The productivity of an optical cable manufacturing line can be improved significantly by increasing line speed. Our buffering process has set totally new limits for the line speeds. When traditional manufacturing speeds have been increased by 300%, obvious process items must be redefined.
The manufacturing process itself must be quite robust. Otherwise there are too many parameters which the line operator must control during production. In our smart buffering concept we are taking the process control to the next level by analyzing and understanding the relations between the process data and the end-product properties. The line’s concept will also have enhanced operator guidance which will lead to remarkable annual material savings.
Every meter counts
New productivity levels require more precise process control. Even the starting procedure needs several steps to guarantee quality ramp ups. In smart buffering the line control is guiding the operator at start up. After manual feeding of the fibers to the tube everything is automated and operator does not have to make any adjustments to the process. Small details start to be critical because there are thousands of reels to manufacture annually. Saving 200 m of tube in each start equals to 150 k€ annual material savings. In smart buffering line the start-up scrap can be minimized close to zero – from 100 m to 200 m depending on the final production speed. The scrap rate is minimized for each product individually and it will always stay at the same level. Line specific scrap rates are stored and can be monitored from the line data acquisition system afterwards.
When producing over 5000 reels annually the production scrap rates play an important role in material savings. At high speed production small mistakes can ruin the fiber excess length behavior which will lead to the tube rejection. In a smart buffering line, the heart of the process is the clinching caterpillar. Our system is equipped with on-line tension measurement. The tension corresponds directly to the excess fiber length and to the shrinkage of the tube. With some simple mathematical equations, the tension data functions as an indication of process quality. This information is then transferred to the operator with some guidelines for process adjustment. This arrangement can save remarkable amount of rejected reels, especially when there are no process supervisors present at production. Only 0.5 % improvement on production scrap rate equals to 200 k€ annual material savings.
Smart buffering meets digitalization on analyzing big data. As said before, high productivity sets new limits for production process robustness. After several years of process modelling Maillefer has very detailed picture of the buffering process. That builds very strong base for process data analysis. When simultaneously analyzing tens of critical process parameters, it is possible to predict whether the process is stable or unstable. Also the coming stability trends are foreseeable and help minimize scrap rates.
In our smart buffering concept we are utilizing today’s technology to meet the digitalization challenges. This is not linked to data acquisition nor data transfer. We are truly digging into the process data and analyze it. We offer enhanced process guidance to the operator, which has huge effect on productivity and scrap reduction. Smart buffering concept leads to remarkable material savings that can annually be in the range of 300 to 400 k€ per year.