With growing sophistication across the waste and recycling sector, the capability to monitor operations and manage performance has never been more important.
Technical advances mean that baling equipment and associated plant is ever more complex, while the number of waste streams that operators now deal with is expanding – in some cases as many as 16 material grades – each requiring a different machine set-up programmed into the software to optimise performance.
With industry maturity and economic pressures comes a more analytical approach to business, with increased emphasis on data and reporting. Ensuring that production targets are met and there is less recourse to costly overtime to make up lost hours is crucial. It is here that remote diagnostic systems that see and resolve issues can play a key role.
But while a number of suppliers claim these capabilities, it is doubtful that many systems are deployed. And they serve little purpose if remote machine access to adjust system settings and fix issues is not included.
Effective systems should also provide customers with easy access to essential data, with the capabilities to monitor and manage performance via a smartphone, tablet or PC. The best include:
- Live real-time access to machine status and diagnostic information, including fault, service and inspection alarms, with text or email alerts
- Operational data covering production figures for bales produced
- Individual material breakdowns for different waste streams
How the information is presented is also important. Management ‘dashboards’, with graphical representations of equipment colour-coded with live data values, enable customers to quickly visualise operations. Such at-a-glance operational information provides valuable insights across a range of parameters.
Run-time graphs, for example by month, week or 24 hours, show machine status and percentage activity; countdown timers detail next inspection; fault alarms and colour-coded images show machine production or idle status, oil temperature, faults and material currently being processed.
For production managers this can cut time and increase accuracy, eliminating the need to manually log information or rely on machine operators. Operational issues can be more easily interpreted by viewing how many hours a machine is actively being fed material against the number of hours switched on but not in production.
Importantly, the latest systems should allow technicians to connect directly to a customer’s machine to diagnose faults and, in many cases, fix 95% of issues by remotely changing settings in the machine software.
For Craig Curtis, managing director of CS Recycling and a board member of the Recycling Association, this ability to fix or change settings remotely, either to resolve issues or optimise performance, is a crucial factor.
The company provides recycling services across Hertfordshire, London and the home counties, and has been a Lyndex customer over many years, recently upgrading to the latest Meggabite machine.
“Production data and operational insights to improve how we work are invaluable. I can compare and contrast different shifts, check production against previous periods, and monitor how the baler is performing.”
He said: “Initially we did not think of purchasing the Lyndex cloud-based diagnostic package, but it has been well worth the additional investment. Two weeks after commissioning the new machine we needed to make system changes to improve throughput. Before my eyes, technicians were able to remotely change settings in the control software and within minutes we were ready to go. It was quite amazing.
“Production data and operational insights to improve how we work have also been invaluable. I can compare and contrast different shifts, check production in the past hour and against previous periods, and monitor how the baler is performing.
“On the three occasions we have experienced minor problems, the system identified where we had gone astray and Lyndex was able to circumvent the issue, tweaking the programme remotely to keep the baler running.
“It has meant fewer engineering visits, saving time and lost production. The Lyndex system takes the technology to a new level.”
With energy efficiency, productivity demands and increasing competition driving the recycling agenda, cloud-based data logging and diagnostic solutions have a clear role to play. While they will not suit every business, it is likely that more and more machines will offer such capability, and production managers have as much to gain from this technology as the maintenance engineer.
Doug Lord is sales manager at baler specialist Lyndex Recycling Systems