MRO Magazine

Caterpillar plant links assets with software for real-time monitoring and OEE gains


August 30, 2012
By PEM Magazine

Real-time information from Freedom eLOG software on the performance of 77 diverse manufacturing systems at Caterpillar’s Integrated Manufacturing Operations Division (IMOD) in Aurora, Ill., is helping the operation increase OEE, reduce cost, improve processes and shorten maintenance response times.

eLOG software — developed, installed and supported by MAG — makes real-time factory asset performance transparent, enabling rapid implementation of operational and maintenance excellence, according to Tom Abens, strategic planning supervisor for lower powertrain at IMOD Aurora. “There is no doubt it is helping us improve the efficiency and competitiveness of our plant,” he says. “We have improved the performance of virtually every asset, with average gains of 21 percent.”

Caterpillar’s Aurora plant started with an early version of eLOG on some MAG horizontal machining centers in 2007 and worked with MAG to guide the software’s development and broaden its application. “Our original goal was, and remains, single point access to information on the performance of all critical assets,” Abens says. “The big challenge is connectivity because of the diversity and age of our plant equipment. We have many generations and makes of CNC controls, some brand new and some decades old.” The Aurora plant currently has 77 assets being monitored by eLOG and plans to increase that to 95. The systems include horizontal boring mills, gantry machining centers, robotic welding cells, induction scanners for heat treating, gear cutting machines, lathes, and miscellaneous machining centers. “Some of these systems are critical and must have very high efficiency and availability, such as the boring mills that machine an engine frame complete,” Abens adds.

eLOG is designed for exactly this situation. eLOG is one module of a larger software suite named eWARE, which is compliant with AMT’s MTConnect communications protocol. eLOG can collect data from CNC or non-CNC equipment without modification to ladder logic or part programming. The software’s control-resident eCONNECT interface runs on each machine that uses a PC front-end control. For non-PC-based CNC’s, PLC’s and manual machines, the software uses a hardware bridge to make discrete I/O connections to specific machine electrics. eCONNECT is the data collection hub and access point for equipment on the plant floor, while it supplies information to eLOG. “MAG easily networked assets that had been an obstacle for us in the past,” Abens says. “The company’s diverse awareness of factory floor processes is also helpful in implementing the software.”


eLOG uses algorithms based on AMT and VDI standards to categorize time into six different areas: Plant Shut-Down, Scheduled Downtime, Delay Time, Repair Time, Not-In-Cycle Process Time and In-Cycle Time. Reports available in eLOG include: top 25 alerts, top 25 events, top 25 programs by duration or by count, a daily view of activity over a 24-hour period, OEE and a tapestry report for day-by-day or hour-to-hour comparisons. eLOG allows rapid visualization of inefficiencies and identification of root causes to facilitate mistake-proofed processes, improved utilization, condition-based maintenance and reduced MRO inventories. Information can be formatted and filtered for specific departments, such as production, planning or maintenance. The software can also send text and email alerts.

“Freedom eLOG has helped us isolate the root causes of downtime on assets, rather than speculate about them,” Abens explains. “It certainly improved our maintenance response times and allocation of resources. We have been able to identify recurring maintenance issues that needed a different solution. We have been able to identify and correct small inefficiencies in processes that we thought were performing at high levels. Most importantly, we have been able to avoid capital expenses for new manufacturing assets by increasing our OEE. In other cases, we identified and justified the need for new assets. We have made great strides, but this is only the beginning.

“Freedom eLOG information is comprehensible for all levels of employees, and while the information input is not 100 percent automated yet, it has been streamlined with bar code scanners and touch screens to simplify it as much as possible for machine operators,” Abens adds. “We have good engagement from the shop floor to the top floor. We’re currently accessing eLOG data on iPads and laptops inside our plant. Our high level of security prevents us from making the data accessible off campus. The eLOG dashboard is the first thing I look at every morning, and it’s used by our plant management and beyond.”