Flexicon Meets Growing Demand for Agile Bulk Handling Equipment With Connected Components Workbench Software
Components Workbench Software
Flexicon Corporation is a world leader in the design and manufacture of bulk handling equipment and custom-engineered and integrated plant-wide systems. Flexicon solutions range from single-use, standalone units, to integrated, plant-wide systems that incorporate the company’s systems with systems from other manufacturers.
Flexicon products range from individual equipment to automated systems that source bulk material from interior and exterior plant locations, transport it between process equipment and storage vessels; weigh, blend, and feed it to packaging lines, extruders, molding machines and storage vessels; and load it in railcars and trailers. Flexicon can also custom-engineer automated, plant-wide bulk handling, system and processing systems.
The Flexicon facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA, is the company’s world headquarters. Systems, including controls and automation, are designed and built here, as well as in manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia.
To meet growing demand for equipment and systems, Flexicon doubled the size of its headquarters production facility and expanded the Controls and Automation team. Thus, Flexicon needed a cost-effective and flexible solution for their standard product line controls.
The ability to meet the increasingly complex needs of processors is a key differentiator for Flexicon. Larger customers routinely require multiple ingredient blending and batching functionality. Processors of all types and sizes request controls that can be layered so operators have access to basic machine operations, while management can access settings, timers and recipe management.
Time saving functions, including storing and retrieving hundreds of multi-ingredient recipes with a few button presses, are expected as standard. Data must be logged so it can be retrieved and analyzed. Control panels are expected to be intuitive and easy to use, arriving at the facility programmed and ready for installation. And it must be easy to integrate Flexicon-built equipment with non-Flexicon processing systems.
Historically, equipment commissioning was project-driven and required an automation engineer to program each system. Through a proactive desire to address these challenges together, Flexicon reached out to Rockwell Automation to optimize their processes and remove the barriers, which inhibited them from best serving their customers.
Flexicon is leveraging Connected Components Workbench software to simplify their standalone machine development through an integrated toolset for controller programming, device configuration and human machine interface integration.
The Flexicon team selected easy-to-install Micro820 and Micro850 controllers. The Micro820 controllers are designed for small, standalone machine control and remote automation applications that require flexible communications and I/O capabilities. The Micro850 controller has the same features, but is designed for larger standalone machines.
PanelView 800 graphic terminals offer keypad touch screens with display sizes compatible with small controllers. Featuring high-performance processors and high-resolution displays, the built-in Ethernet and serial communication ports support a variety of networks, and offer improved usability with remote monitoring capability.
Flexicon’s goal was to use a common toolset with a small footprint to create a flexible solution that accommodates varying options within each product. They achieved this goal via the Connected Components Workbench software. In addition to the concept development and initial recommendation, Rockwell Automation provided Flexicon’s team with the training necessary to familiarize them with the versatility and capabilities of the software.
Flexicon was able to architect a configurable program which has significant impact on the time for system deployment. Personnel, may be non-technical, using a microSD™ memory card with the stored program, IP address and base recipe configuration can access a password-secured screen to complete configuration tailored to the end customer’s requirements.
Since deployment of the Connected Components Workbench software, Flexicon is now able to focus on proactive, forward looking developments to provide their customers with innovate capabilities, which can be readily deployed on their future and existing install-base.
With this solution, Flexicon can reduce the time and money spent designing and testing the controls portion of their orders. Now, Flexicon can produce control applications that are both repeatable and reliable, while reducing time to market and engineering costs.
The results mentioned above are specific to Flexicon’s use of Rockwell Automation products and services in conjunction with other products. Specific results may vary for other customers.
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