Amir Novini 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Six Costly Mistakes to Avoid in Inspection System Implementation REMEMBER THAT YOUR KEY OBJECTIVES ARE TO MINIMIZE THE AMOUNT OF TRIAL AND ERROR AND TO CHOOSE A SYSTEM THAT WILL BE ABLE TO SERVE YOUR CHANGING NEEDS AS SEAMLESSLY AS POSSIBLE FOR YEARS TO COME.From energy drinks to sophisticated electronics, nearly every type of product and its packaging today undergoes some degree of machine vision inspection. It has become indispensable in ensuring both the product integrity and affordability that the market has come to expect. Manufacturers can take one of three distinct paths to implement this technology: in-house system development, contracting a system integrator or working directly with a system manufacturer. No matter the path, neglecting to address any of several key areas typically results inAn inspection system that cannot perform as needed, or cannot perform effi ciently. Here are six key mistakes to avoid, each in the context of the three implementation paths. INSUFFICIENT VISION FOR THE JOB For the “eyes” of a system—the primary consideration—there are continually advancing offerings in lighting, cameras and optics. The task is to identify and integrate the technologies and designs that: 1) best image the critical features of the specifi c product, 2) enable inspection of every unit reliably and consistently at line speed— while helping to minimize false rejects—and 3) comprise inspection stations with maximum performance and minimal obtrusion on the line. Above all, keep in mind that the real cost of machine vision inspection goes well beyond the system’s purchase price. For example, “smart cam” units are being aggressively promoted today as low-cost, palmsize, processor-onboard solutions suitable for all applications. They can cost a small fraction of an appropriately powerful, application-specifi c imaging system. However, most applications and line speeds today require extremely powerful processors, the miniaturization of which would be revolutionary news. When the attempt to implement a smart cam solution is unsuccessful, its small initial price may be an insignifi cant write-off, but that is exponentially exceeded by the costs of lost time and effort in attempting to apply it effectively. An in-house engineering team with machine vision experience and direct knowledge of the application’s requirements may have the ability to determine the ideal imaging configuration, execute its on-line installation and service basic issues. There will be savings, but be sure to realistically calculate the costs of research, sourcing, extensive testing andInstallation of just the imaging configuration alone. A system integrator also can be consulted or contracted to provide a solution. Be sure that the supplier is reputable, has a good track record, knows the application or is familiar with the process. Likewise, consider and qualify a systems manufacturer for imaging consultation or solution design. Often for either path, initial consultation can cost nothing more than time. Bring the criteria to the table OVERLOOKING SURVIVAL ISSUES By its very defi nition, reliably accurate machine vision inspection incorporates highly sensitive components— typically far more sensitive than anything else in the plant. Plant interiors rarely offer optimum environmental conditions. Especially with the vast range of global locations today, plant interiors can easily exceed temperatures of 110 F, relative humidity approaching 100, and high levels of dust, oil and other contaminants. Do not fail to consider the extremes in temperature, humidity, static electricity and other electromagnetic fi eld interferences. Dust, oil and other airborne contaminants cover imaging surfaces, degrading machine vision’s most vital aspect: the quality of images produced. Make sure appropriate environmental protection for the system is thoroughly addressed by an in-house team or the integrator or manufacturer the team is working with. The price of appropriate enclosure and protection is miniscule compared with the costs of a system’s compromised performance, unexpected shutdowns, damage and ultimate inability to survive. If systems will be in plants in relatively remote global locations, this step can save extraordinarily high downtime and service costs. NEGLECTING THE HUMAN FACTOR The ideal system for an application, even an environmentally impervious one, will be under-optimized, problematic or ultimately unsuccessful if human considerations are not addressed upfront. Require specifi cs from the inhouse team, integrator or manufacturer regarding: 1) how easy the system is to learn and interface with. 2) how much operator and line personnel training will be required. 3) how it will be conducted and at what costs. 4) the degree and nature of operator involvement required by the system, including basic operation, day-to-day adjustments and routine system maintenance. In-house system development teams have a vested interest in minimizing the time, costs and difficulty of training their company personnel on new technology. However, the newer the concept or more sophisticated the solution, the more they will need the expertise of an integrator or system manufacturer. System integrators with proper credentials and extensive experience in an application can provide adequate training. If working directly with a system manufacturer, particularly an application-specifi c one, one should expect nothing but the best in training and after-sales support. PROCESS IMPROVEMENT: MISSING THE CONNECTION Along with performing their inspection tasks, today’s leading systems can classify defects and immediately pinpoint the upstream source of the problem through sophisticated part identifi cation and tracking technologies. These can provide invaluable process monitoring and information for process improvements to advance quality consistency and greatly reduce waste. Integrating those technologies in the manufacturing process requires a team, integrator or manufacturer that understands the process in depth and detail; has considerable expertise in integrating the technologies successfully and effi ciently in existing manufacturing lines; and can support and service those features wherever and whenever needed. These three attributes are critical, as a process can be vastly improved by such technologies, or it can be dramatically impacted by time-consuming and improper integration. NO LONG-TERM CARE With most any product, it is commonly said, “all’s well and good until the warranty runs out.” But fi rst, let’s not make warranties themselves an assumption. Be sure to expect, and inspect, warrantiesAnd terms accompanying the hardware and software in the system. Require that hardware and software documentation is provided, received and accessible when and where plant management and personnel responsible for the system need it. Any of the three—an in-house team, integrator or manufacturer—should be able to make that happen. Importantly, in the initial stages of a system’s development, carefully consider the scenario once those components are out of warranty. The in-house team will want to make clear which basic service issues it can handle; it might also arrange for extended-warranty service through the integrator or manufacturer; and, if applicable, it may need to specially contract both in-warranty and outof- warranty service for systems in remote global locations. A system integrator should provide all manufacturer warranty information upfront, as well as all documentation with the system itself. Integrators also may be able to arrange extended service agreements with manufacturers. Carefully discuss these details with the integrator. If one is working directly with a system manufacturer, he should be forthcoming with all warranty, terms and documentation information. To completely cover a system’s service needs, anytime or anywhere they are needed, choose a system manufacturer with a proven track record for servicing and supporting its customers as such. Two key elements to look for are: remote system communication capability, or support from the manufacturer’s computer directly to a remote system, as well as a physical service network that is human-staffed, available 24/7 and truly worldwide. In addition, consider a manufacturer that offers a complete inspection services agreement that allows one to lease the system and includes all development, integration, installation, training, service and support in one package. This innovation, for example, has been available and implemented in the beverage container industry in recent years. THE TECHNOLOGY DOESN’T WORK FOR US When an inappropriate or insuffi cient system must be scrapped, often the fi rst reaction is that machine vision as a technology doesn’t work for that application. Be aware that overall, in this age of exacting global quality standards, machine vision inspection is working successfully as a component in nearly all types of manufacturing operations. For that reason alone, it should be in place and working effectively. More to the point, if the competition is using it successfully, you certainly cannot afford not to be. Remember that the key objectives are to minimize the amount of costly system implementation trial and error, and to choose both a path and system that will be able to serve one’s changing needs as seamlessly as possible for years to come. With awareness of the critical areas in which costly oversights and mistakes are typically made, companies will be better equipped to implement an inspection solution that successfully meets those criteria. V&S
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