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Plant Construction, Engineering & Components

NordPro Lab
Training to increase customer satisfaction

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Plant Construction, Engineering & Components
At the Bargteheide site various modular courses with a heavily practical emphasis are held in the NordPro Lab. Picture: Nord
At the Bargteheide site various modular courses with a heavily practical emphasis are held in the NordPro Lab. (Picture: Nord)

Optimum customer satisfaction can only be achieved with optimally trained employees: This is the basic idea behind the NordPro initiative, which has operated a laboratory with the same name since 2011. Here, employees receive training in the fundamentals of lean management and are given ideas for implementing these ideas in their daily work. The programme is organised and managed by Nord trainees who use this opportunity to extend their organisational and representational skills. This “hands-on” experience is also an important part of the comprehensive Nord training programme.

NordPro was founded in 2008 to sustainably ensure customer satisfaction in an age of increased expectations. The idea: To actively communicate lean management methods to employees in order to give them tools with which company processes can be optimised for the benefit of customers. The programme first started with the five tools Kaizen, Fluss; Smed; TPM and Q-Groups, but since then has been continuously developed to include new methods.

In 2011, the initiators went a step further with the NordPro Lab. Specially equipped areas were created at the Bargteheide site, where various modularly structured training courses with a heavy practical emphasis are now held. Here, the theoretical knowledge of lean management which has been acquired is utilised and deepened using simulation games. By dealing with hypothetical problems, participants learn the effects of process improvements, in addition to which cross-departmental understanding of work processes is promoted. The NordPro tools can be used for assembly, logistic and production processes, as well as at an administrative level, so that the training is used equally by all Nord employees across the various sites.

A further special feature of the NordPro Lab is that it is now organised and led by Nord trainees and dual-training students who take on the organisation and implementation of the courses. However, their remit is also to continuously develop the laboratory and the content of the courses. This requires organisational expertise as well as a confident manner and specialist theoretical knowledge, which will be a great advantage in their further careers.

Independent management of the NordPro Lab is a part of Nord’s sophisticated training strategy. Within the Nord Group, young talent can receive business, industrial or technical training or even carry out a dual course of study at several locations. Nord provides training in the professions of industrial management, technical product design, mechatronics, IT system integration, industrial mechanics and cutting machine operation. Dual bachelor study courses are offered in industrial engineering, IT for business, applied IT, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and mechatronics.

Plant Construction, Engineering & Components

Efficient and process-controlled
Access guarding without muting sensors

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Leuze Electronic
Picture: Leuze Electronic

Innovative strength, a down-to-earth culture and strong commitment are the values that have made Witron – based in the Upper Palatinate region of Germany – the company that it is today. Witron is constantly working on developing even better, even more cost-efficient logistics solutions for its customers, to make them even more successful. In the area of automation and further optimization of warehouse logistics, the selection of suitable, competent and innovative partners also plays a decisive role for Witron. Witron relies on creative solutions from Leuze electronic not only in its own production and warehouse logistics. The company also realizes efficient safety solutions for its customers together with optical sensor manufacturer Leuze electronic. This includes the use of “Smart Process Gating” (SPG), a process developed by Leuze electronic that enables access guarding with material transport to be designed more compactly, simpler and safer.

Safety first

When man and machine meet in a technical environment, it must be possible to stop machine and system parts within a fraction of a second. “The safety of all persons who work in one of the many logistics centers of our customers around the world – whether in industry, retail or service – is the asset most worthy of protection,” explains Stephan Schmid, experienced project engineer in the area of development and control technology at Witron. This means: appropriate areas are equipped by Witron with safety devices or fencing that meets the applicable standards and norms so as to eliminate accident risk before it can even occur. But because it is not possible to completely fence in all areas in which man and machine meet in a networked, mechanised system, Witron is working on, e.g., conveyor lines with safety light curtains. These must reliably distinguish between people and merchandise.

The classic safety solution

Especially in intralogistics and in the automotive and packaging industries, affected areas must be safeguarded by optical safety sensors. To unambiguously recognize transported goods as they approach a protective field and to bridge this for passage of the goods at the proper time, muting processes with signal-emitting muting sensors were used across the industry in the past. These sensors were installed in addition to the safety light curtains and enabled pallets and transported goods to move in and out without interruption. In front of and behind the safety light curtain, however, quarters are usually a bit tight. The additional use of bridging sensors often required more space, leading to an even less-compact system design. The installation and service effort for the additional set-up, alignment and re-alignment of these sensors also resulted in additional work. “This led Witron to search for a solution that combines process reliability, system availability and easier operation with one another,” explains Schmid.

Muting reinvented

At that time, Leuze electronic did not yet have a practical answer to this requirement, but did already have a project idea: “Smart Process Gating” – based on its MLC safety light curtains. Leuze electronic presented this to its key customer Witron in a very early development phase. Witron was quickly convinced of this idea and accompanied the creative Leuze development in numerous practical tests. “Smart Process Gating” was then put through its paces at and by Witron on its test tracks in its company headquarters in Parkstein in the Upper Palatinate region where it was optimized together in detail. “The result is impressive: a clever solution was created that combines the requirements for safety at work with high process reliability and system availability,” explains Josef Apfelbeck, key account manager and specialist for intralogistics at Leuze electronic. With “Smart Process Gating” a new process was created that enables muting processes to be executed more easily, more compactly and more stably. With the SPG principle developed on the basis of its MLC safety light curtains, it is possible to completely forego the previously necessary signal-emitting sensors. Conveyor systems can thus be made more compact. During the operating phase, the risk of misalignment or damage to the sensors is also eliminated as are the costs for their maintenance and servicing. The availability of the entire safety device is thereby increased and other practically oriented risks reduced.

With SPG, the first muting signal comes from the process control (PLC), while the second muting signal is generated by the protective field itself. Smart Process Gating requires a controlled material flow so that the necessary PLC control signals are made available in the expected time window. The MLC 530 safety light curtain variant with Smart Process Gating is TÜV-certified for safety. In combination with a standard control, a performance level PL d can be achieved, which is sufficient for many applications in intralogistics. With a safety control, performance level PL e is also achievable.

Nothing is possible without

Leuze electronic and Witron are linked by a long-standing customer-supplier relationship that goes back to the early 90s and is based on a trustworthy collaboration with mutual respect. “Many hours of hard development work, joint project planning, discussions, testing on the material locks of test conveyor lines with Witron as a strong partner at our side have led to an impressive result,” says Apfelbeck proudly. Schmid explains: “Attractive for Witron are, above all, the stability and high availability of the safety device – all with less work. This is confirmed by our on-site teams and by our customers alike.” Since the fall of 2016, Witron has used Smart Process Gating and this new technology as a standard solution in all of its projects worldwide – in both the retail sector as well as in industry and the service field. Systems designed by Witron with SPG as safety devices can now be found in France as well as in Norway or the USA. Like everything that leaves the factory in the Upper Palatinate destined for end customers, the safety modules were tested on the test track in Parkstein by Witron. Witron also uses “Smart Process Gating” for its own internal training purposes as well as other sensor solutions from Leuze electronic: whether AMS measuring sensors in Witron’s high-bay warehouse or the BCL 300 bar code reader for identifying codes. A recent addition in the area of high-bay storage devices at Witron is the Leuze DDLS 500 data transmission photoelectric sensor with EtherCAT interface. “Nothing leaves our factory before we have thoroughly tested a new component or new technology ourselves. We only recommend solutions to our customers that have proven themselves in practical tests – that’s our philosophy,” says Schmid: “The Smart Process Gating principle also had to withstand a number of hardness tests. Today, it convinces us on all counts and is used as a standard solution in projects with material flow.”

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Plant Construction, Engineering & Components

Continental
Solid First Quarter in Weak Market Environment

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Continental has managed a solid start to the new business year. Thanks to its technology portfolio, the company has been able to distance itself from the substantial downward trend on the market. At €11.0 billion, sales were on par with the prior year level. The adjusted EBIT margin was 8.1 percent (adjusted EBIT: €884 million).

At the DAX company’s Annual Shareholders’ Meeting in Hanover on Friday, Continental’s CEO Dr. Elmar Degenhart was satisfied with the results for the quarter: “Global car production was down substantially at the beginning of the year, as expected. That is why our solid results are all the more gratifying, thanks to our strong market position on the mobility markets worldwide. Our increased cost discipline also contributed to this achievement.”

In the first three months of 2019, global automobile production was down by more than 6 percent year-on-year, according to preliminary figures. In contrast, the technology company’s organic growth (before changes in the scope of consolidation and exchange-rate effects) was down by only 2 percent.

Continental continues to expect a market upturn in the second half of the year and is thus maintains its annual guidance issued at the beginning of January.

In the current fiscal year, Continental is laying further important groundwork for its organizational realignment announced last July. A crucial part of this is the transformation of its powertrain business into an independent group of legal entities, which Continental completed on schedule on January 1, 2019.

Since then, Continental has continued preparing for the possible partial IPO of its powertrain business, which in the future will be called Vitesco Technologies. It is expected that the necessary conditions will be fulfilled toward the end of the second half of the year so that additional details can be provided to the capital markets. Once further technical and regulatory requirements have been completed, the company will be in a position to finalize the partial IPO. Depending on the market situation, this is expected from 2020.

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Measurement, Instrumentation, Control & Automation Plant Construction, Engineering & Components

Easily Protect against Surge Voltage

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Easily Protect against Surge Voltage Pepperl+Fuchs
Picture: Pepperl+Fuchs

The new M-LB-2000 system offers surge protection with nothing more than a loop disconnect function for easy maintenance and commissioning, making it ideal for use in applications that only require a minimal specification.

The M-LB-2000 can also be used as a superior alternative to terminal blocks with surge protection. The terminal blocks can be replaced by the 6.2 mm slim modules with no additional space required. The one-piece devices can be mounted on a standard DIN mounting rail, are approved for applications up to SIL 3, and are certified in accordance with Atex and IECEx up to Zone 1. This makes the M-LB-2000 system the ideal complement to the M-LB-5000 surge protection system – the two-part system that offers diagnostic functions.

The M-LB-5000 with condition monitoring function has patented diagnostics and uses a special algorithm to detect different overload situations that can cause the surge protection functionality to wear out. This improves the availability of the protective function, and therefore the system as a whole, while minimizing maintenance costs. The traffic-light display on each protection module greatly reduces testing work, as the fault can very easily be assigned to a specific signal circuit.

This system also offers considerable advantages over other solutions when it comes to maintenance. For example, the base module on the DIN mounting rail stops the signal from being interrupted when the protection module is disconnected. A protection module can therefore be replaced without affecting plant operation. However, if the signal circuit needs to be intentionally interrupted – for isolation tests during commissioning, for example – the protection module can simply be rotated by 180 degrees and plugged in. In this case, the signal circuit is interrupted by an integrated isolating function.

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