Tire and Rubber

Power quality reduces costly rubber scrap and its environmental impacts.

Power Quality in the Tire and Rubber Industry

Tire and rubber manufacturing uses chemical and mechanical process to combine layers of compounds into tires, belts, and other products. The chemical compounding process must not be interrupted to ensure reliable manufacturing. High-quality power is critical to maintain uptime and consistency.

When power quality is compromised, core processes are also compromised, leading to increased scrap, uncertain quality, and costly production disruptions. The average Total Downtime Cost (TDC) in the rubber industry is estimated at $150K - $500K USD per hour, and rubber companies to report an average of 6-8 events per year. Scrap is costly in the rubber industry due to the environmental and health impacts of rubber disposal.

So, we must ask ourselves a key question. What can we do to eliminate the root causes of production disruptions that create scrap, thereby eliminating a negative impact on our environment and health? How can we solve the problem and deliver measurable and sustainable outcomes?

Jidoka, one of the two pillars of the Toyota Production System, along with just-in-time (JIT), highlights root causes because work stops immediately when a problem first occurs. Identifying the root cause of problems leads to improvements in processes. Jidoka demands we identify the sources of poor power quality that cause 30-70 percent of production disruptions (Source: Rockwell Automation).

Jidoka is built on the premise that once the root cause of poor power quality is identified, we can then take remedial actions that will result in greater efficiencies, prolonged asset life, and reductions in production downtime.

Only approximately 15 percent of manufacturers today are monitoring power quality (PQ) in real-time, wasting then opportunity for improvement in a very critical area. Many experts estimate costly production downtime can be reduced by 20 percent when companies focus on power quality. Tremendous opportunity exists for those manufacturers who focus on PQ, with added opportunity for continuous improvement, or kaizen.

Production disruptions in tire and rubber manufacturing have many causes. If the compound is compromised during tensioning, layering or wrapping, production may need to stop completely. Scrap product must then be discarded leading to regulatory and environmental costs, along with financial, operational, and perhaps reputation risks and costs.

Voltage sags have a tremendous impact to almost all manufacturing facilities. Tire and rubber plants typically use a large number of mid-horsepower motors, and many plants use a growing number of variable frequency drives (VFDs). These drives are nonlinear loads that draw harmonics, disrupting power quality. Motors are also impacted by voltage sags and swells. Mechanical bearing systems used throughout the winding process can be severely impacted by voltage sags. Of course, other machines and processes used throughout the industry are impacted by poor power quality, in addition to the examples cited above.

Manufacturing is faced with reductions in technical staff and a shortage of people who are able to solve complex power quality, production, and advanced automation problems. Most manufacturing companies agree that a collaborative approach is necessary - and involvement with customers, OEM partners, and nimble focused solutions providers is crucial. Together these groups offer the expertise and technologies necessary to find solutions.

Tire and rubber manufacturing consume a large amount of energy. In order to deliver quality products competitively factories must have a reliable, consistent, and low cost energy supply. Assessing, monitoring, analyzing, and improving power quality in real time is a clear example of Jidoka. Case studies have proven, and will continue to prove, that a comprehensive approach to power quality makes sense economically. For tire and rubber operators, improving power quality not only reduces asset failure and unplanned downtime, but also leads to reduction in scrap and more sustainable manufacturing.