"The data we get is now much more accurate and reliable than before."​

Peter Landsberg is Head of Maintenance at silver plastics, one of Germany's leading manufacturers of plastic packaging in the food industry. The company has been using a solution from RE: GmbH to connect its machines since summer 2021. In this interview, Peter shares his experience with the new digital solution.

Hi Peter. Please tell us briefly what you do at silver plastics.

I work in maintenance and am responsible for everything that involves control technology, from simple dosing to the control of extruder systems to thermoforming systems, as well as for cross-system controls, be it cooling systems, compressed air systems or raw material or regrind conveying systems. I collaborate closely with the other departments.

What kind of solution did you implement?

We commissioned the RE: GmbH to connect two extrusion lines at our Troisdorf site to the c.Hub platform. The c.Hub has been collecting information for a few months now, and a dashboard developed for us visualizes the data based on data points we requested. The solution is designed as a proof of concept. However, we are confident that we will soon be able to connect more machines and link them to other applications, e.g., for Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE).

What were your challenges and how did RE: help to solve them?

The data we get is now much more accurate and reliable than before. Before, data was rather written down on paper. Machine operators checked the values directly on the machine at regular intervals. But if, for example, there was a temperature fluctuation between two periods, you wouldn't see it or perhaps notice the impact too late. The new RE: dashboard helps us to detect production errors at an early stage and to better pinpoint them. We can also more accurately deduce whether maintenance may be necessary earlier than planned.

How do you use the system?

I use it to monitor the behavior of the lines. I always compare it with the production report and look at it purely from a technical perspective. My job is to keep an eye on how the individual components of the machine are working. Did they harmonize with each other? Did the machine run smoothly or were there instabilities? For example, we had a failure that we couldn't explain exactly. Thanks to the additional detailed data we now have access to, we were able to narrow down the problem more and more. We adjusted the settings, and the machine ran smoothly again. As a result, we could boost the performance effectively.

From your point of view, what is the biggest benefit of the solution?

The greatest benefit at the moment is that we can bring our old lines closer to the optimum performance they are supposed to deliver. That we no longer must rely solely on the old hands and their experience. After all, human perception always varies... Data or numbers don't lie (laughs). In the past, data was also written down in a much larger time frame. The shortest interval for manual data entry that I know of is between half an hour and an hour. If you compare this with digital data... even if you "only" break it down to minutes, you have a much better data situation for incidents to find out what has just happened or not happened and why the half meter of foil is not good now. You can see, for example, that there has just been a rise or fall in temperature.

What kind of machines have been connected? And which products are running on them?

In terms of planning, the two connected extrusion lines are not adjusted that often. One line runs almost only one product. The other one is used more frequently with changing recipes, as far as the composition of the material and the total quantities are concerned, i.e. regarding the thickness, grammage or color of the film. It will become very interesting when we include the other lines. There we have significantly more color and grammage changes. The one [connected] system is from 2003, so it's 18 years old. The other machine is from 1999 and a mixing line, i.e. from two manufacturers. That was also very exciting. Which data points can be tapped from where? What do the control systems offer?

Where do you see further potential in terms of digitization?

After all, we've only just tested it on two extrusion lines. But our colleagues are already happy with the system, because we've been able to show them in the last few weeks: You've always wondered about certain things, and now you can take a closer look at them. At the same time, however, it doesn't make much sense to tell someone they can look at a few curves if you haven't really recorded some historical data that you can use to comprehend more. That was our first focus, to collect data over several weeks and then reflect: What information are we gathering and what information are we possibly still missing.

Do you have some sort of cross-departmental task force to discuss how you use your data insights?

Not yet. I had to smirk a little bit, as I read some weeks ago, that Germany is in a place far behind when it comes to digitization. Someone wrote on social media, "You can see that also in the fact that there are more data protection officers in Germany than digitization officers." So, maybe we should establish a regular meeting where we can then discuss how we work with the data. This will be especially interesting when we will have connected the rest of the production lines and everyone will already have gained experience with the digital solution.

Thank you for the exciting conversation!

You're very welcome, it was a pleasure.

silver plastics is using the middleware c.Hub as well as industry-specific analysis and planning tools such as the Production Compliance Cockpit, Condition Monitoring and Production Dashboard. Currently, RE: is integrating the third machine, a cast sheet line.

Do you want to find out how you too can sustainably increase your production efficiency with our solutions? We will be happy to advise you.

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