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Connected assembly tools and controllers are one part of a whole digital ecosystem. Factories rely on a number of technology suppliers and partners to produce quality product, and assembly networks use programmable logic controller (PLC) platforms to connect and communicate with equipment, machines and tools. To effectively integrate with PLCs, tool controllers should be simple to connect to save time and boost productivity.
Controllers provide valuable information that can improve the assembly process by making it faster, improving product quality, running it more efficiently and saving costs by eliminating rework. These benefits are the reason manufacturers rely on tool controllers, but in doing so, manufacturers face the challenge of merging the new technology with the existing.
A plant-wide system with connected tools and controllers can provide vital information that operators on the line, quality control personnel and plant managers can share in real-time. However, integrating these systems is not without complications. A networked manufacturing facility requires tight communication and coordination between multiple departments, from the operators on the factory floor to the line supervisors, manufacturing engineers and plant control personnel analyzing the data results in the front office.
A manufacturing facility may have multiple PLCs from different suppliers, each with their own communication protocols. This can make it difficult for tool controller suppliers to keep up with the various protocols. Fortunately, there are suppliers that support many PLC protocols and have developed controllers that conduct data analysis and are easy to integrate and manage. For example, Ingersoll Rand®, a global leader in reliable and innovative power tools, recently introduced its INSIGHTqc™ controller with plug-and-play hardware and software that works with any industrial protocol.
Think about how Apple® forever changed the smartphone market with a simple and intuitive interface. Today, simple and intuitive web interfaces are changing the way factories are using controllers. Plug-and-play controller platforms with web interfaces allow plant personnel to easily set up and program controllers with PLCs. Additionally, there are no additional software or licenses required or a need to install software on a separate computer.
With an easy-to-use web interface, the time it takes to set up a controller to a PLC can be reduced by 50 percent. If a controller fails, the recovery time to set up a new controller can be 80 percent faster. Ingersoll Rand makes the recovery process quicker by designing the controller’s high-capacity hard drive so it can be quickly removed and easily installed on a spare controller in minutes. This can translate to big-time savings for manufacturers.