From sensors to cloud

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Digital solutions can change the production process within an industry in a variety of ways. On more rational management of resources and processing steps, after all, depend savings in terms of costs, time, and personnel who can be better and more profitably employed. Here is an example of fully computerized coil management.

What was a wishful thinking even a decade ago is now possible. For a paper company to be able to have a digital management solution for all its reels has considerable advantages. Frank Kretschmer, product manager at SchäferRolls talked about this at Miac 2023, describing SchäferRolls Management System (Srms). It is the system for managing production and maintenance of reels at the mill via a cloud-based digital platform, developed since 2018 by the Belgian company Hannecard NV, and tested in cooperation with Countroll www.countroll.com starting in late 2021. For about a two-year period, the pilot project has involved a number of customers from both the paper industry and other sectors willing to use the countroll platform; currently the system contains information for more than 70 thousand industrial rolls.

“While our partner Countroll provided the IT structure, as SchäferRolls we developed and implemented the management systems under our own brand name,” says Kretschmer, “providing support for the implementation with our know-how, expertise and experience. In addition, to accelerate the implementation of the system, we also developed a training program both in-person, at the companies involved, and online.”

Managing reels with the App

The process of operating the system, the manager explains, is very simple and consists of using a special application-available for both iOS and Android and in seven languages: German, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Polish, and Russian-directly from a smartphone or computer, through which labels placed on the coils can be read. Labels that contain, saved in the cloud, all the data and information inherent to the specific reel. All of its characteristics are then entered into the computer system.

“We started with standard labeling, and later developed different labels with specific characteristics such as stainless steel labels for chemical and wet environments,” says Kretschmer.

Once you open the App on your smartphone and frame the label, you will have easy access to all the information about the reels. At the mill, users can “read the label inside the machine or inside the warehouse and immediately see all the inherent data, and create events within the system so they have the entire life of the reel at their fingertips. This creates the basis for a timely optimization and analysis process.”

The benefits are manifold. “From the first day of our pilot project, one benefit above all was evident: resource savings. In the coming years, it is foreseeable that in our mills there will be a lack of experts, a lack of knowledge, a lack of know-how to make processes efficient and sustainable, which is why one of our goals is to save precisely the resources, including human resources.” The use of the countroll platform has proven its effectiveness precisely in this regard. “For our customers in particular, it has been possible to save time and resources on maintenance. Reports that used to be done manually-from reports on coil replacement and overhaul to reports on recovery activities-can now be automatically created and managed digitally. Our customers have also highlighted the benefit of all having access to the same data. As a result, we have achieved resource efficiencies in the maintenance and management of the reels, time has been reduced, and staff can focus on other important tasks, for example, resolving issues within the process.” Thus, the use of the countroll platform, used in conjunction with Srms, makes it possible to rapidly increase the efficiency of production facilities, significantly minimize downtime, and reduce costs while simultaneously improving product quality.

Sensors

Data from the rolls are collected by special countroll BT (bluetooth technology) sensors placed on the paper roll. With these devices and using the same software, paper mill operators can measure not only roll rotations but also other elements, such as the rate of acceleration and deceleration, speed differences, vibrations, and, in some cases, these sensors can also solve some problems. The data are transmitted and saved, then, within the countroll platform using Bluetooth technology, providing real-time information, and later can be viewed and analyzed from there.

There are several benefits associated with the use of this type of sensor. “A customer of ours in South America that produces tissue paper,” Kretschmer relates, “uses them, for example, to count the cycles of the reels; as an analysis tool, then, that allows operators to know how many cycles they have in anticipation of replacing certain elements.”

The first test conducted with countroll BT sensors was on a machine making paper for packaging. “The customer complained of slippage problems that also affected the cables.” The goal, the SchäferRolls manager explains, was to solve the very short grinding times, as paper mill operators had to replace reels very often. Not an easy replacement, of course, which is time-consuming and consumes a lot of money and resources. “We placed the sensor, labeled it and loaded it on the platform, and began testing. Six months of processing produced a series of measurements. We were able to observe the changes in speed recorded by the sensor. Precisely the accelerations and decelerations were the indication of the slippage problem complained of by the mill.” Subsequent measurements identified the solution to the problem. “Reducing spool speeds prevented slippage and increased the useful life of the spools. Reflexively, there was also a saving of energy on the machines and, consequently, also in terms of money.”

After this test, SchäferRolls engineers initiated a second test on a bending machine, placing five sensors on all cable-driven coils. Again, the sensors found a problem with the drive system.

Everything from control panel

The system also features a control panel, a management dashboard that provides a comprehensive overview of the condition of the machine’s coils, based on digital documentation of them. This is a tool under development, as “we have created standard dashboards, but we plan to make customized ones as well. We can make different configurations and enter various information. It is possible, for example, to calculate over several years the various types of costs, from operating costs to operating and rectification costs, or again, if we are talking about maintenance, we can predict possible replacements, thus avoiding downtime.” The possibilities are varied, Kretschmer explains; the control panel can promptly inform mill maintenance workers if and when certain rollers need to be replaced, setting maintenance intervals more rationally. “The countroll software, therefore, allows customers to plan downtime efficiently and avoid unexpected interruptions in operations.” All of this information can be viewed through the dashboard and allows the mill, once again, to save time and thus money by becoming much more efficient.

Roller expert

Founded in 1946 in Stuttgart as an inner tube and tire repair company, SchäferRolls has over the years become the international player that the market knows today. Since 1979 it has been headquartered in Renningen, southern Germany, where it devotes itself to the development and production of industrial rollers and roller covers. 

SchäferRolls produces rollers from a few centimeters up to 15 meters in length, 2 meters in diameter and 90 tons in weight, and uses more than 1,200 cover materials.

Its experts are able to offer full service from application engineering to production, from start-up to maintenance. The company’s specialized departments can develop roller systems in close cooperation with user companies, studying systems and processes from different industries, and ensuring optimal operation with tailor-made roll-up covers.

In addition to the central location in Renningen-where research and development, and plastics compounding are also housed-SchäferRolls has five other locations, including, one in Slovenia, where it has been producing for the Eastern European market since 2001, and two branches in the United States. It also operates under the Nowack brand in Spenge, North Rhine-Westphalia.

Its products are sold and used all over the globe.

Digital roll management

The countroll platform was developed by Belgium-based Hannecard NV, one of Europe’s leading suppliers of industrial roller coatings.

It has more than 120 years of experience and, in addition to supplying industrial rollers made of rubber, polyurethane, composites, and carbide for various industries-including the paper industry-it is also able to offer a wide range of other services, from maintenance and repair to roller optimization.

Starting in 2018, the Belgian company began developing the countroll platform and then decided to commercialize it in 2022.

One of the reasons for creating the platform was the ability for companies to have technical documentation and information about rollers immediately available. The platform is cloud-based and allows rollers to be managed by digitally centralizing all documents and data about them, making them accessible via smartphone or web portal.