SOFLEX DigiTalk Guide Production control system 2


The complete guide to the Production Control System - Part II

Flexible manufacturing plants usually consist of conventional machining / special purpose machines and storage / retrieval stations as well as storage areas, which are used for intermediate storage and bridging of un-manned shifts. Robots or pallet transport devices take over the automated provision of the workpieces. The production sequences are controlled by a production control system, which is an independent component of the plant.

Where is a production control system used? (Areas of application)

In the area of conventional manufacturing, we find stand-alone machines or even partially automated machines that must be supplied with information. This information is also provided to the operator so that he knows which products to place in the machine and in which order, and which resources are needed so that the processing of the workpieces can proceed uninterrupted. 

The next level of automation is pallet handling. A pallet pool, usually 5-10 pallets, is coupled to the processing machine, thus requiring less personnel, or even ensuring unmanned operation

The next level of automation is workpiece handling in a robot cell. Here, the handling of workpieces and pallets is possible. This usually involves feeding the dies loaded with blanks in front of the machine, the robot removing the individual part and then feeding it into the machine. In both expansion stages, production-relevant information, such as which NC programs or orders have to be processed, is already transferred to the machine.

In the field of high rack systems, the degree of automation is becoming more and more demanding and also more complex. Here we have not only the typical operating resources such as raw material, pallets but also the management of NC data, tool data, feedback to the MDE/BDE systems, etc.

The highest level of expansion is then reached in the area of a flexible manufacturing system (FMS), often in combination of a system with pallet and tool automation. 

In the meantime, the linking of all these types of systems is possible through the use of AGVs - thus the realization of a Smart Factory is not a utopia, but a reality that we are allowed to implement more and more often. 

SOFLEX control systems are used in mechanical production for:

  • manual workstations and non-automated machining centers
  • automated machining centers
  • manufacturing cells with robots and/or automated pallet handling
  • flexible production lines with automated workpiece and tool flow

Small companies, globally operating medium-sized businesses up to internationally operating groups of different industries (mechanical engineering and energy technology, plastics and optical industry, automotive and aircraft construction, but also contract manufacturers and the tool and die industry) rely on SOFLEX control systems to optimize their production.

Functions of the production control system

As the central control point of a flexible manufacturing system, the production control system takes over all tasks that ensure highly productive operation. 

The main tasks can be divided into:

  • Detailed planning and order control 
    organizes, plans, simulates and controls the production sequence on the basis of the production orders
  • Production data management 
    includes the data management of all relevant manufacturing data: NC programs, tool data as well as work instructions, set-up drawings, setup or inspection instructions. All information is available to the system operator at any time and depending on the current workpiece status. 
  • Equipment management 
    manages the operating resources such as machine pallets, workpieces, workpiece deposits, automatic clamping devices, material pallets within the automated production cell. 
  • Machine and production data collection
    provides all necessary statuses and information for the operation of the production line and collects data for a continuous improvement of the processes and increase of the line productivity.
  • Automated workpiece machining 
    describes manufacturing strategies for manned / unmanned automatic operation.

The specific required functions depend on the manufacturing process and the complexity of the manufacturing equipment. An analysis of different manufacturing plants and applications showed that certain core functions are used in every plant. Other functions are based not only on the manufacturing process and the plant, but also on the organizational structure of the user. In addition to controlling and organizing the manufacturing process, one of the main tasks of a control system is to link the higher-level management systems with the manufacturing area. In this context, SOFLEX control systems act as a link between production and the organizational-technical systems of corporate planning (ERP, CAD/CAM and PDM systems). This guarantees a fast, automated exchange of information.

Advantages / Benefits Production control system

The increasing importance and spread of control systems in production prove their potential: 

  • high flexibility in production
  • efficient use of resources
  • rapid ROI 
  • increase in efficiency
  • digitalization of processes.

In addition, the users of SOFLEX control systems obtain uniform operation, consistent production strategies and identical interfaces to the company organizational systems at a wide variety of plants. The vision of 24/7 production becomes reality.