Maximizing productivity is an objective all manufacturing facilities share. But on any integrated system, throughput is always constrained by the slowest machine on the line.
“In other words, a typical manufacturing line is only as fast as its slowest machine,” said Tom Garvey, president, Garvey Corporation. “Our objective is to keep that constraint running at optimal efficiency by incorporating accumulation systems strategically into the line.”
Established as a humble service station and machine shop more than 90 years ago, Garvey Corporation has grown to be a leading supplier of accumulation tables, conveyors, handling devices and pharmaceutical machines. The family-owned business serves a diverse global customer base from headquarters in Blue Anchor, New Jersey.
Simply put, accumulation systems are placed between machines to hold product and enable the slowest equipment to keep running even if there is stoppage elsewhere on the line.
“For example, on a typical wine bottling line, the filler may be the slowest machine,” Garvey explained. “You don’t want to stop the filler during a two-minute roll change on an upstream labeler. An accumulator allows the filler to keep running – and then releases product when the labeler is ready.”
While the company has addressed many accumulation needs over the years, it faced one of its most complex challenges about 15 years ago when the wine industry began to adopt reverse taper bottles. Attractive to consumers, these containers are wider at the shoulders than the base and tend to be unstable on typical accumulation tables.
“On conventional accumulation systems, such as bi-directional conveyors that rely on back-pressure and right angle transfers, reverse taper bottles quickly begin to fall,” Garvey said. “Our response was the Infinity™ accumulation table.”
Simple in concept, Infinity systems allow products to travel continuously around a patented accumulation loop with zero pressure – and then single file on demand at an outfeed gate. Infinity accumulators can also handle multi-lane applications.
Footprint is a critical consideration for Garvey customers, who typically call on the company to analyze the efficiency of an existing line.
“Based on the results of our analysis, we recommend the strategic placement of accumulators,” Garvey said. “And then, we must ensure they fit within the space allocated for the established line.”
The company’s latest innovation, a G Series Infinity spiral accumulator, is designed to maximize accumulation – and optimize space. Unlike the conventional design that increases accumulation capacity by adding to the oval footprint, the latest option features vertical conveyance spirals at both ends of the oval.
In addition to providing more capacity in a compact design, the vertical accumulator also features Ethernet connectivity and IO-Link technology to further optimize line productivity.
IO-Link is a worldwide open standard peer-to-peer communication protocol that allows sensors and actuators to easily integrate into a Connected Enterprise to deliver real-time diagnostic information.
The Garvey system is built on a Rockwell Automation® control platform, featuring Allen-Bradley® CompactLogix™ controllers and Allen-Bradley smart sensors with IO-Link technology.
“With IO-Link, the proximity sensors that monitor tension in the system can send diagnostic alerts if the signal becomes marginal,” said Robert Jardel, electrical engineer, Garvey Corporation. “In addition to appearing on the HMI, the alerts can be sent by email or text message via the Allen-Bradley PanelView™ Plus 7 built-in web browser.”
With IO-Link and time stamping functionality, the smart machine also provides additional context that speeds troubleshooting.
“For example, a company might detect a sensor abnormality at the same time every day,” Jardel explained. “And that might lead to the simple explanation that sunlight streaming through an open window is blocking the sensor during that time.”
Garvey Corporation also plans to add remote control capabilities to their on-site testing facility in the future. The company currently provides customers with video footage demonstrating how products will run. Coupling IO-Link with an Allen-Bradley ArmorBlock® IO module and a remote web browser will allow customers to control their product – and will also provide a sequence of events for every sensor on the system.
“Our Infinity systems are designed to establish harmony between machines and improve line productivity,” Garvey said. “Currently, our accumulation systems improve line throughput by up to 30 percent – and we continue to look for ways to implement new technology and optimize performance.”