Thermoforming: Machinery installations done remotely

As the pandemic Covid-19 hit worldwide and countries imposed travel lockdowns, machinery makers had to resort to innovative ways of installing and commissioning machinery.

WM resorts to remote commissioning

In 2019, Russian firm UPAX-UNITY purchased three thermoforming machines from Swiss machine maker WM Thermoforming Machines, to enlarge their existing fleet of over ten units by a well-known German supplier. The equipment by WM was delivered to the facility in Perm just before the world faced the outbreak of the pandemic, making it impossible for WM to send their technicians to Russia for the standard procedures of supervision, installation and commissioning.

Wondering how to deal with this situation, WM came up with a solution. Since the machines supplied by WM are delivered fully assembled in a single frame, with all the electrical connections between electrical cabinet and machine components, UPAX-UNITY technicians were able to put the machines in place and connect all utilities (cooling water, power supply, pressed air) to the equipment just relying on the instruction manual.

All activities for the placement and installation of the two-steel rule cutting machines, model FC 780 E and FC 780 HP, as well as for the tilting machine model Twist 700 MSv7 took around one week, about 1 ½ day for each machine.

At this point the next step should have been the arrival of WM technicians for the startup, however due to the worsening of the situation with Covid-19 in EU, it was not possible to predict when this would happen.

Thermoforming: Machinery installations done remotely

Hence, the customer needed to start-up the thermoforming machines, and also in this case the only solution was to do it without waiting for the physical presence of WM technicians.

All of WM’s machines combine a PLC and control system from Austrian company B&R with WM’s software, and it was possible to establish an internet connection between WM’s service department in Stabio and the thermoforming machines in UPAX factory, for the commissioning of the machines, which took an hour or so each.

“The big advantage of WM machinery is the presence of a selfadjustment setting when using a new mould for the first time,” said Mikhail Tsirkulev, UPAX Senior Project Leader. “Thanks to that, we were able to produce many different thermoformed articles within some days. Thanks to the user-friendly graphic design and easy to understand PLC pages, we didn’t face any difficulties when putting the machines in production,” Tsirkulev adds. “

WM says this was the first time in its history that a customer did the start-up of a machine without the physical presence of a WM technician, with remote commissioning.

GN takes to whatsapp messaging

Thermoforming: Machinery installations done remotely

Meanwhile, Canada’s GN Thermoforming Equipment of Chester, Nova Scotia, a manufacturer of servodriven, roll-fed thermoforming machines, came up with a novel way to install new equipment and train operators at customer sites.

The company made extensive utilisation of the WhatsApp Messenger web platform to install new thermoforming machines for customers in Eastern Europe and the US.

GN says it faced a critical challenge at the beginning of the pandemic when Georg Polymer, the largest Russian producer of rigid meat trays, needed its new GN760 machine installed quickly so it could meet growing demand for meat trays in Eastern Europe.

“We had to think out-of-the-box and come up with a solution because our customer desperately needed the new capacity,” said Paul Phillips, GN Sales and Marketing Manager.

With the prospect of having to postpone the installation due to travel restrictions, one of GN’s qualified technicians remotely guided its Russian customer through the installation of the new GN760, an in-mould cut thermoforming machine.

The installation in April, which normally would take three to four days onsite, took about a week to complete using the WhatsApp platform.

GN says the installation was successful due to the customer’s broad mechanical experience with this type of machine and a high-speed internet connection, with the biggest challenge along the way being the language barrier.

Georg Polymer faced some minor problems with wiring, but a video call to the technician resolved the issue. The machine is up and running, producing 240,000 meat trays/day.

The company also has two other GN760s and three GN1914DM machines within its portfolio and produced more than 350 million meat trays last year.

“It gives us great comfort and confidence knowing that we can accomplish this kind of installation remotely with a customer who has a high degree of mechanical ability,” said Phillips.

Previously, GN says it had used its broad remote capabilities to perform various support tasks including troubleshooting. Phillips noted that face-to-face machine installations are preferable so the company can personally provide its know-how and superior level of customer service and support. Remote installation through a messaging platform required a high level of preparation including enhanced labelling of componentry and extensive diagrams and collateral support.

Since April, two more machine installations have been successfully conducted using the WhatsApp platform - one in Central US and another for Pro-Form kft in Hungary. Both customers installed GN800s, adding to their existing GN machine line-up.

If travel restrictions continue, Phillips said GN would continue to install remotely through the WhatsApp platform so its customers wouldn’t face production delays.

As the Covid-19 crisis evolves, GN said it would adapt and adjust to its customers’ needs. “We will continue to review and examine our remote installations closely and optimise our solutions to ensure our customers get the support and training they require,” said Phillips.



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