Maxa Air Conditioning, a leading air conditioning and heating equipment manufacturing company in Arcole (VR), Italy, experienced a significant rise in market demand which required the company to build a new facility and production lines to meet that increase. Previously, production was limited due to legacy instrumentation and manual processes in heat pump testing that could not assure quality or deliver the required throughput. The existing heat pump testing production line consisted of two testing stations with a maximum throughput of only 19 units per shift. In addition, the testing was performed by operators who had to manually manage the actuators and double-check the data detected by the unit because it was unreliable. As a result of these manual processes, the quality was inconsistent due to the potential for human error. As the market demand increased, the production line could not keep up to meet the required numbers.
One of the areas of greatest slowdown was in the testing process. In order to increase production capacity, Maxa needed to automate its heat pump testing and expand to add more testing stations. The solution also needed to be modular to improve efficiency and enable the plant to grow and scale for the future. The heat pump testing process includes several steps. Initially, a test is performed to check the tightness of the hydraulics, then the hot and cold cycles are started, and the thresholds for power, thermal capacity and efficiency are tested. In the cold-cycle test, a trip test of the high-pressure switch is also performed. Once the tests are finished, the results are stored in the central database.
Maxa selected an Emerson programmable logic controller (PLC) and the Movicon.NExT™ software platform to automate the test process. This enabled the production line to be expanded with additional modular stations. The Movicon™ solution enables the stations to be modular by using a station prototype and assigning variables through the parameterization functionality. The new production line now contains four workstations and has a maximum throughput of 60 units per shift, more than triple the previous capacity. The Movicon.NExT solution controls and automates testing, allowing production operators to identify anomalies to immediately correct problems. The automation is managed directly by an Emerson PLC connected to the network and the Movicon.NExT server, as a centralized service, collects data from the PLC.
The Movicon solution was selected because it offered several key advantages. Its modularity allowed Maxa to quickly and effectively add new workstations to expand and increase production capacity. Furthermore, the Movicon solution supports the VB.NET programming language, which allows importing the various .NET libraries and custom design enhancements over the standard Movicon.NExT software functions. The Movicon solution tripled productivity and provided scalability for future growth. By automating testing, significantly improving test quality and consistency, and reducing manual processes and the potential for human error, Maxa can meet their required demand without additional personnel.
Other manufacturing facilities may differ in size, scope and goals from this interesting case study, but the addition of highly flexible, modular supervisory software can almost always reduce complexity and cost when upgrading production capabilities.