It may be hard to believe, but many of the industrial processes in use today were originally developed during the first half of the 20th century – yes, before 1950!
The can making process is no exception.
Old Process – Old Machines
Though relatively new in the overall history of can-making, the liner process has been around for a good many years. As a result much of the equipment in use today is quite old. Contrary to popular belief, however, it is not necessary to replace this equipment in order to achieve significant improvement in the consistency of the liner dispensing process. Like many things from that era, these machines were “built with good stuff” and, if properly maintained, the mechanics of older liners can provide many decades of reliable service.
Old Machines – New Technology
In many industries, rather than replace the whole machine, it is commonplace to retrofit it with new technologies to bring its performance up to contemporary standards. This explains the proliferation of controls companies retrofitting old machines with new, PLC-based control systems, touchscreen graphical user interfaces (GUI’s), and the like.
New equipment comes at a very high cost. This ties up valuable capital that could be more useful in other areas of your business. Furthermore, these projects often involve significant downtime to remove the old machinery and install the new. Upgrading this equipment with advanced control systems can be a cost effective, quick solution.
While fancy touchscreen displays are pretty, they may not be the best solution for the problem at hand. The key to a successful upgrade project is to closely examine your process to identify those parameters that are directly related to the defects you’re experiencing, then to focus your efforts specifically in those areas. After handling a large and costly return, a large can maker with whom we had worked on several projects, followed this process to address issues they were having with liner weight consistency. Facing millions of dollars in investment and weeks of downtime to replace their old liners, they turned to us to help them evaluate their options. Our investigation placed the area of focus not on the liner itself, but on the compound delivery system.
Ultimately, we determined that their existing distributed control system was ineffective and that a point-of- application temperature and pressure control solution would have a greater impact on their quality, with little-to- no downtime, and at a cost of thousands, rather than millions of dollars.
Choose the Right Partner
This brings up another very important point – choose your partner wisely! Make sure they can provide the technology required to address your needs. And always understand their motivation. If still around, the original equipment manufacturer may know more about your machine than anyone else, but is their sole motivation to sell you their latest introduction? Is that in your best interest?
Develop the Right Solution
Fortunately for us, we were a known entity with a proven track record of solving problems for these guys. And instead of jumping directly to an answer, we worked with them to research their process. Once our testing had proven that the relationship between temperature, pressure and compound volume was at the crux of their problem, we set about to help develop a solution. Because this was a retrofit, space was at a premium. The solution had to be compact, able to perform under all seasonal conditions, and extend all the way to the gun nozzle. And, of course, cost is always a concern. In this case, thermo-electrics with a glycol recirculation loop met all of these criteria, produced the desired result, nearly doubling the C pk and cutting the holds for liner weight by nearly 50%, and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Not a bad day’s work…
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