TOPEKA, Kan.—Integrating systems into the mixing room is a long, complex process that involves a number of machines and factors rubber manufacturers must consider.
That was what Bob McNabb, HF Mixing Group's North America sales manager, and Christian Tittensor, sales and marketing manager for North and South America at Zeppelin Systems USA Inc., said during their presentation at the 2014 HF Mixing Group International Mixing Seminar in Topeka, Kan.
“Whenever we consider our customers and what they're looking for, they're not just buying a piece of equipment. They're buying a system to help them process what their customers need,” McNabb said.
The process starts with an evaluation of what the customer is seeking. Common questions include:
• What kind of formula is going to be used?
• What kind of mixer is needed to produce the compound?
• Are there any building constraints, or will the customer be constructing a new facility?
• What kind of needs does the customer anticipate, and is that something HF can account for up front?
HF offers a questionnaire, which McNabb said is lengthy but necessary in order for HF to put together an integrated system that best fits the customer's need.
“This helps us zero in on how big this mixer is going to be to make the compound that they need,” McNabb said. “Eventually, we're going to come out with how many million pounds per year the customer has asked us to try and size up for.”
When a customer begins modeling the system they're going to use, Tittensor suggested starting with the mixer then go downstream to the mill and extruder. Then go upstream to the material delivery, raw material handling, and how they will be fed into the mixer and what needs to be fed or weighed separately. He said a number of different parameters are considered.
“It's really complicated as far as putting these pieces of the puzzle together, but after a while you figure out what it needs to be, and you buy in with the end user with all these considerations,” Tittensor said.
He said it is easier to design the process and then put a building around it, but most of the time firms lease existing buildings, and things need to be adapted to existing conditions.
“Greenfield plants are wonderful, but 90 percent of the time the customer is constrained by buildings and existing infrastructure,” Tittensor said. “You have to be more flexible.”
Once the process is modeled and ready to go, automation must be defined to the fullest extent last, McNabb said. To effectively design automation, HF must understand what valves and pumps it will be working with. Everything has to be traceable in the modern manufacturing world.
“Process automation is critical and must be integrated into the system,” McNabb said. “It is a very important part of any system that we put together. Once we have a scope laid out, we have to determine where these locations will be.
“You also have to be very conscious of energy savings today. By tying in drives at this base level automation, we can achieve better power savings and have a better overall system.”
Project management is critical in bringing the system from a schematic to a reality.
McNabb said firms should define the project confirming clear objectives and milestones; develop an implementation plan covering schedules, resources and costs; develop project controls; and a closing procedure.
“It takes a lot of effort to finish these projects correctly,” McNabb said.