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New control technology brings speed and efficiency to Cape factory

AUTOMATION has long been hailed as the ‘silver bullet’ solution to increasing process efficiency and improving revenue. In the age of COVID-19 when fewer people on site means safer operations, automation has become even more important as it holds the key to maintaining productivity with fewer staff. However, it is important for plant and factory managers to understand that automation is not something you simply implement in your facility once and then reap the rewards indefinitely.

“When you implement automation and control solutions in your plant – or any technology for that matter – it is important to factor in breakdowns, maintenance, repair and eventual replacement of the technology you use,” explains Bruce Grobler, Vice President for Middle East and Africa, Nidec Control Techniques. “In the fast-paced factories of today, even the highest quality control technology will need your attention at some point down the line.”

Nidec Control Techniques is a supplier of high-performance drives, servo motors, and other control technology to various industries. Most recently, three of their flagship Unidrive M701 high-speed drives were installed at a food processing facility in Kraaifontien in the Western Cape. The drives, along with servo motors also supplied by Nidec, were used to upgrade a slicing machine.

“The facility needed this upgrade urgently as some of their hardware had broken down. Unfortunately, the hardware they were using became almost impossible for them to replace, with spares parts costing a fortune and with a long lead time from suppliers,” explains Grobler. Thanks to the work of Nidec and its partners in the Cape, the machine now slices up to 1 200 slices a minute, producing slices of regular thickness which are neatly stacked and presented ready for packaging. “This was important to the facility that is dedicated to providing the highest quality packaged sliced meat to local supermarkets.”

The facility will no longer face the same spare-parts challenge they had experienced, because Nidec Control Techniques takes great care to ensure a prominent and reliable supply of spares and replacements in-country. This means a spare part is, at most, hours away – rather than days and weeks you can expect when shipping a part from overseas. The company also has field application engineers always at the ready, so if a part does need repair or replacement, someone is onsite within 24 hours to ensure minimum disruption to production.

The facility is now up and running, enjoying improved efficiency, dedicated after-sales support, and a custom-built machine interface that is easy to use. “With the right technology partners, plant managers don’t have to be left alone to plan and manage the technology in their production lines. This client now has the right solution which is entirely supported by a local Cape Town team,” concludes Grobler.

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