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Customer support via IIoT – A router made Lämneå Bruk less vulnerable when the Corona pandemic started
A router, that the machine manufacturer Lämneå Bruk uses and mounts in the control cabinet of their machines for the last ten years made Lämneå Bruk less vulnerable when the Corona pandemic struck in the beginning of 2020. The router makes it possible for them to connect to the customers machine remotely and proceed the support and service that the customer has bought.
Lämneå Bruk in Ljusfallshammar, located outside of Finspång – Sweden, about three miles from Norrköping is a modern family business focused on manufacturing of highly automated machines, manufacturing lines and facilities for the wire drawing industry with the whole world as their market field. The company had annual sales of about 160 SEK in the financial year 2019/2020. As much as 95 percent of the manufacturing are exported to 98 countries. In total, there are up to 123 different types of machines sold in Germany, USA, Canada, China, South Korea, Japan and India amongst others. Other countries in Europe also belong to the company’s important export markets. The products manufactured using the machines produced by Lämneå Bruk include welding wire, welding electrodes, springs, tubular wire, nails and screws.
One of the most common and typical products among the wire drawing machines is the drawing machine, which has the task of reducing steel wire from coarse to thin by pulling it, for example from 8 to 3mm. Raw materials are wire rod from suppliers all over the world. Another type of machine is so-called rewind lines. In these, the thread is repackaged to the end customer’s packaging. Even though 60 percent of all machines from Lämneå Bruk are machines for the welding wire industry, machines are also built for, for example, spring wire, reinforcement an staple products.
Lämneå Bruk dates back to the early 18th century when the facory was a foundry. The journey in the wire industry started as early as 1823. Today, the company is owned by the CEO Jonas Hagstedt, whose father bought the company in the late 1950s. About 50 employees include designers, automation technicians, programmers, machine fitters in electricity and mechanics, cnc operators, welders, painters, support staff and administrators in logistics among other things. You basically have all the professions that enable Lämneå Bruk to produce everything from home.
We have control over the entire production chain
-We are able to manufacture a wide range of technically advanced machines for different types of wire, from small single machines to complete lines. Each machine is unique and each customer has special requirements for their facility. We build what the customer request and transform ideas into entire machine system solutions that are both user- and maintenance-friendly, says Jonas Hagstedt, CEO and owner when he comes in and visit the magazine Automation, which visited the factory in September 2020.
-We are actually quite alone on the market here in Europe, with just a few competitors. We have control over the entire production chain, and we take responsibility for all parts of the machine. Electrical design, programming, manufacturing of the machine and control cabinets. Everything is assembled on site here in Sweden. We live up to our slogan: “A passion for service”. We are proud to be able to offer excellent customer service before, during and after sales, Jonas Hagstedt emphasizes.
The company is well advanced in the technology. From order to finished machine, it takes between two and six months before the machine can be shipped to the customer. Often together with staff to ensure that the installation goes well and that the staff at the customer company receive good training and support right from the start.
-The customer can decide a lot about what his machine will look like, says Peder Helgesson, automation manager at Lämneå Bruk, who guides the magazine Automation through the facility.
-The customer can make different choices regarding components, mechanical and electrical design and the color of the machine. But we try to standardize as much as possible and therefore the machines are modular as far as possible. We use ready-made well-integrated complete solutions from our subcontractors with control and drive technology that also have integrated safety and energy regeneration.
Technics are today used in over 450 machines across the globe
Lämneå Bruk uses different control systems for their machines depending on the wishes of the customer in accordance with the technology they themselves use in their factory. Generally Siemens controls the machines that are exported to European countries and accounts for most of the solutions (ca. 60-70 percent). Allen-Bradley is used in what is sent to the US (30 percent) and Mitsubishi is mostly used on the East Asian markets including China and Japan. A router is mounted in the control cabinet in the machine or machine line to ensure that the suppliers have access to support and service remotely.
This is where Lämneå Bruk cooperate with Recab, a Scandinavian company specialized in custom solutions within what they call “from edge to cloud”, as well as embedded computer systems, industrial data communication, sensors, and vision. The cooperation began in 2010 and the technics are today used in over 450 machines across the globe. Before that Lämneå Bruk used another, less practical, solution, a regular modem that you connected to through a phone call.
-When we started up our online support in 1994 most people didn’t have broadband connection, so it was probably the only usable solution, says. Peder Helgesson. He works as an automation manager at Lämneå Bruk but also belongs to the team of eight people (automation technicians) who go out and help the customers with installation and training.
The machine is constantly prepared for connection.
The product consists of a router attached in the control panel of the machine and its task is to mediate the connection between the operator panel that is attached to the machine and make it and the entire network on the machine available to the service technician at Lämneå Bruk. This way, the service technician can troubleshoot the machine as if they were sitting on site in the customer’s facility. There are hundreds of sensors in each machine and a lot can happen during the operation of the machine. Everything from a sensor breaking, that the pneumatics not working because a valve may have broken, a pulse sensor to an engine has stopped working to a mechanical fault that has occurred because the wire fell off and accidently hit some part of the equipment. HMIs are also sensitive things with their touch screens that can break because you may press too hard and too much on the screens while wearing rough work gloves.
– The router connects to the network and further to the central server, which in this case is located in France, says Magnus Unosson, customer responsible at Recab
– The advantage is that it is a secure connection that does not disturb the company’s firewalls since it connects from the inside and out. Software that belongs to the router also handles IP addresses that are there in the background. The customer easily connects to the router with the help of a unique product code key. The solution uses the company’s existing connection to the network. A fixed connection also means that you avoid problems with SIM cards and such. The machine is constantly prepared for connection. When the service is to be done, the customer wants access to new functions on the machine or when various additional programming in the plc is to be done, you connect to the server.
The solution that Recab offers consists of both the hardware, a router from Etic Telecom, as well as the software called m2me. The m2me-solution by Etic is intended for remote maintenance and control of all types of industrial units (plc, hmi, Drive, etc.).
– In these times, during the Corona Crisis, when it has not been possible to travel freely across the world during long periods of times it has been a huge advantage to be able to connect to the customer remotely from home, states Peder Helgesson. Occasionally the customers need extra plc programming and naturally it becomes cheaper when we can do it from here, since it saves us long expensive trips and lots of time. There can be about 50 pages in the operator interface with images and everything. Our machines use different standard modules, but it is common for the customer to want their own adaptions and additions.
This might be Lämneå Bruks largest competitive advantage on the market. That they can deliver machines that are based on standard design but offering a lot of customizations. They also build and develop new machines or functions in direct cooperation with their customers. These machines are completely customized without a standard basic to begin with.
Text and photo by DAGMAR ZITKOVA – Magazine Automation