New MCC line warrants new equipment to optimize production

On Tuesday, some colleagues and I returned to Siemens' West Chicago plant to see what's new. We all received a double shot of newness.

First, the plant, which has been in operation more than 40 years, had made a significant equipment upgrade. A major investment in an integrated system from Finn-Power (which is changing its name to Prima Power,, in the wake of its acquisition three years ago by Prima Industrie) has dramatically altered the look of the 200,000 sq ft plant floor in West Chicago. State-of-the-art machinery to bend, punch, laser-cut, and shear materials is integrated with the Finn Night Train Flexible Manufacturing System, a materials handling system that transports cassettes of sheet metal to appropriate stations for processing.

The system had been in place only a month, but operators already were taking advantage of its enhanced capabilities – not at all surprising when you consider the average employee period of service at the plant is 18 years. Software designs optimal cutting patterns to minimize scrap metal waste. Once the system’s been in place for at least a few months, I hope to talk again with Plant Manager Deron Jackson about improved efficiencies, including any reductions in scrap.

One of the primary reasons for the new system at the Siemens ( plant was to ramp up production of its new tiastar motor control centers (MCCs). The new product family includes four models – Base, HD, H2O, and Smart – all designed by listening to customers and distribution channels to meet the specific needs of the industries they serve. The HD model is designed primarily for warehousing, food and beverage, and oil and gas, where a smaller footprint can be advantageous. H2O was created with water/wastewater treatment in mind. And the Smart model, for pharmaceuticals and high-end process industries, promises reduced downtime with the implementation of a predictive maintenance program that’s made possible by the MCC’s data , as well as online diagnostics and asset management.

Of particular interest is the arc-flash-resistant feature that Siemens is offering. A reinforced enclosure and latching system, coupled with an internal venting system that channels the gases up and out the top of the MCC, comprises the IEEE C37.20.7-2007-compliant system, with testing witnessed by the Underwriters Laboratory (UL). Another feature offered by Siemens is the SmartStart, which is pre-programmed and pre-configured to reduce commissioning times, labor costs, and network loss.

All in all, it was an exciting day of discovery, and I’m looking forward to returning next week for the unveiling of Siemens’ solar inverter facility, next door to the MCC plant.