Conair has added two important new capabilities – centralized, full-featured machine controls and programmable performance indicators – to its latest update of SmartServices™, an Industry 4.0 solution for auxiliary equipment monitoring, management, and analysis. The development of these latest capabilities was shaped in part by the experience and input of processors running six-month trials with the program, which was first announced by Conair at NPE 2018.

SmartServices Machine ControlSmart Services continues to evolve as a web-based portal, supported by cloud-based data processing capabilities. It helps plastics processors manage data generated by dozens or even hundreds of pieces of plant equipment into actionable information. The system collects machine data through a network of compact data hubs that transmit it into the secure, cloud-based SmartServices database for processing and presentation in the user’s HMI, where it appears in a dashboard format.

Alan Landers, SmartServices project leader for Conair, explains the latest additions: “Now, through the portal, authorized users can access the complete control system of individual auxiliary machines and execute functions from a remote location the same way they would if they were present at the machine itself. This capability is not only valuable to a manager monitoring processing operations, but is of particular value for maintenance and service personnel. For example, the system can page a maintenance supervisor anywhere, even when he is at home. The supervisor can launch the portal, open the machine control, clear the alarm, figure out the problem, and correct it without leaving his home. One supervisor called this feature ‘a godsend.’ And, when Conair service personnel use this feature to solve a production or maintenance problem remotely, without making an onsite visit, processors think it’s a godsend, too.”

Another new feature lets users customize and program Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can alert them to anomalies. “Through the portal, you’ve got the capability to reach into everything and look at all of your machines. Some of our users do exactly that on a daily basis,” says Landers. “But other users, pressed for time, told us that they don’t want so much to reach into the portal as to have the portal reach out to them. For them, Conair now offers user-programmable KPIs. They now can choose a specific KPI, set custom performance thresholds, and ask the portal to notify them – or others on the team – and report only when a machine moves performs outside that threshold.”

So, he continues, “If a SmartServices user wants to keep a close eye on dryer dewpoint readings, he can customize the dewpoint KPI to specify a high and low limit. If any dryers vary outside that range, the portal will send him a notification indicating the variation, with a link to the dryer that is involved.”SmartServices Custom KPIs

At present, Smart Services can operate with and control Conair blending, drying, temperature controls, and downstream equipment. But Landers says that the program has the flexibility to go further, right up to adding and monitoring customized KPIs on non-Conair equipment. This includes not only competitive auxiliary equipment, but other equipment types as well.

“Say that there’s a customer with a cleanroom operation that relies on a blower to maintain a specific air pressure. SmartServices has the capability to monitor that blower. We simply add a sensor or two to monitor blower performance, connect the sensors to SmartServices, then customize KPIs to track the equipment output,” he says.

Because all SmartServices software and data are web-based, all users have immediate access to the latest program features and updates, without the need for manual updates or concerns about introducing potential hardware or software incompatibilities.