British American Tobaccos (BAT) automated manufacturing plant in Southampton was installed back in 1991, and the management team now faces the dilemma of how to upgrade parts of this system without affecting production. This is a common problem that faces many companies with ageing automated systems.
BAT wanted to refit all 6 automated stacker cranes with a modern control system but the interfaces to such modern equipment were incompatible with the existing Warehouse Control System (WCS). To overcome these incompatibilities, Lifetime Softwares Gipsy Crane product was chosen.
Gipsy (Generic Interface for PLC Systems) is a flexible interfacing product that converts between interfaces, allowing non-compatible equipment to communicate. Special modules can be added to Gipsy and configured to communicate using a wide range of standard or bespoke interfaces.
Gipsy Crane managed communications to both old and newly refitted cranes simultaneously, allowing the cranes to be refitted and returned to production one by one without any major disruption to BATs manufacturing operation, and without any changes to the WCS.
The local crane control functionality of Gipsy Crane proved extremely useful to BAT for commissioning the new cranes, as this allows commands to be sent to the crane to fully check the cranes operation before returning the cranes to production.
An extra benefit of choosing Gipsy Crane is the Gipsy Statistics package which collects detailed statistics of the crane operations and utilisation, allowing BATs management team to monitor the efficiency of their warehousing operation.
Comment from Phil Harris BAT Project Manager
When carrying out any changes to a major control system continuity to production is extremely important. The decision to choose GIPSY as the interface between our existing WMS and the new CSA Crane control was quite a simple one.
We saw that the interface would work with our current crane control system and was transparent to the users. GIPSY also played a key role in the off-site commissioning of the new CSA crane system our engineers were able to fully test the communications to the new system and resolve any issues prior to the changeover.
When commissioning each new crane system it was possible, using GIPSY, to test the function of the cranes without interfering with the WMS. This reduced the overall commissioning time considerably.
Additional features such as the statistics package will play a key part in evaluating the new crane controls against the previous one.