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Productivity by design: how digital dashboards have changed what’s possible at MAT Foundry Group

When global business MAT Foundry Group agreed to pilot a new IIoT solution which promised to drive productivity by connecting, monitoring and analysing foundry-wide data sources for actionable insights, they expected change. What they didn’t expect was how simple the process would be, or the potential it would unlock.

In just a few months Monitizer®GLOBAL – a powerful pairing of DISA’s MonitizerCIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing) and NoriGate hardware – has transformed the way teams at MAT’s EURAC Poole (UK) site communicate, operate and eliminate risks to efficient production. What’s more, “thanks to how easily we’ve been able to customize the solution to our needs”, explained Steve Merritt, General Manager at EURAC Poole, “we’ve really started to change our definition of what’s possible when it comes to improving productivity”.

 

A proposition for the UK… a digital test bed for group

On its two DISAMATIC® moulding lines, EURAC Poole produces over 50,000 tonnes of grey iron castings every year for the global automotive industry. In addition to being the headquarters of MAT Group’s EURAC operations, the site is a testing ground for innovation; an ideal facility to investigate, trial and verify solutions which have potential to transform operations across MAT’s worldwide foundry network - particularly as all MAT’s foundry sites use DISA moulding lines and Wheelabrator shot blasting technology.

In 2019, the transformative solution in question was the revolutionary Monitizer cloud-based IIoT system, designed to pull, collate, correlate and display meaningful data from any connected foundry machine, from any supplier, from any location.

“There is no contest”, said Steve, “when it comes to modern foundry production, ‘doing more with data’ is the single biggest opportunity there is right now. So, when I heard about the digital proposal from DISA and the wider Norican team, I was absolutely in favour. But I also had reservations.

“We’d previously tried digital options from other providers with little or no success. Ultimately because ‘off-the-shelf’ wasn’t cutting it. We needed a way to see our foundry data, our way. I was intrigued to find out how our partnership with DISA could solve this very practical problem and didn’t have to wait long for my answer.”

Made to measure…made for MAT

Before the connected foundry solution even hit the foundry floor, an initial consultation period meant it had been designed to link equipment and monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) according to the site’s specific needs. A full breakdown of this process and KPI examples can be found, here. 

Crucially, the platform’s open architecture and flexibility also presented MAT Group with the breakthrough they had been waiting for: customizable dashboard creation.  

“Based on our upfront input, DISA and Norican’s digital team set us up with a core system developed around our specific way of working”, explained Steve. “We could immediately see how the technology could be used to monitor and display real-time data from any machine, department and… further down the line… from any of our global sites. With Monitizer, we’d be able to turn data into value. That capability was clear. But it’s what happened next that was the real ‘Eureka’ moment. They handed dashboard creation over to us.”

Thanks to the system’s flexibility and the bespoke training provided, Steve and his team easily devised and added a further 10 fields to the initial starter list of KPIs monitored, before then developing a suite of bespoke dashboards - based on a core template - which use and display these data-sets in different ways according to the specific department viewing them. 

“The simplicity of the system has meant we’ve been able to develop dashboards exactly how we need them, while also having the reassurance that the guys at DISA are on hand to offer quick and efficient code-writing guidance if and when we need it.”

 

Acting faster, keeping things running

As General Manager, Steve has already found the customized dashboard approach has had a clear and immediate impact on the way teams work together.

“Previously, for instance, our melt shop would call up the production line to check part number and when to change jobs, metal grade etc.” he said. “Now they don’t need to. At a glance they can see a live view of where any particular run is up to, current run-speed, and how much iron is needed to complete the job. It gives new meaning to the idea of seamless production - you are automatically able to cut out all the stop/start inefficiencies and potential delays which naturally end up eating away at productivity levels and potentially, quality”.

The EURAC Poole team has also started customizing dashboards for individuals. Steve added, “I actually have my own dashboard which enables me to log-on at home and view KPIs that matter to me on a shift basis… how many moulds produced, any extended downtime, that kind of thing. It means I have all the info I need at my fingertips and can quickly speak to the right team about any potential blips before they develop into full-blown production issues”.

Preventive maintenance… it’s all in the detail

A vital part of the ‘optimum productivity’ equation is reducing unplanned downtime. Here too, MAT Group has already seen success thanks to its new dashboard-driven setup.

“Our technical team aren’t the only ones to have ‘mould compressibility’ in their KPI data-set”, explained Steve, “but the dashboard we’ve customized to them means they are more easily able to plot trends and spot value deviations in real time – precise details that would previously have been impossible to see. Just the other day this ability meant a weak seal was identified before it had a chance to fail, saving us several hours in unplanned maintenance time and associated production loss costs. “Preventive maintenance has always been a goal we’ve pursued. Having the means to easily ensure the right people see the right detail at the right time, is a real game changer in this mission.”

Like all MAT GROUP sites, EURAC Poole uses Wheelabrator’s surface finishing solutions. Here too the solution is proving its worth. Steve commented: “Sensors continuously monitor vibration levels on our shot blast wheels, with Monitizer enabling the shop floor and maintenance teams to track readings on a graph at a glance. This means they can easily see and remedy any potential issues and optimise performance. It’s great.”

The precision with which EURAC Poole can now record information in Monitizer is also having a positive impact in terms of traceability and troubleshooting.

Steve continued: “Previously, if we had any machinery downtime the production team would manually log the total time lost during that particular shift. That’s useful information. But what’s more useful is being able to see exact time stamps of any stops and starts to track how a shift developed and pinpoint when problems occurred – having this information means we are much better equipped to immediately identify potential causes and implement any necessary adjustments to boost uptime. Production is much more transparent.”

Towards automated responses

Having the capacity to monitor KPIs in real time has presented EURAC Poole with another important opportunity it now intends to develop further – automation.

Using the solution, maximum/minimum threshold values can be applied to data pulled from any piece of equipment or combined process. Deviations outside these thresholds can then be alarmed and programmed to action a specific response.

The capability is currently being put to good use with the extraction systems in place at the Poole site. An automated email alert is issued to the maintenance department if live differential pressure readings rise above a pre-determined maximum, a scenario which could indicate a potential fault.

In addition to eliminating the need for continuous manual inspections, the solution has more critical implications. The site’s location in a residential zone means that its permit to operate is dependent on keeping any emissions to an agreed minimal level. Failure to do so could result in fines and ultimately site closure. The new Monitizer digital monitoring system mitigates these risks by providing constant equipment performance feedback and the means to take responsive action.

Sight of every stage, at every site

The equipment agnostic Monitizer solution currently deployed at EURAC Poole harnesses cloud technology to pull in and collate data from any piece of kit (enabling it to connect the entire foundry), from any location - meaning multiple sites can be brought on-board.

Phase 2 of the pilot will put this capability to the test. Plans are already in place to scale-up the system by adding in more equipment for analysis, developing more high-level overview dashboards that will present top-line management KPIs, and introducing more sites across MAT Group’s network.

Steve concluded: “Now we have seen what the Monitizer system can do and how easy it is for us to adapt the way we use it, there really is huge potential to leverage insights from every single level of production, from shop floor statistics to multi-site comparisons. Data is definitely the future for MAT Foundry Group.”