Belden’s experts create a tailored strategy to help a 95-year-old manufacturing plant eliminate production blind spots, gain OEE visibility, and transform machine maintenance

February 16, 2023

ST. LOUIS—Through its collaborative Customer Innovation Center, Belden is empowering industrial plants around the world to build solid foundations for operational efficiency and leverage the power of real-time data, the company said in a release.

It’s all part of Belden’s modern identity as a major global supplier of network and digitization solutions. Long known as a designer and manufacturer of insulated wire and cable, Belden has come a long way from its days a cable company. The company has “transformed itself from a cable company to a signal transmission solutions provider with a complete product portfolio, including cable, connectivity, and networking products,” according to Belden’s website.

Recently, experts from Belden’s Customer Innovation Center helped a global manufacturer improve performance and capacitance at one of its oldest plants—and take the first step toward Industry 4.0. Belden’s team followed a three-step data engineering process to find creative and tailored ways to visualize workflows in near-real-time and collect overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) data. This data was then used to analyze and improve machine performance, the company said.

According to Belden, a disparate mix of control technology had been deployed throughout the manufacturing process over the years, creating unique digitalization challenges.

“This 95-year-old plant was like a museum of legacy machines and technology,” said Sylvia Feng, global director of the Digital Automation Consulting group, part of Belden’s Customer Innovation Center, in the release. “Various PLC brands and industrial protocols were used, along with various vintages of machinery and generations of control technology. This made talking to all PLCs and machines a challenge.”

Belden’s Customer Innovation Center consultants have real-world experience in transforming outdated plants into modern production environments. They worked alongside the operations team to identify challenges, define goals and KPIs, and design, develop, and validate the performance of a tailored and unified solution.

This solution provides the insights needed to run the plant more efficiently and effectively by creating visibility into all critical OEE metrics, including availability, downtime, and production. The solution also democratizes that valuable information to make it available in one place to everyone who needs it. In addition, it allows the production team to monitor and respond to detected operational anomalies and defects in equipment so they can be addressed before failure occurs, the company said.

Machine operators and supervisors—even those who are new to plant operations—now track and understand availability, performance, and quality in near-real-time. Live OEE data reveals which lines are running well, which lines need attention, and which lines are down, as well as the reasons for downtime.

The plant has also been able to shift from time-based to predictive maintenance. Operators know immediately whether a specific parameter (such as vibration, temperature, current, or voltage) on a machine is behaving differently. If so, the issue can be addressed right away before failure occurs, according to the release.

Belden said that as a result of its ability to unleash the power of real-time OT data, the plant is experiencing double-digit productivity improvements, along with “extremely conservative estimates of at least half a million dollars in savings per year.”

“We transformed this black box into a glass box,” said Feng. “This way, their operators and supervisors can see what’s going on at the plant and prioritize and troubleshoot based on near-real-time data.”

Belden is headquartered in St. Louis and has manufacturing capabilities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The first Belden Customer Innovation Center opened in Stuttgart, Germany in 2021, followed by the opening of a second location in Santa Clara, California in 2022. This year, Belden is planning to open Customer Innovation Centers in Chicago; Bangalore, India; and Shanghai, China.

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