Drives and Controls Magazine
Retrofit gathers and analyses data from existing plants
Published:  09 May, 2017

B&R Automation used the Hannover Fair to launch a retrofit system that collects and analyses data from existing production sites. The technology, called Orange Box, allows machine operators to gather data from previously isolated machines and lines and use the data in smart factory applications. B&R says it is as easy to use as a smartphone.

The system consists of a compact PLC and B&R’s preconfigured software blocks, known as mapps. The PLC collects operating data from any machine via its I/O channels or a fieldbus connection. From this, the mapps generate and display OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) ratings and other performance indicators, and can also share the information with higher-level systems via OPC UA.

Installing the system needs no changes to a site’s existing hardware or software. B&R says that it will allow equipment owners to boost productivity substantially with a small investment in time and cost.

The system is flexible and modular. For advanced functions – such as alarm management or energy monitoring – it can be scaled up using more powerful PLCs and additional software components.

Thomas Rienessl, B&R’s head of industry-specific developments, says that the Orange Box is particularly well suited for plants with large numbers of machines. It allows operators to check parameters on-site and intervene where necessary. He expects it to appeal to large manufacturers and to machine-builders.

B&R says that its Orange Box system will allow users to gather and analyse data from existing machines

One of the first users of the new system is Nestlé, which has installed a prototype at a plant in Germany. Ralf Hagen, the company’s electrical and automation engineering manager, reports that installing and configuring the system “turned out to be even faster and easier than we expected. Now we’re working on improving the analysis results and how they are displayed for daily use such as shift handover meetings.”

According to Hagen, Nestlé is hoping the system will deliver “intelligent analysis that identifies the root causes of a problem before the problem ever occurs. Over the next four years, we want to get to a place where the machines warn us of an impending stoppage in advance, rather than having to troubleshoot after the fact, the way we do now. Eventually, there should be no more unplanned downtime whatsoever, and the Orange Box will help us increase both machine availability and output.”