Slitting/Rewinding Moves Toward Industry 4.0
Flexible Packaging recently caught up with Randy Wolf, director of business development for Kampf Machinery Corp. USA, where he discussed a slitting/rewinding milestone and the smart data converting factory of tomorrow, among other topics.
Kampf’s Conslit machine recently reached a pretty significant milestone. Care to talk a bit about this?
Randy Wolf: At the end of 2017, Kampf Schneid- und Wickeltechnik GmbH Co. KG in Wiehl celebrated a very special milestone: the order for the 1,000th Conslit model slitter/rewinder. A few months back, the “anniversary Conslit” was successfully tested in the presence of the customer at the Wiehl plant in Germany and has shipped to Technofilms in Guatemala. Here, a remarkable circle closes after 1,000 machines. The first machine with the name “Conslit” was delivered to a customer in Central America. Since then, the Conslit series has been continuously expanded worldwide and improved since its inception.
The steadily growing number of units points to the success of the Conslit model, which is unique not only for Kampf, but also in the entire converting market for slitting and rewinding machines. The Conslit is a duplex slitter/rewinder designed for the converting and flexible packaging industry, especially for use in high-quality production.
Anything else new in the industry or with your company that you’d care to discuss?
Wolf: For Kampf, it’s significant as the largest supplier of slitting and rewinding equipment to continuously develop and offer, through research and development, improvements to the total process of converting – most importantly slitting and rewinding. We have recently announced the development of the Kampf Converting 4.0 ~ @vanced Integrated Data Collection and Process Control System. With this system, the realization for the future for a smart data converting factory can be achieved in which cyber-physical systems monitor and control the entire converting process. This process will enable operators and management to make real-time decisions through real-time data collection.
We’ve heard a lot about how slitting/rewinding is becoming so much smarter lately. Does this equipment fit into Industry 4.0? How?
Wolf: Yes, most definitely. As mentioned above, not only is slitting and rewinding becoming smarter, but the entire converting process is moving towards Industry 4.0. Let’s start with some definitions: We can define “Converting 4.0” as the next tool for productivity growth that is driving machine and process development of the converting industry.
This justification of “Converting 4.0” is driven by the following trends: The astonishing rise in the volume of low cost data collection, the steady decrease in cost for increased computing power, the connectivity of the machines through new low power wide area networks, the emergence of analytics and business intelligence capabilities, and improvements in transferring digital instructions to the physical world of converting machinery.
Converting 4.0 is where operators, computers and automation will all come together in an entirely new way, with slitter/rewinders, laminators and printing presses all connected remotely to computer systems equipped with machine learning algorithms that can learn and control the machine production with input from both human operators and computers.
Why aren’t more equipment manufacturers developing Industry 4.0 solutions of their own?
Wolf: You can always follow the money. Kampf has for years made it a priority to budget money for research and development. The Converting 4.0 ~ @vanced Integrated System is a direct result of our commitment to our continuing R&D.
Converting 4.0 is still in its infancy, however these digital technologies and data collections systems have been growing for some time now. Some are not yet ready for application at scale. But many are now at a point where reliability and lower cost are starting to make sense for applications in the converting industry. However, a lot of companies in the converting industry are not consistently aware or prepared for these emerging technologies.
In a recent survey, only 25 percent of converters consider themselves ready for Industry 4.0, and a similar percentage of the machinery suppliers actually consider themselves in a position to offer it in some shape or form. But as with any major shift, there are challenges inherent in adopting an “Industry 4.0” or “Converting 4.0” model. Data security issues are greatly increased by integrating new systems and more access to those systems. Additionally, proprietary production knowledge becomes an IT security problem as well. A high degree of reliability and stability is needed for successful cyber-physical communication that can be difficult to achieve and maintain in some plant environments. Maintaining the integrity of the production process with less human oversight could become a barrier. Finally, loss of high-paying human jobs is always a concern when new automation and technologies are introduced.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about slitting/rewinding equipment?
Wolf: There still remains a mentality even today in the converting industry that whatever errors occur in the printing, coating and/or laminating departments that they will be automatically corrected in the slitting department. This thought process is a production and profit killer! The whole converting process must work together as a well-oiled and managed unit. The printing, coating and laminating, along with the slitting departments, are all dependent upon one another to ensure a successful outcome. Please keep in mind that a slitter/rewinder is generally the last piece of capital equipment that will touch your materials before they get shipped to your customer.