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Editorials

Discover the Hidden Values of ZDT

by Donald Kijek, Staff Engineer
FANUC America Corporation

FANUC’s Zero Down Time (ZDT) product has a proven track record in the automotive industry by saving millions of dollars preventing unexpected downtime using its predictive analytics. Now, small to medium manufacturers are realizing there is much more to ZDT than downtime avoidance. In addition to reducing unexpected downtime, ZDT allows users to maximize production throughput, optimize maintenance costs, increase the life of their robots, and access data from anywhere via the ZDT web portal.

ZDT is a global, award winning Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solution that helps the manufacturing bottom line and improves the visibility of robotic automation. FANUC partnering with Cisco provides a secure, robust method to allow FANUC robots to send data to the cloud for analysis and display on the ZDT web portal. Analytics operate on the data to produce alert notifications indicating a potential issue with a component, before the component fails in production. The manufacturer can then schedule a time to fix the issue, thereby avoiding unexpected downtime.

Since its inception, ZDT changed the service paradigm of the automotive industry. The critical role of service in the past was reacting to a down robot situation. That unpleasant experience (waiting for a production line to resume) was very costly. Not only in lost production, both lost profit and labor costs, but also increased service costs associated with rushed orders and last minute travel expenses. Because ZDT can predict a component failure ahead of time, the repair or replacement can be scheduled during a non-production period, saving a significant amount of money. Downtime reduction for small to medium manufacturers is very important, but there is more flexibility to adapt to production issues and keep parts moving along at reduced rates compared to automotive facilities. Fortunately ZDT offers customers much more than avoiding downtime.

Manufacturers typically purchase a complete automation solution from a supplier. That not only includes robots, but conveying systems, part handling, inspection, and more. The supplier designs and builds the system to the customer’s specifications which include production throughput requirements. When those systems are first installed and running, they usually meet the production requirements and the customer accepts the system, releasing the supplier’s further obligation. After the system runs for a while, production rates have tendencies to vary and typically decline. If the decline isn’t large, it’s hard to notice, especially when you make a large volume of parts. But production declines directly impact the bottom line in decreased profits.

Customers can use ZDT data to help determine causes of production rate changes. For example in a high-speed picking application with vision, the time it takes to find a vision image is critical to the line rate. Any delays caused by lighting, camera focus, or part changes can slow the vision image find time, resulting in parts not being picked. ZDT monitors the vision find time and alerts the user of delays before they become noticeable, allowing the user to correct problems before the line rate is impacted.

Production can also be impacted by changes made to robot programs. For example, if a fixture becomes out of alignment, a maintenance person may touch up points in a robot program to allow the variance and continue running production. Then on the next shift, another worker adjusts the fixture and again production is impacted, a very common occurrence in many facilities with limited automation expertise. ZDT keeps track of every program change so the user can view the changes on the web portal and quickly determine what was changed to easily correct the issue and resume normal production.

When it comes to maintenance, most manufactures take the written recommendations of the supplier and perform standard maintenance based on calendar time.  This process involves planning on the part of the manufacturer to make sure the maintenance activities are scheduled and consolidated in the most efficient manner to save costly materials and labor. ZDT keeps track of all robot based maintenance using either calendar time, or more importantly the actual run time of the unit to let users know when maintenance is required. Using the information that ZDT provides makes it much easier to schedule maintenance tasks only when necessary, reducing material requirements and associated costs.

ZDT also provides intelligent maintenance capabilities for specific robot models by analyzing how the robot is used to determine the frequency of maintenance tasks. For example, if the robot motion is primarily confined to two joints, the grease change frequency is only higher for those joints. ZDT will provide the user with that data which will save material and labor costs by reducing the “standard” frequency of grease changes. If you can focus on only the “required” maintenance, the savings for a facility or entire company can be substantial.

If you are concerned about life cycle costs as every successful business person is, you want to make sure you get the maximum life out of your automation. The data ZDT collects is invaluable in providing the tools necessary to improve robot life and reduce your overall life cycle costs. This can be easily illustrated by knowing the frequency and impact of emergency stops. Every e-stop is tracked by ZDT along with the speed and torque of each robot axis which determines the impact of the event. Even though the robot mechanical units are very robust, an excessive amount of high speed e-stops can reduce the life of the robot drive. ZDT will alert the customer of these events so that corrective measures can be put in place early in the robot’s life, extending its usefulness.

Getting back to maintenance, historical data indicates that you can increase robot life by performing the proper maintenance at the right time. In most cases when maintenance is performed correctly, life cycle costs are also reduced by not having to replace components prematurely; think having to replace wheel rotors as opposed to only brake pads. ZDT is ideal for helping accomplish that goal. The customer can also enhance the maintenance schedules by adding custom maintenance tasks to the ZDT web portal based on their own experience.

All manufactures can take advantage of the ZDT knowledge base and the extensive development efforts to support nearly 17,000 connected robots in the automotive industry. ZDT has detected several hundred issues before impacting downtime, saving customers millions of dollars. We all realize how important it is to reduce unexpected downtime, but ZDT offers much more. Make the move to get connected and unlock the hidden value of ZDT.

For more information visit www.fanucamerica.com/zdt.

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