a timely fashion.