- September 01, 2006, By Edward Boyle Contributing Editor
Mondi Packaging Heerlen (formerly Akrosil Europe) is a vibrant example of how change — and the subsequent growth it can bring — is critical to a company's long-term success. Few have done it better than this company, now one of the world's largest and oldest specialty converters.
Akrosil was founded in Menasha, WI, in 1917 as the Edgewater Paper Co. During its early years, Edgewater produced gummed tape and the sanitary paper barbers attached to the headrests of their chairs.
The Heerlen manufacturing facility in the Netherlands was established following a 1986 acquisition by International Paper Co., and in January 2006, Akrosil was acquired by Mondi Packaging, based in Vienna, Austria.
Now one of ten facilities Mondi operates around the world, the Heerlen plant manufactures silicone-coated release liners, lightweight packaging, pressure-sensitive and industrial papers, grease-resistant packaging, and interleaving applications.
But unlike the company itself, the equipment at the Netherlands facility didn't get better with age.
For years, the company concentrated on maintaining rather than replacing its two aging DC-driven silicone coaters. Mondi decided to evaluate its systems to determine if replacing the station drives would advance the systems as well as reduce downtime. It would.
“Upgrading the drives was obviously easier and cheaper than buying new equipment,” explains René Rogge, maintenance and engineering manager of Mondi Packaging Heerlen. “The reason we did the upgrade was not to get more product out of the press but to increase [coating] accuracy.”
But for a facility that operates just two coaters — even ones that are more than 1.5 m wide and operate at speeds of 400 mpm — any downtime can make it difficult to serve a diverse customer base that includes the hygiene, medical, tape, fiber composites, and label markets. Mondi could not afford the downtime required to perform such an elaborate retrofit.
Faced with the task of meeting the needs of its customers while replacing so much critical equipment, Rogge began to research system integrators willing to take on the task.
He decided Circonix Technologies was best suited to provide the total system solution he required.
“Circonix Technologies was able to provide the hardware solution, the intellectual skill, and the flexibility we needed to phase the retrofit and accommodate our requirements,” he explains.
Over a span of more than two years, Mondi Packaging and Circonix worked together to formulate and execute a perfectly designed retrofit to replace the aging equipment.
A Phased Approach
The facility was running two primary coaters: Coater 21, commissioned in the 1980s, and Coater 22, commissioned in the 1990s. Coater 21 was running with DC analog drives that required constant calibration. Spare parts were no longer available, placing a greater demand on the company's machine shop.
Circonix performed six phased retrofits from November 2002 to June 2005. This approach limited the downtime to only 1-1.5 days per phase, and it minimized the amount of capital investment necessary from Mondi at any one time.
A Perfectly Executed Plan
The project began with the replacement of four drives on the winder of Coater #21. The upgrades continued through June 2005 when four drives were replaced on the cooling section of Coater #22. With this final phase complete, both machines were fully digital. Each phase was completed throughout a 5-7-day time period.
During each phase, Circonix provided extended support while in production.
To maintain consistency throughout the process, the Circonix engineers developed a precise cutover plan for each phase. This involved removing the old drives and replacing them with new pre-engineered, preconfigured drive sub panels.
Then all external devices, such as load cells, meters, interlocks, and E-stops, were wired back to the new drives utilizing the existing cabling. In addition, within each phase, the HMIs (human-machine interfaces) were updated to provide set point and feedback, alarms, recipes, and trending functionality.
Extensive consideration was given to the effects the upgrade had on the hardware. The Circonix team took great care to cascade the speed reference via analog wires as the system was being implemented. It was not until Phase six that the system was switched fully to a 100% digital reference. In addition, cleaning, properly labeling, and organizing the newly installed drive system created more space due to the decreased footprint of the new drives.
The Old With the New
The most notable hurdle during the changeover was the challenge of having a mixed machine, some portions running with analog DC drives and other portions running with digital Siemens 6RA70 DC drives. This conversion was accomplished with both well-planned engineering and installation coordination. The phased approach allowed time for each of the upgrades to be reviewed individually and adapted to work with the older technology.
Circonix arranged the purchase of the drives within Europe, saving additional costs, and commissioned the Mondi team to assist during the upgrades. This reduced labor costs and allowed for on-the-job training for the maintenance staff.
The problem regarding spare parts also was resolved. Each phase of the upgrade replaced four Gen 2 drives, generating much-needed spare parts for older DC drives, drive enclosures, and power distribution equipment still running in the facility.
Says Rogge, “The Circonix Technologies staff worked long hours, met all the detailed requirements, and was very focused to complete the task at hand in the tight schedule given. The staff ensured that our team was fully trained on the new machines by providing both hands-on skills and detailed documentation. Upon completion, the Mondi staff was completely confident in its ability to maintain the machine.”
Mondi Packaging Heerlen B.V.
Imstenraderweg 15, 6422
PM Heerlen, The Netherlands; +31.45.5437878; www.akrosil.nl